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Zoleka Mandela Opens World Urban Forum with #EveryLife Call for Action

By FIA Foundation

Zoleka Mandela, Global Ambassador for the Child Health Initiative, made a powerful call to protect every child worldwide on the journey to school as she opened the World Urban Forum on Wednesday, February 7, in Kuala Lumpur.

She led the opening session of the Forum which will take the next steps to implement the UN’s New Urban Agenda for city development over the next two decades. Issuing keynote speeches alongside Zoleka Mandela on 7 February were UN Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Noh bin Omar, Huairou Commission Director Violet Shivutse and leading delegates from the Women’s, Children and Business Assemblies.

Speaking on the first day of the week-long Forum, Zoleka Mandela emphasised that the safe and healthy journey to school must be at the centre of the New Urban Agenda. “Today, as we speak at this forum, 3 000 children and young people will lose their lives or face serious injury on our roads across the globe,” she said. “How is this not a crime? As cities are developing, our children are being killed. I beg our policy makers to please, please wake up! You have the solutions, so why are you not taking action?”

“I call on you all to join the #EveryLife campaign – this is a campaign that focuses on a priority of the New Urban Agenda. This is an opportunity for us to take action today, an issue we can all solve without difficulty. We are calling for a safe and healthy journey to school for every single child worldwide. This campaign is for the future of our cities, for each and every child and for every life.”

As she told delegates in an emotional address, her own daughter, Zenani Mandela, was denied a future when she was killed on a Johannesburg road in 2010 shortly after her 13th birthday. She had been a teenager for barely two days. “My beautiful daughter would have been 21 years old this year. She had such great hopes and dreams for the future. No family should suffer as mine has done. I urge our leaders to take action,” she said.

During the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) Zoleka Mandela will join the FIA Foundation and its Child Health Initiative (CHI) partners in the #EveryLife campaign to advance the policy agenda on safe and healthy journeys to school, an agenda which combines calls to action on road traffic injury, air pollution and child rights. Participating at the WUF will be thousands of delegates from around the world including Mayors, leading policy makers, UN agencies, government delegations, NGOs and the private sector.

The #EveryLife campaign places the voices of children at the front and centre of demands that the needs of every child are at the heart of urban policies and action. The most important journey a child makes – the daily journey to and from school – is often dangerous, especially for the urban poor. These risks can be addressed by using the tools, evidence and knowledge which are readily available. As the #EveryLife campaign emphasises, by not ensuring that solutions are in place to protect children around the world, their fundamental rights are being violated on a daily basis.

Following Zoleka Mandela’s address, UN Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif echoed the call to empower young people and uphold their rights in city development. She said: “The New Urban Agenda focuses heavily on inclusion. We need equality of opportunity for all – every resident has the same human rights. Young people make up half the population of many of our cities. They are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today.”

In his opening address, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Noh bin Omar called for equity in urban development. “We need to design our cities in a more innovative way. We need to ensure we have inclusive cities for all. Accessibility is crucial. Our cities must be safe, resilient, inclusive and prosperous for the 21st century.”

Campaigning with Zoleka Mandela on the first day of the WUF, FIA Foundation Deputy Director Avi Silverman said: “If we are to make our cities truly liveable, to tackle climate change and ensure health for all, we must ensure that the rights and needs of children are at the forefront of urban policy making worldwide. This is what we are calling for with the #EveryLife campaign. The principles and solutions to protect our children, to empower them, and to provide a safe and healthy journey to school are well known and readily available. As the World Urban Forum heard today what’s needed is the political commitment and the funding – it’s time to deliver.” The Child Health Initiative will be actively campaigning throughout the World Urban Forum. It will host a side event: ‘#EveryLife: Delivering the NUA priority of safe & healthy journeys to school for every child’ on 10 February.

More information on the #EveryLife Side Event here. Download this FIA Foundation press release.