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Monday, February 26, 2007

"UNICEF Press Announcement- Eminent Advocate for Children - WEF"

Davos, Switzerland

"Thank you Ann, for your kind words… and for all you, and your colleagues at UNICEF, do to make the world a better place for its youngest citizens. 

I am truly honored to accept this role as “Eminent Advocate for Children.” 

It is a fancy title… but I see it as a fundamental job: To do all I can on behalf of child survival and education around the globe. 

Part of that will be to continue my longtime support of UNICEF. Ann, I stand ready to join you whenever and wherever you issue the call. 

But the point of this role is to champion children, not just one great organization. And I look forward to working with others, in this room and well beyond, to build the kinds of coalitions that will generate results. 

I am hopeful too – because I believe that helping children is a basic human instinct.  

We all began our lives as children. Many of us have boys and girls of our own. When we run across old friends or colleagues and we’re trying to reconnect, one of the first questions we are likely to ask one another is, “How are the kids?” 

Children bring us together. They remind us of what is really important in life. And, working together, I know there is much we can – and must -- bring to children. 

Things like clean water – the liquid of life -- and proper sanitation, which can reduce the risk of a child dying by as much as 50 percent. 

Things like the basic childhood immunizations that all of us here take for granted – but which are still denied to at least 27 million infants each year. 

We can bring children cost-effective interventions for maternal and newborn health – which could help save the lives of the more than half a million women who die in pregnancy or childbirth each year… and the more than 4 million babies who never make it to one month old. 

 We can bring them access to quality education – for girls as well as boys – because we know, as the youth of the G8 nations told their leaders in St. Petersburg last summer, that “education is the foundation of everything.” 

And we can and must bring children protection from the cruelty of adults – who push them into dangerous work… or sell them into the sex trade… or force them into armed combat… or abuse them behind closed doors. 

Now of course, it is easier to call for action than it is to catalyze change. But I am convinced that transformational change is just the sum of many small steps – footprints marking a path ahead where none existed before.  

Jeffrey Sachs has described how each of us can help mobilize the resources to fight malaria. Gordon Brown has proposed a global investment in education – just 2p a day for each person in the richest nations to make the gift of a free education real for every child.  

We can bring better lives to children. I am “eminently” certain of that! 

And as I take up my new advocacy role, I have one special child in mind.  

Her name is Aminata Palmer. She comes from Sierra Leone. I met her through UNICEF last fall, when she was just 11 years old. Aminata and I were both taking part in an MDG-4 symposium, along with global leaders and prominent experts from around the world. And though she barely stood over the dais, she made a searing impression.  

She told the audience how much the children of her country had suffered because of grown-ups’ mistakes. And she said, “We’ll never forgive you if you go to another international meeting and turn your back on us.”

For Aminata… and for the millions of children whose voices are not being heard… let us commit to take a stand, and take a step, and make real strides for child survival and education. 

Thank you very much."