PRESS RELEASE  

Irish children tell EU leaders their voices must be heard if Europe is to succeed

UNICEF Ireland youth advocates Ismail Ahmed and Lucy Warmington are available for interview

Images & videos can be downloaded at: http://bit.ly/2PX1YB2

BUCHAREST/DUBLIN, May 9th 2019 –  Young Irish activists have teamed up with children from 16 different EU countries to tell EU leaders their voice must be heard. Ahead of today’s European Council summit, two UNICEF Ireland youth advocates Ismail Ahmed (19) and Lucy Warmington (17) travelled to Bucharest, Romania to demand greater participation for children in decisions that will affect their future.

Ismail and Lucy joined 60 other children from across the EU, as well as over a hundred child rights experts and European high-level officials at the EU Children’s Conference in Bucharest to discuss the role of children in participation and decision-making in Europe. The end of the conference saw the publication of the “Bucharest EU Children’s Declaration”. The declaration was written by young people, and will be presented to European heads of state, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, at today’s European Council summit in Sibiu.

Chosen by UNICEF Ireland to represent the views of children in Ireland, Ismail, a Sudanese refugee to Ireland, and Lucy from county Tipperary, both gave personal accounts of the importance of youth participation in decision-making.

Ismail came to Ireland in 2017, as part of the programme to take in unaccompanied minors from Calais and gave a moving account, in front of the nearly 200 attendees, of his long and perilous journey from Darfur to Ireland. “Every child has a right to be heard, so many children’s voices in Europe are silenced. Just because you are a refugee or a migrant, does not mean that you are not a child. We came to Europe because we have no choice.

“We were forced to leave our homes. It is important for children not only to be listened to at a European level, but also within our communities. We all need to feel like we belong. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to speak at this occasion, my voice has never been heard before, and sharing my story helps to lessen the pain.”

The declaration will now be presented to EU leaders at the European Council summit in Sibiu in an effort to stress the importance of child participation, not only at an EU level, but in the family, in education and in our communities. Throughout the conference, the UNICEF youth advocates shared ideas on how to implement child participation at all levels in Ireland and Lucy, a passionate climate activist, explained why it matters so much to her.

“We are the generation who will continue to live in this world created by our predecessors. Yet we are the generation without the power in government offices to sign legislation. Without the power to make the big changes that are necessary if we want to turn our global emissions to a downward curve.

“There is an urgent need for serious action from governments concerning climate change, and it is up to us, the children, to persuade them to make this their top priority, and the forefront of every decision they make. And they must remember to include us along the way, not only because we are the future, but because we are the present as well, and now is the time for change.”

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Contacts

Danny Smits, UNICEF Ireland, +353 87 1308070, danny@unicef.ie