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Photo: Kurdish girl. Iraq, 1997. Copyright Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas
Photo: Kurdish girl. Iraq, 1997. Copyright Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas

This page is background information, last updated in May 2002 and still available for reference. For the latest on the Special Session on Children, please go to the Special Session index.

More than 94 million 'Say Yes for Children'

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NEW YORK, 7 May 2002 - Young delegates at the closing ceremony of the Children's Forum today praised the huge number of pledges raised by the 'Say Yes for Children' campaign. More than 94 million people, most of them children and young people, have promised to support key actions to improve the world for children. In a ceremony that followed the official closing of the Children's Forum, Barron Hanson, a 12-year-old delegate from Australia, presented the tally to Mr. Nelson Mandela and Mrs. Graça Machel, inspirational leaders of the Global Movement for Children, which has given impetus to the 'Say Yes' campaign.

"We want you to know that 'Say Yes for Children' has turned out better than you could ever have expected," Barron told the audience. "It's about so much more than just numbers, and this is what we hope you tell the leaders of the General Assembly. In fact, we hope you tell our story to everyone you meet. Tell the leaders that the lessons of 'Say Yes' are that millions of people are expecting leadership, looking for leadership and ready to support leaders who are committed to children. Tell them, please, that this is the first step of a long journey that we are ready to make with them."

The 'Say Yes for Children' campaign supports 10 priority actions to change the world so that children everywhere will enjoy their right to health, peace and dignity. It was kicked off in April 2001, when Mr. Mandela and Mrs. Machel said 'Yes' over the Internet. The number of pledges is still growing.

There are amazing stories behind the numbers. In Kazakhstan, 3.5 million students, parents, and teachers pledged on one day. One in every four people in Turkey and one in every five people in Jordan have made pledges. In Guinea, a village chief moved his pledge drive to an indoor market when children insisted that he keep going even though it had begun to rain. In war-affected countries such as Afghanistan, UNICEF staff were able to collect pledges despite often dangerous and tense circumstances. In Italy, firemen promoted 'Say Yes' in pizza parlors across the country. And in Peru, 800,000 children turned out for a special 'Say Yes' voting day in schools.

Ms. Nane Annan, wife of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, accepted Barron's challenge to those present to help muster the leadership necessary to change the world. "You're really inspirational," said Ms. Annan. "We adults speak those words that our hearts would have us shout: We cannot waste our children, not another one, not another day."

The ceremony ended with a performance by a group of rap artists. "In a world that's out of tune, we can hear a melody," they sang. "It's the children of the world that we're here to represent. All over the world, peace to every girl and every boy."


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