CHILDREN'S SPEECH TO WORLD LEADERS

at the 
World Summit on Sustainable Development 

Johannesburg, South Africa
2 September 2002

Hi

My Name is Mingyu Liao from China and we are 3 children from 3 different continents to talk to you about children's concerns for the environment.

I would now like to introduce you to Justin Friesen from Canada and Analiz Vergara from Ecuador.

We are representatives from the International Children's Conference of the United Nations Environment Programme that took place in Victoria, BC, Canada just over 3 months ago. More than 400 children from over 80 countries attended the conference. WE all had PLENTY to say, but the number one thing that all delegates were concerned about is that most leaders don't listen.

We were just babies when you met 10 years ago in Rio. What we are about to say is basically the same thing you heard then, and many times since. This is because children are close to the ground and to the environment and suffer more from problems in the world. The children of the world are disappointed because too many adults are too interested in money and wealth to take notice of serious problems that affect our future.

Think about your children, nieces or nephews and maybe even grandchildren - what kind of world do YOU want for them? Should they not have the same or even better opportunities that you had?

Our voices should not go unheard. Today we are gathered here because we want you to listen - to listen to everybody. We need you to put aside your differences. Make those choices that will allow ALL of us to live happily.

At the end of the International Children's Conference, all delegates came up with many challenges. Here's what the children of the world are saying:

Governments of the world must:

  • Ensure that all people from developing countries have free access to clean drinking water
  • Sign and act on the Kyoto Protocol - we are tired of wondering whether it will snow in the middle of summer!
  • Limit the number of cars per family
  • Provide free primary health care for all children 
  • Stop cutting down trees without replacing them
  • Spend more money in helping the poor people and children around the world, rather than on attending too many meetings
People of the world must:
  • Make use of alternative transportation such as walking, biking and car-pooling
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle and compost as much as possible.
We are worried that many governments are easily bought off by those who care very little for the environment and people. Remember, we cannot buy another planet, and our lives and those of future generations depend on this. We know that when people commit crimes, they are sent to jail. Why is it so difficult to punish countries and people who damage the environment and harm us?

Can you look in the mirror and say, `Children will have future, will have access to clean water, will not live poverty, will not live in polluted areas - because of actions I have taken'?

We are not asking too much! You said this Summit is about taking action! We need more than your applause and comments of `well done' or `good speech'. We need ACTION. We need more than just your commitment - we need ACTION. We need more than just your motivation - we need ACTION. What we now have is `us versus them'. This needs to become `us AND them' - young people and adults, rich and poor people, and rich and poor countries.

Thanks for having us here and for recognizing the importance of listening to the voices of children.

Don't walk off and forget about the challenges. We finally challenge you, the leaders of the world to accomplish them.