January 22, 2017

Celebrating UNICEF's 70th Anniversary

On December 12, 2016 I was privileged to attend the event held at United Nations Headquarters to celebrate UNICEF’s 70th Anniversary. The anniversary celebration, which was led by the next generation of young celebrities and other young people, powerfully demonstrated the impact of UNICEF’s work over seven decades to protect the rights of the world’s most vulnerable children.

L-r: UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors Orlando Bloom, Priyanka Chopra, Angélique Kidjo, David Beckham, Femi Kuti, Ishmael Beah, Jackie Chan and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. Image source: UNICEF Media Release

“This celebration of UNICEF’s 70th anniversary belongs to those for whom UNICEF was created in the first place: children. And it also belongs to the thousands of UNICEF staff and our partners whose work in some of the world’s most dangerous and difficult places has touched the lives of millions of children. What can be more important?” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

People’s Choice nominee and star of hit television series Stranger Things Millie Bobby Brown served as the evening’s co-host and interviewed international soccer star David Beckham about what he has seen and learned over the course of his 11-years as a Goodwill Ambassador.

Orquestra Crianca Cidada, a 37-member Brazilian children’s orchestra, kicked off the evening’s performances. For me, the highlight of the evening was the child witnesses, especially the testimony of 8 year-old Mustfa Al Said who fled conflict in his native Syria and now lives in Germany. The child asked for all children to be able to live in peace!

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Ishmael Beah spoke about his experience as a child soldier in Sierra Leone and his work advocating against the recruitment of children into armed groups.

The programme also featured Juan Carlos, a 27-year-old lawyer from El Salvador, who recalled how UNICEF helped him after he lost his limbs when he stepped on a buried landmine at the age of five years old. He now advocates for the rights of children with disabilities, working to help break down the barriers and inequities they often face.

Livey Van Wyk, a mother living with HIV, spoke about her experience-fighting stigma. She was accompanied on stage by her 13-year-old son, who is HIV-negative thanks to UNICEF’s work in Namibia to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to their babies.

The Empire State Building in New York marked UNICEF’s 70th anniversary by lighting the tower UNICEF-blue. UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham switched on the lights.

“UNICEF was established to bring help and hope to children whose lives and futures were at risk. Our mission is no less urgent today,” said Mr. Lake. “As UNICEF gives children hope, children are the world’s hope for a better future — for all of us.”

To be present at such an event on December 12- the Foundation Day of the Sisters of Mercy was a double Blessing!

Messages to: Deirdre Mullan rsm - Partnering Religious Congregations with UNICEF

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