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Children at the heart of three events in New York
20 November 2008 / 04:18

[Dateline: New York | Author:  iSeek]

Three events this week in New York, two events of which were held on Thursday, Universal Children’s Day, focused on improving the lives of children: the launch of a new global network of children formerly affected by war, the opening of a thought-provoking photo exhibit and a fundraising gala.

Network of Young People Affected by War

A new network, Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW), established by young people with first-hand experience of the hardship children face in conflict zones, was launched today at a press conference hosted by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the Permanent Mission of Italy and UNICEF.

The NYPAW, which aims to amplify the voice of those suffering as a result of conflict, includes Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone), Emmanuel Jal (Sudan), Grace Akallo (Uganda), Kon Kelei (Sudan), Zlata Filipovic (Bosnia Herzegovina), and China Keitetsi (Uganda).

By working together, they will seek to raise awareness of the plight of children in conflict zones, to advocate for an end to hostilities and to serve as role models for children who are currently struggling to recover from war.

“Each of these young people has a story of overcoming great personal hardship,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, welcoming the launch of the network. “This new network can draw attention to the suffering of children caught in conflicts and demonstrate how young people themselves can help dramatically rebuild their lives” (related press release).

Among other things, the network hopes to serve as a conduit linking children caught in conflict with governments, international organizations, civil society and the media.

It aims to inspire through education and art and empower children who live similar experiences. It also aims to share information and ideas and give input and the child's perspective on issues including reintegration strategies, programs, and guidelines. It includes partnerships with NGOs and the UN.

Exhibit:  Children of War:  Broken Childhood

Children of war: Broken childhoodOn Thursday evening, a photographic exhibition entitled “Children of War:  Broken Childhood” will be formally launched in the South Gallery of the Visitors Lobby at 6 p.m.

The exhibit is based on the book Child Soldiers, which features the work of prominent war photographers and contributing writers, such as International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo; children’s rights advocate for Human Rights Watch, Jo Becker; and musician and former child soldier, Emmanuel Jal.

The photo exhibit will be opened by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy. 

Statements will also be made by the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka; the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, Giulio Terzi; and the exhibit’s curator and author of the book Child Soldiers, Leora Kahn of Proof: Media for Social Justice. 

A number of former child soldiers and youth advocates for children affected by war will also attend the opening, including Ishmael Beah, Grace Akallo, Kon Kelei and John Onama.

The “Children of War” exhibition was organized by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict with the support of the Government of Italy and in collaboration with the Department of Public Information.

Happy Hearts Fund gala

Actor Seth Myers, Musician Wyclef Jean, Model Petra Nemcova and Actor Kevin Spacey at the Happy Hearts Fund gala | Submitted by UNOP The Happy Hearts Fund, an organization created by Czech model and 2004 Tsunami survivor Petra Nemcova committed to building a strong partnership with the United Nations system, held a fundraising gala in New York on Monday, 17 November. 

The Fund works to improve children’s lives through sustainable education programs in disaster affected areas and supports various locally run and culturally specific charitable projects around the world.

The United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) recognizes and appreciates the commitment and excellent work of the Happy Hearts Fund and Ms. Nemcova.  UNOP provides strategic advice to the organization on their partnerships building with the United Nations System. 

UNOP logoMr. Amir Dossal, Executive Director of UNOP, attended the event, along with representatives of the Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 

Contributions raised at the gala, 3.4 million dollars, will be used to further the fund’s main goal -– advocating for the rights and providing better livelihoods for disadvantaged youth, who are natural disaster victims and who are not receiving the essential and sustainable help they need for healthy childhood development

Musician Wyclef Jean received an award at the gala.

The Fund currently supports 39 programs in 12 countries on 5 continents. Organizers state that the projects have made a direct impact on livelihood of more than 20,500 children and 100,000 community members.

About the day

On 14 December 1954, the General Assembly recommended that all countries institute a Universal Children's Day, to be observed as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children [A/RES/836(IX)].

The date 20 November, marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child [A/RES/1386(XIV)] , in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989.