26 March 2015

Bringing the voices of children to the United Nations

Rodrigo, 14, from SOS Children's Villages Chile spoke in the plenary to UN member states about targets for the Post-2015 development agenda. Photographer: Alejandro Omar Lopez Merchan

A 14-year-old boy who currently lives with an SOS family in Chile spoke in front of global leaders at an event in the United Nations on Wednesday, 25 March.

Rodrigo, who has been supported by SOS Children's Villages Chile since he was 8 and is in the process of re-integrating with his biological family, advocated for young people’s rights to be listened to in the development of a new agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals. UN member states will agree in September on the sustainable development goals, which will guide global efforts until 2030.

He was in New York City as youth representative for the Global Movement for Children in Latin America and the Caribbean, of which SOS Children’s Villages is member. “My role was to represent all the children of Latin America”, he explained.

He delivered a speech in the plenary where UN member states heard representatives of civil society groups share views on indicators for targets that will help measure progress.

Rodrigo with Co-Facilitators of the Post-2015 process and chairs of the event:  Ambassador David Donoghue (Ireland) on left; and Ambassador Macharia Kamau (Kenya) on right. Photographer: Alejandro Omar Lopez Merchan
The speech was well received, and spontaneous applause came straight afterwards, an extraordinary reception for an official session. The co-facilitator of the plenary, Ambassador Macharia Kamau from Kenya, was impressed by Rodrigo’s wise words and commitment from one so young. “I wonder what some of us were doing when we were 14…” Ambassador Kamau said.

At a separate event later in the day, Rodrigo told a gathering of international child-focused organisations that one of the top priorities for children and young people is to have quality education. He said that education is the basis of any success, to be lifted out of poverty, to end hunger. So without quality education, UN member states will not be able to achieve any other development goal, he explained.
He also said that “for children, it is necessary to live with a family”. This requires the availability of good jobs so that parents are able to support children economically while also having time to spend with them.

“Because what a child as well as any person needs to feel good and go ahead in life is love”, he concluded.

In taking part in the event, Children Speak Out on SDGs, Rodrigo represented more than 1,000 children and young people who have taken part in the process supported by the Global Movement for Children in Latin America and the Caribbean, of which SOS Children’s Villages is member (along with UNICEF, World Vision, Child Fund, Plan International, and Save the Children).

As part of the process, the Global Movement for Children has developed a child-friendly version of the official UN document listing the current SDGs and specific targets that governments need to work on. The document is available in English here.

The participation of Rodrigo as youth representative in high-level events at the UN Headquarters in New York was possible thanks to a strong collaboration between SOS Children’s Villages Chile , the Regional Advocacy Office of LAAM, and the Liaison & Advocacy Office of SOS Children’s Villages International.
Excerpts from Rodrigo’s speech in front of representatives of UN member states:
"What you are deciding here are things that today's children are going to implement, suffer from and enjoy. So our opinion is important, because we bring a simpler, more human vision of life. At the end we think similar things, but we make them less complicated".

"Not everything is statistics and numbers, but also dialogue, participation and perceptions. Now that you (he is addressing UN Member States) are talking about measurement, we need to be sure that what you are going to measure is the quality of education and its real impact on the lives of children. And also, that the eradication of poverty and inequality will be measured by how children live better with their families, without violence and with love. You will tell me that love is hard to measure, but it is not difficult to create the conditions that encourage it, so that all children can enjoy it without discrimination."
A web recording is available on the UNWebTV at this link (Rodrigo speaks at min 25:40 – 29:40):