9 May 2024 - Global

Children are the present & the future: Ensuring children contribute to an ambitious Summit of the Future

Inger meeting a child in Senegal

Inger talking to a child in Senegal. Anta NDIAYE/Save the Children

Last month I joined a session with child parliamentarians in Juba, South Sudan, to talk about the issues that were most important to them. They talked about access to education, tackling climate change, and addressing hunger. While their experiences varied, they each had important views on what is needed to create a brighter future for all. 

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In 2015, all countries agreed to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, to make that fairer, greener future a reality.  But today, the world is a long way off track, particularly for those children most affected by inequality, discrimination and crisis. Across the world children face violence in new and protracted conflicts, a devastating hunger crisis, uncertainty in a rapidly expanding digital environment and a climate emergency. The longer progress on the SDGs stalls, the more children’s lives and futures are at risk.   

Looking ahead to the UN Summit of the Future 

The upcoming United Nations Summit of the Future will bring world leaders together to discuss ways to tackle current and emerging challenges. The goal is for governments to agree on a Pact for the Future' outlining priorities and commitments to action. Children, like those I spoke with in Juba, will live with the consequences of decisions made at the Summit of the Future and they must be a part of making them. 

We recently held a virtual Children’s Dialogue with children from 8 countries around the world where they shared views to take to the upcoming Civil Society Conference in Nairobi, a crucial influencing moment on the road to the Summit of the Future. The children we spoke to shared a vision of a future where children’s rights are upheld for all children, and where governments and other partners ensure that the laws safeguarding child rights are fully implemented. One child campaigner from northern Nigeria told us they “have experienced violence and seen wars and climate disasters – and don’t want these to come back in the future.” 

Today, children represent one-third of the world’s population, and an estimated 4.2 billion children are expected to be born over the next 30 years. Children and youth are closest in time to future generations, this gives them a critical insight that deserves ‘special weight’ in the sort of multigenerational decision-making planned for the Summit of the Future. Children are experts in their own unique experiences so we must listen to them, now. 

To fulfil children’s rights today and ensure the rights of future generations, the Summit must set the world on a path toward intergenerational justice and equity. Present generations must no longer burden future generations with the consequences of their actions, their legacy must be one of opportunity that enables future generations to flourish. To achieve this, the views of children and future generations must be represented in present-day decisions. And world leaders must not give up on the SDGs and their pledge to leave no one behind – these are the best roadmap we have to chart our way out of the current moment of crisis and deliver for all children today and in the future.  

Governments at the Summit of the Future have the opportunity to interrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty and inequality, fulfill child rights, and build prosperous, sustainable, peaceful and resilient societies for the future. This will require bold steps and urgent action. Governments will need to significantly scale up financial resources to invest in achieving the SDGs and implementing Pact of the Future outcomes. And they must put children’s voices and rights at the centre, as one child told us, to create a world “where every child's voice is heard and respected” and “where children have spaces at decision-making tables where they can make decisions.” 

Our call to decision-makers  

Through the Summit of the Future, its preparatory process, and its outcomes, we call on Member States and UN entities to:

  1. Ensure that children, in all their diversity, are able to shape the Pact of the Future and input to discussions at the UN Civil Society Conference in Nairobi this week and the Summit of the Future.  

  1. Commit to principles of intergenerational justice and agree on concrete steps for implementation, such as the establishment of a UN Envoy for Future Generations; and 

  1. Adopt a Pact for the Future that puts child rights at the center.  

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