Global Community Cannot Continue Failing Children, Says Secretary-General in Observance Remarks, Stressing ‘This Is Completely Unacceptable’

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks on World Children’s Day, in New York today:

Thank you, Tony [Lake, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director].

As Secretary‑General, it’s my job to meet with some of the most powerful and important people in the world.  Presidents and prime ministers, scientists, military leaders, scholars and academics, captains of industry and business.

But none of these people are as important — or as inspiring — as the children I meet, like you.  Today, the day we celebrate the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, I want to speak directly to the children in this room, and through them, to all children around the world.

Dear young people, the future of our planet… the future peace of our world… is in your hands.  I am sorry to say that, try as we might, we adults are letting you down.  Millions of girls and boys like you are in danger, and we are letting them down.  They are fleeing deadly conflicts.  They are going hungry, or without the medicine they need.  They are separated from their parents.  Or making long, dangerous journeys to safety.

They are displaced and living in refugee camps far from home — like the children I have met in South Sudan, Greece, Central African Republic, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere.  Many are being bullied online or in school.  Or suffer from discrimination because of their religion, the colour of their skin or their ethnicity.  And so often, they are victims of violence or exploitation at the hands of adults.

All this is completely unacceptable.  As a global community, we cannot continue failing all the children.  So here is my commitment to you:  I will spare no effort to make sure that the United Nations is working every day, every hour, every minute, for your best interests, and UNICEF is on the front line of this effort.

Every child has a right to a safe, healthy, peaceful childhood and to develop to their full potential.  Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, tomorrow’s presidents and prime ministers, tomorrow’s teachers and innovators, tomorrow’s mothers and fathers, even tomorrow’s Secretaries‑General of the United Nations.

Every day, all of us at the United Nations ask ourselves:  how can we work together to best support and protect you, the children of the world?  And how can we benefit from your vision and your suggestions?  How can we shape a more sustainable future that will give every child, in every society, every opportunity not merely to survive, but to thrive?  I’m so glad to see so many young people who have travelled here today, because we must also ask ourselves: what do children think?  What kind of world do you want?  I want to hear your ideas and dreams for the future.

Whenever I meet children — including and especially those living in the poorest, most desperate situations, suffering terrible hardships — they never fail to inspire me with their smiles, their laughter, their vision and their hope.  In a world that can so often seem to be a hopeless place, we need children’s hope, more than ever.

And so today — World Children’s Day — the walls of the United Nations will echo with the voices, and the hopes, of children.  As Secretary‑General, I pledge to you that we will listen and do our best to honour that hope.

I feel inspired by the thousands of children from all regions who helped to design the Sustainable Development Agenda.  As we pursue the Sustainable Development Goals — which represent the promises the Governments of the world have made to shape a better world for every person, and for every child — we remain committed to being informed by your important views, your ideas, your suggestions, your plans.

The future of the world is in children’s hands.  But we can never forget that children’s futures are in our hands.  There is no greater responsibility.  No more important job.  And no better pathway to a better, healthier, more peaceful world for every person, every family and every child.