To mark the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in the world, several divisions of the United Nations, the World Future Council together with a consortium of educational charities including the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, the Trust for Sustainable Living, and the Office of the Commissioner for Future Generations of Hungary hosted the launch of Voices of Future Generations at the Science Museum in London, UK.
The programme for the launch also included two very important events. The first was the launch of the very first book in the series, entitled “Epic Eco-inventions” by Jona David. A special inter-generational learning circle was also held at the Voices launch, in honour of His Excellency, Judge CG Weeramantry UNESCO Peace Education Prize Laureate.
Children from various schools, international student leaders, esteemed academics and learned professionals in the children's rights and environmental protection fields engaged in earnest discussion on global challenges and barriers to children's rights to education and a clean environment. They shared innovative solutions to realise these rights, which are being promoted today, all over the world, by world leaders, dedicated international organizations, educational institutions, civil society and children themselves.
Professor Kirsten Sandberg, Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child provided thoughtful and provoking opening remarks. These were followed by two lively roundtable discussion led by His Excellency Justice C.G. Weeramantry. Master Madiwa Adjepong-Boateng, aged 10 at that time, gave an excellent presentation, identifying global environmental problems such as climate change, pollution and desertification, and barriers to education which include war and conflict, diseases like Ebola and corruption. In his words:
“Corruption becomes a challenge to education when trusted public officials make themselves rich from stealing money that could have been used to provide classrooms and textbooks for children, and salaries for teachers."
The first selected child author of the series, Master Jona David of King's College School, Cambridge, aged 9 at that time, highlighted the need for new solutions, including the adoption of eco-technologies such as solar and wind power by schools and communities, so that children's interest in eco-science could be 'sparked'. Jona also spoke about innovations such as the use of hybrid buses and bicycles for transport, and what he termed “extreme recycling”. Jona urge world leaders to promote greener economies through the creation of jobs that won't harm the environment in the future. He urged children to form eco-clubs, lead global movements to plant trees so as to prevent climate change, to write books and speak out. Jona also addressed the need for good quality education and not education for the sake of education: adults must look closely at what we are teaching children.
The second selected global child author, Miss Kehkashan Basu, aged 14 at that time, provided a motivating online presentation from her home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She also introduced her book, 'The Tree of Hope', about a girl involved in restoring degraded desert ecosystems and realising children's rights to water and the environment.
Some of the international expert speakers in attendance were: Mr Jakob von Uexkull, Founder of the World Future Council; Ms Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director-General of the IUCN; Dr Marcel Szabo, Ombudsman for Future Generations of Hungary; Mr Karl Hansen, Director of the Trust for Sustainable Living; Dr Ashfaq Khalfan, Advisor to Amnesty International and CISDL Chair; Ms Anna R. Oposa, Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum & Founder of Save Philippine Seas; Dr Nick Lush, Vice-Principal of the United World Colleges - Atlantic College, and Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.
They highlighted how progress has been achieved on children's civil and political rights, whilst recognising that violations of children's economic, social, cultural and environmental rights are increasing. They profiled new forms of education, international initiatives, and local solutions that are supporting future generations. These innovations are causing young people to feel like citizens of one world, advocating for access to good quality education and a healthy and clean environment.
The event closed with a special reception and celebratory toasts to the child author Jona David and the talented illustrator, Dr Carol Adlam, in celebration of the first book in the new series. The toasts were made by Baroness Dr Julie Smith of Newnham; Dr Marcel Szabo of the Future Generations Commission, and a leader in children's publishing, and Ms Belinda Rasmussen of Macmillan Children's Books. The United Nations, the World Future Council and the consortium of partners are very grateful to all that attended, for a very splendid commencement to the inspiring Voices of Future Generations initiative.