On UNEP's Children’s Painting Competition

Mayor Newsom,

My friend Michael Schade, representing UNEP’s partner Bayer, who are so generously supporting many of our children and youth activities,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

World Environment Day is all about reaching out to the world.

Children are an important part of that world.

They are our future.

Often they are our conscience.

Our children provide the spark, the enthusiasm, the vigour and the idealism that this world needs.

That is why we have chosen World Environment Day to honour the winners of the 14th UNEP Children’s painting competition—once again organised with the Japan-based Foundation for Global Peace and Environment, and with the support of Bayer.

Together these paintings express the hopes and fears of our young people.

They know they will inherit our legacy.

They know something needs to be done.

We must listen to them.

At UNEP we try to do that. And more.

We have a mandate, endorsed by our Governing Council, to make sure the children and youth of the world have a voice.

That voice was heard loud and clear at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held three years ago in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The plan of implementation agreed on at that Summit is our blueprint for a sustainable future.

At the Summit the voice of our children was clear:

They told the international community in forthright terms that the future belongs to them, that they want to inherit a world free of poverty, environmental degradation and unsustainable development.

Their plea was included in the Johannesburg Declaration for all to ponder—and act on.

It is a message that UNEP will continue to broadcast loud and clear.

Today’s award ceremony is part of that effort.

We are here today to honour the work of young artists from the six regions of our globe.

I am pleased that, thanks to the generosity of our sponsor, Bayer, they have been able to join us today.

For this year’s competition we asked for contributions on the World Environment Day theme of Green Cities.

Looking at the winners, I see a very clear message.

We have a choice.

We can continue with business as usual, or we can choose the sustainable path.

That is what our overall winner Ryotaro Sato is saying.

In her picture an arrow directs us towards clean skies and a harmonious future.

Another points towards a dead tree under a leaden sky.

It’s our choice.

It’s a choice that is keenly felt of our regional winners.

Explaining her picture, 10 year-old Ranjani Dharamajan from Kenya said:

“Today the forests are being destroyed to create space for buildings and factories. The air, land and sea are being constantly polluted. I felt that to bring back the original green city we need magic. So, I drew an ‘Aladdin's Lamp’ which could make our wish come true, that would bring back the Green Cities.”

Ladies and gentlemen,

When I hear the voices of these children I feel confident.

Confident that we can realize our hopes for a sustainable future.

I also feel confident when I see the outstanding effort that Mayor Newsom and the City and people of San Francisco have put into this year’s World Environment Day celebrations.

Actually, I should say World Environment Week, for it is truly an action packed week.

The agenda is entertaining.

And it is substantive.

Immediately after this event I will attend a workshop on urban transport—an increasingly important topic.

That will also be the subject of a dinner tonight that will be attended by Al Gore.

Tomorrow I have an equally packed day.

The theme will be urban power, renewable energy and climate change.

Cities are the greatest contributors to greenhouse gases.

If we address urban transport and energy needs in a sustainable way we can build the future that the children that we are honouring today need and deserve.

In closing, let me once again thank our young artists, and wish them an exciting and enjoyable stay here in this beautiful city.

Let me thank Bayer, for their outstanding support for our children and youth programme.

And, finally, a special thank you to Mayor Newsom and the city of and people of San Francisco.



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