“Dear distinguished members of the UN General Assembly,

Do these words sound familiar to you? Maybe you’ve heard them before? These timely words are not ours. We have borrowed them from the late Mr. Nelson Mandela, the former President of the Republic of South Africa. These words and many more were part of Mr. Mandela’s historical speech when he addressed the United Nations as the first South African leader since the United Nations conception in 1945.

Why have we chosen these words in particular?

Almost 30 years since Mr. Mandela spoke these words, they should serve as a reminder of hope: Our common humanity demand that we must attempt even the impossible – the happiness of the human being must in any society be an end in itself.

80 children representing 42 countries have come together to co-create our call to action. We represent the 2,2 billion children all over the world whose voices you do not hear. Today we are their microphone.

We call upon you, the UN General Assembly, for change. Can you hear us?

Most of us live in countries where peace, plenty and prosperity are gifts that we too often take for granted. It is difficult for many of us to imagine that the freedoms we enjoy such as free healthcare, education or even the simple pleasures of having three meals a day and a bed to sleep in, are human rights violations in too many of our global communities.

We live in a time where terrible events like being murdered on an island at a youth political camp, praying at mosque or even going to local shop are no longer tragic historical events we learn about at school. Wars, conflicts, and terrorist attacks affect us where we live. Tyrants, dictators, and terrorists do not discriminate against their victims. They do not care who they hurt, maim, or even kill. Terrible wars and conflicts have claimed untold victims, driving innocent children and their families across borders on an epic scale never seen before.

We live in a time where we learn that truth is up for debate. Where facts can be alternative. And news can be fake. Misinformation creates distrust. When truth and honesty should unite communities and move us closer together to solve global issues, instead we are divided by half-truths and fiction. Fake news is not a new phenomenon, but the speed at which it travels is. While the advancement of technology and access to social media is astounding and empowers us individuals, the same technology is also used to exploit and radicalise children.

We live in a time where the earth beneath our feet, the same earth that sustains and provides for us with plenty and prosperity of resources, threatens our very existence on this earth. Climate change and global warming are not catch phrases that our generation have cleverly thought up. These are global problems that affect us and our families, where we live.

We live in a time when almost half the world’s population of children have inadequate access to necessities like food and clean water, education, healthcare, or housing. Can you imagine what it is like not to have access to food and clean water? No, you probably can’t. According to UNICEF, an estimated 356 million children globally live in extreme poverty, forced to survive on barely 2 dollars a day. Could you feed yourself on only 2 dollars a day? As staggering as that number is, it is even more alarming that 1 billion children worldwide are multi-dimensionally poor.

Our global voices are urging you to act. Can you still hear us? Our solution and message to you is not revolutionary, it is simple: Education, education, education!

The United States third President, Thomas Jefferson unequivocally believed that “Education was critical for the preservation of happiness and freedom”. Education should not be a privilege reserved for the lucky few. Education is a fundamental human right for all 2.2 billion of us, irrespective of where in the world we call home. And yet, 258 million children are denied the right to an education.

We know that the global problems we face seem incomprehensible. But we have never been in any doubt how important education is in remedying these issues. Education gives us the tools to engage in society, to battle inequality, to counter injustice. And to take on the common responsibility of creating change.

Our schools are not only an important place for learning. They are the centre of our local communities. Our schools are where we met our friends, play sports, and eat our lunch together. Our schools are where we learn democracy in practice. Democracy is by no means perfect, but we learn how democracy and our voices help build stronger communities. Most importantly our schools are our safe space from the rest of the world. For a few hours a day, our schools are where we go to be children.

Safe space education, is exactly what it sounds like. Schools where children can feel safe. A place where misinformation, conspiracy theories and alternative facts are debated and debunked. Where we are equipped to think freely and ask questions without censorship, restraint, or fear of reprisal.

Safe space education, are schools that are free from all form of violence and discrimination. Safe space education are schools that can be a safe haven for all children – no matter who they are, how they look, where they come from. Where we are all equal. Where an inclusive learning environment is the norm for children with different abilities and learning styles and other talents to nurture.

To our politicians, policy makers – our world leaders:

Safe space education should be the standard. Non-negotiable standard in global education. In other words, we should be allowed to expect more than the bare minimum. The responsibility of our future falls not only on you, our world leaders. This is a global responsibility. Not just for our sake. But for your own. For the world.

Over the past six months, 80 children from all corners of the world have dedicated our free time to discussing the global issues that are important to us. The challenges that we have outlined in this document are only a few of the major problems that we know are affecting the lives of children around the world. If there is one thing that we are certain of, we should be at the centre of processes that directly affect our lives.

We should be heard as equal citizens by decision makers across all areas, especially when are at our most vulnerable during a crisis. We should not be left behind in discussions about our rights, but should instead be a part of the process, like all other citizens. Only by involving us in the conception, implementation and assessment of laws, policies, and strategies, can we develop truly inclusive communities. We know that our view of the world has a unique value for our global community.

Generations before you have underestimated how resourceful and fierce we are in our convictions. We refuse to be sidelined while the global issues of yesterday and today are even more insurmountable for the future children that come after us.

Our solutions may seem simple, but our unique perspective of the world, as tragic as some of our experiences are, allows us to think of solutions that are yet to be discovered. For generations we have tried it your way. Maybe it is time to try it our way and be on the same team?

Our legacy is not to leave the problems for someone else to fix. Our legacy is that the future children will follow in our footsteps just as we stand on the shoulders of those that came before us.

In closing we leave you with the following words of the great Mr. Nelson Mandela: The happiness of the human being must in any society be an end in itself.

Thank you for your time!”    

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