The teenagers, representing diverse backgrounds and regions, gathered from 21-23 June in Paris in an event initiated by Ellyanne Wanjiku, the youngest African climate ambassador, with support from the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Jesuit Ecological Justice Network in Africa. Praying her way through the security restrictions, Ellyanne and the team were admitted to the heads-of-state and ministers-only hall of the summit in Palais Brognard.
“In the face of a global system that often silences the vulnerable, and disregards the marginalised, we put forth this declaration as a rallying cry for a more equitable global financing pact, one that safeguards a just and sustainable future for all the children across the globe,” their message reads. “We see the urgency of a profound and systemic transformation, emphasizing the intertwined nature of financial justice, climate change, and sustainability.”
The children thanked the world leaders gathered at the summit for forming a new global financial pact that prioritizes humanity over profits.
“This pact will only bear fruit if it is accompanied by a profound shift in our economic system,” the message reads. "We must replace the existing colonial economic model, characterised by relentless extraction and reckless environmental degradation, with a model that respects people and the planet.”
The pursuit of profit must not come at the cost of child and human rights, the young people urged. “Indeed, a just and equitable economic model must ensure the upholding of child rights,” the message reads. “Only then can we pave the way to a truly sustainable and equitable global financial pact.
Children call out disparities in global south
The message especially underlines glaring disparities in resource allocation in the global south. “Inequitable financial practices maintain a cycle of inequality and socio-economic hardship, limiting children’s access to essential social services,” the message notes. “We demand a global financial system that is transparent, accountable, and equitable, a system that eliminates obstacles to children’s access to education and health and therefore empowers them to thrive.”
The youth demand justice. “We strongly affirm that reforming the global financial system is an act of justice, securing every child’s ability to exercise our rights without hindrance,” the message continues. “The crucial investments in children’s development must be efficiently allocated and must reach the most marginalised.”
The message insists on a financial system that champions transparency, accountability, and equity.
“Thus, we, the young torchbearers of change, call upon global leaders, investors, and citizens to correct systemic imbalances and injustices,” the message reads. “We beseech you to endorse policies and initiatives that cultivate a world where every child, no matter the nationality or circumstance, has an equal opportunity to prosper.
Millions are suffering
The message urges the world leaders to remember the suffering of the millions of children. “Behind financial systems, there are real human beings suffering and without access to basic needs,” the children note. “Enable us to be champions for sustainable development.”
The message also notes the harsh reality when financial injustice collides with climate change.
“This is the pressing call for a new global financial pact,” the youth urge. “To allow for sustainable development of economies in the 21st century, we urge you, the leaders, to significantly increase spending on climate-related development goals.”
The children called for immediately outlawing the financing of new fossil fuel drilling projects. “The vast reservoirs of carbon, locked in these ‘carbon bombs’ from relentless fossil fuel extraction, must be defused,” reads the message. “Let us not forget that we, the youth, are not just the future; we are the present.”
The message concludes by noting that children stand at the crossroads of life or death. “Let us choose the path of justice, equality, and sustainability,” the text concludes. “Let us reshape our world into one where every child, regardless of their nationality or circumstance, can live in a world that is just, fair, and sustainable.
Constructing the message
This historic message was delivered due to the work of children who gathered at side events prior to the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact.
Under the theme “Let Justice Reign,” the children amplified their own voices in actively shaping the future of global financial justice.
Aligned with the summit's objective of forging a new agreement between the global north and south to tackle climate change and the global crisis, the events provided a platform for children to address the pressing need for a revamped global financial system that ensures justice in development and climate finance.
Part of their discussions were based on the WCC report “Cooler Earth - Higher Benefits,” which provides details on the impact of banking choices on climate change and, consequently, on children.
Children and adults worked together in small groups to develop projects and initiatives to address identified issues.
Bishop Marika Markovits, from the Church of Sweden, Corinne Bitaud, Head of Ecological Justice in the United Reformed Church of France, and Frederique Seidel, WCC senior advisor on Child Rights, were among the adults whose ideas inspired the children and who supported their initiative.
Markovits outlined financial investments based on stewardship and human dignity. “Invest your money in the Creation you believe in!” she urged.
The conversations of the side event and declaration will also feed into the forthcoming Child-Led Global Children Climate Summit from 31 August-2 September, and the Africa Climate Summit from 4-6 July.
The children also plan to take their declaration to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and COP 28 in Dubai.