‘This is My Street’ campaigning hits New York and London
As the international community gathered for the 74th UN General Assembly (UNGA) to address the most urgent issues of our times, the Child Health Initiative called for the rights of young people to be at the heart of the global agenda in both London and New York City.
Ahead of three UN Summits on climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Universal Health Care, Child Health Initiative Global Ambassador Zoleka Mandela called on global leaders to take action on adolescent health and wellbeing. A key part of this agenda includes action on road traffic injury, the leading global killer of young people.
Child Health Initiative Global Ambassador Zoleka Mandela called for leaders to do more to tackle the preventable public health epidemic caused by road traffic injury. While speaking at a trio of high-profile campaign events kicking off UNGA, including Walk the Talk, Social Good Summit, and SDG Action Festival, Zoleka Mandela called for the mobility rights of young people to be recognized as key to accelerating action on the SDGs, climate change and health equality.
Influential leaders echoed the demand to focus on young people alongside Zoleka Mandela at the high-level campaign events, including World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros, Former New Zealand Prime Minister and PMNCH Board Chair Helen Clark and Former President of Ireland and Chair of The Elder’s Mary Robinson.
Recognising the power of youth activism for developing urgency in the climate change debate at the Social Good Summit, Mary Robinson said: “I have been working on climate justice for the last 10 years and I would ask about small island states, poor countries and communities. And people I’ve talked to say, ‘yes, but that’s not me.’ Whereas children have mainstreamed it in an incredibly effective way. It’s in every family now this knowledge that children realise they’re not going to have a safe future.”
The focus on the rights of young people also continued to gather pace in London where the Child Health Initiative joined the first-ever Car Free Day in the capital. Mayor Sadiq Khan supported the This is My Street campaign, highlighting the importance of tackling the health impacts of poor air quality on children, “It leads to thousands of premature deaths in our city. Also it is for us to realise the consequences of poor air quality will be felt most greatly by future generations.”
Support for the This is My Street campaign gained more momentum on the other side of the Atlantic WHO’s Walk the Talk event in New York’s Central Park. Dr. Tedros and Jamaica Health Minister Dr. Chris Tufton joined Zoleka Mandela and hundreds of participants in calling for safe and healthy streets, a vital environmental factor for health promotion, especially for children and adolescents.
The next ten years are decisive for delivering the blueprint for a better future embodied in the SDGs; for preventing catastrophic climate change; and for protecting the health of a booming adolescent population. Promotion of people-centred urban design and safe active mobility has cross-cutting benefits for healthy lifestyles and reducing transport-related emissions: a root cause for both climate change and toxic air pollution. Global initiatives such as Car Free Day and Walk the Talk are vital to engaging the public on win-win solutions for health and climate.
A pioneering collaboration spearheaded by the Child Health Initiative is bringing together international agencies and campaigners working on other critical areas of adolescent health and rights to ensure neglected issues impacting young people are urgently addressed. This includes the campaign for a Global Adolescent Summit aimed at catalysing funding and political will for leading burdens such as road traffic injury, mental health, and reproductive health while simultaneously accelerating action across multiple SDGs.
Zoleka Mandela joined UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J Mohammed and young changemakers from around globe at UNHQ to announce a Decade of Action for the SDGs; an urgent call for renewed commitment from the international community to deliver on SDG agenda. She welcomed the commitment of heads of government to ensure the continuation of the SDG 3.6 for road safety until 2030. In their political declaration, UN leaders confirmed they ‘will maintain the integrity of the 2030 Agenda, including by ensuring ambitious and continuous action on the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals with a 2020 timeline.’
Addressing the international community at the UN’s SDG Action Zone, Zoleka Mandela said, “If we’re serious about delivering on the SDGs we have to make sure that we put young people at the forefront. They can help us deliver on the SDGs. There is no reason we continue losing so many children to man-made epidemics such as road traffic injury. We need a global summit on adolescents that is going to focus on these very big issues.”