Children and young people headline global and local events on World Children’s Day, demanding urgent action on COVID-19 and climate change

19 November 2021
Five children laugh together.

NEW YORK, 20 November 2021 – Children and young people are raising their voices and demanding urgent action on the issues that matter to them in a series of global and local events to mark World Children’s Day, UNICEF’s global day of action for children, by children.

From headlining at the world expo, to meeting with presidents, leading public debates, and reporting from newsrooms, young people are engaging world leaders, businesses, and high-profile stars on issues including climate, equality and kindness.

“Amid a global pandemic, rising poverty, and social unrest, World Children’s Day is a time to celebrate young people’s unwavering hope and determination to build back better,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director of Partnerships Charlotte Petri Gornitzka. The road to recovery from COVID-19 must put children and young people at the heart of decision-making. As the leaders of tomorrow, they have the right to shape decisions made today.”

This week, UNICEF and Gallup launched the first-ever intergenerational poll on childhood today, showing that young people are 50 per cent more likely than older generations to believe the world is becoming a better place, but are impatient for action on mounting crises such as COVID-19 and climate change.

To hear and amplify their calls for a better world, presidents, ministers, and businesses joined children and young people at virtual and in-person events, including:

  • In West and Central Africa, UNICEF kicked off its first annual ’Youth Voices from the Sahel’ public debate, focusing on climate change, and bringing together experts, political stakeholders, high-profile individuals, and more than 100 young people aged 8-25 to debate and deliver a set of recommendations for leaders.
  • Children and young people hosted a meeting with the Presidents of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe at the Kazungula Bridge where the borders of all four countries meet. The bridge was also lit up blue in symbolic support for children. Heads of states, ministers and members of governments met with children in other countries including Denmark, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Oman, Turkey, and Switzerland.
  • UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors and high-profile supporters used their global platforms to help raise awareness and mobilize support for children’s rights and the issues affecting young people, including:
    • UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Millie Bobby Brown called for children not to give up on adults in this year’s World Children’s Day signature video. In a reverse to the norm, Brown points out how children are often given instruction from adults, and now calls for adults to listen to children. 
    • UNICEF China Ambassador Wang Yuan (Roy Wang) released a new song to inspire children and young people.
    • UNICEF Norway Ambassador Penelope Lea chaired a conference with children, young people, and government leaders on climate change and sustainability.
  • From promoting child rights to lighting buildings blue, businesses and organizations showed their support to help children reimagine a better future, including FC BarcelonaJohnson & Johnson, the LEGO Group and the LEGO Foundation, Pandora, Z Zurich Foundation, and the UN Foundation.
  • Children and young people in Bangladesh, Colombia, Fiji, Gambia, Indonesia, and elsewhere, took over newsrooms, newspapers, and broadcast studios to report on issues that matter to them.
  • In the spirit of children and young people’s participation, UNICEF launched its first global TikTok activation designed by young creators with the support from TikTok. Focusing on the positive impact of youth advocacy, the #OlderSelfTalk activation asks young people to have a conversation with their older self on some of the current issues that matter to their generation.
  • Iconic landmarks and buildings around the world turned blue as a symbol of unity, including the Tour Eiffel in France, the The Rashtrapati Bhavan in India, the Dharahara Tower in Nepal, Expo 2020 Dubai in the UAE, the Historic Victoria Falls Bridge in Zimbabwe, the Lahore Fort in Pakistan, Petra in Jordan, a section of the Great Wall in China, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Bran Draculas Castle in Romania, and other buildings and landmarks, including in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany and Panama. ​

Expo 2020 Dubai championed child rights with youth-led celebrations and policy-focused events featuring UNICEF Ambassadors and Youth Advocates. Two UNICEF Youth Advocates were appointed during a concert: TIME’s Kid of the Year Gitanjali Rao and member of the Emirati Children's Parliament Saeed bin Omar Almutaiwei.

In addition to these appointments, UNICEF Youth Advocates and young National Ambassadors around the world were appointed to help raise children and young people’s voices, including:

  • Barbados: Ashley Lashley, 21; Maria Marshall, 12
  • China: Zhao Chen, 21; Yu Xinwei, 19
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: Céline Banza, 24 (National Ambassador); Emmanuel Jidisa, 14; Ketsia Passou, 17
  • Dominica: Russell Raymond, 18
  • Guinea-Bissau: John William, 12 (National Ambassador)
  • Ireland: Beth Doherty, 18; Ruairi Holohan, 16
  • Malawi: Chisomo Banda, 23; Lisa Banda, 22; Zakaat Sambo, 19
  • Tanzania: Godlisten Boniphace Irunde, 16; Nabiha Kassim, 18; Najma Paul Ntobi, 23
  • United States of America: Salma Abdi, 17; Carmel Alshaibi, 20; Joey Chen, 18; Tirsitemariyam Gessesse, 15; Ishan Goyal, 17; Rohan Menon, 16; Gheed Nafea, 17; Sui Par, 19; Siddharth Satish, 16; Sharon Shenderovskiy, 20; Ayaan Siddiqui, 17; Esha Singhai, 17; Shubhi Sinha, 20; Anna Stacy, 18; Diya Theodore, 18.

World Children’s Day – celebrated annually on November 20 and now in its fifth year – aims to raise awareness for the millions of children that are denied their right to adequate health care, nutrition, education and protection, and to elevate young people’s voices as critical to any discussions about their future. 


Notes to editors:

For further information and biographies of UNICEF Youth Advocates, visit this link. Appointments of past and current UNICEF Youth Advocates were also amplified through illustrations created by young artists and designers, to tell the stories of their peers in a fun and creative way. Blogs and illustrations can be viewed on our Voices of Youth website.

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Helen Wylie
Tel: +1 917 244 2215

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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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