NEW YORK, 20 November 2019
Good morning everyone and thank you for being here today. My name is David Beckham, and this is not my usual day at the office so please bear with me.
For almost fifteen years I have worked with UNICEF as a global goodwill ambassador supporting their work for children around the world. Today is World Children’s Day. A day when we should all remind ourselves of our duty to children everywhere. Our duty to protect them, their hopes, their aspirations… and of course, their dreams.
I know from my work with UNICEF just how lucky I was as a child. I grew up in the East End of London. I always dreamed of being a professional footballer. It was all I ever wanted. And unlike many children around the world, I was incredibly lucky.
I had a home, an education and a family to help me achieve my dreams. I worked hard, but I was supported every step of the way, first by my amazing family, then by my teachers and then by my coaches. From a very young age, I had people in my corner who believed in me, who wanted me to succeed, and who helped me to reach my goals.
Since 2001, I’ve worked with UNICEF, meeting girls and boys from all over the world. Children much less fortunate than that boy from the East End of London. Children hungry and sick. Children living through wars. Children who lost their parents in earthquakes and floods.
Girls and boys with different stories and backgrounds from my own. But like all children, they have one thing in common. They have ambitions, and they have dreams for a better future. I have travelled to many places around the world with UNICEF and heard first hand from children who are calling out for change.
Like the children I met in Indonesia who dream of a school with no bullying. They are leading a brave programme to help make that happen. Or the children I spent time with in a refugee camp in Djibouti, who are fleeing violence and war. They dream that one day they will be able to return home to live in peace.
I met boys and girls in Nepal who just wanted to go back to school, and back to normality, to be supported to fulfil their potential after the devastating earthquake. I heard from young people in South Africa and Swaziland, who deserve to grow up free from diseases like HIV.
And I thought of my own kids, and watching them play without a care in the world, when I met children in Cambodia. They, like all children, just want to feel safe and protected.
I’ve seen for myself how UNICEF is helping to make the changes that children need to see in the world. By delivering health services. Nutrition. Water and sanitation. Plus education. All of the ingredients that children need to grow up healthy and happy, and to unlock their potential.
But we know that much more work needs to be done. As leaders, as public figures, as parents and, as human beings, we must all do more to protect children’s dreams. Because the future doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to children.
Like every parent, I’ve tried to teach my children about the world. To share the values that I was taught as a child. To help my kids find their own passion and purpose in life. To help them learn what is right and what is wrong. But I also know that, every single day, our children are teaching us.
As a father of a young daughter, I see her determination to achieve her goals and to have just as many choices in life as her brothers do. I see her being inspired by young women speaking out for change. I hear her passion about the need to protect our planet for the future.
But around the world, the voices of children are getting louder. They are calling for better health - a visit to a doctor; a simple vaccination against diseases; a plate of food and clean water to drink. They are calling for a seat in the classroom, and the loudest voices, are coming from girls. They just want the same opportunities as boys to learn and develop.
Young people are calling for a planet that can support them and future generations. Where our resources are sustainable and our environment is protected. And they are calling for peace. For an end to violence. An end to war. An end to the political and cultural divisions that destroy communities, tear families apart, and endanger children’s lives every single day.
As we mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we must ask ourselves: Are we listening? As adults, are we humble enough? Are we smart enough to realize that in the face of every single child, we can see the future of the world?
Children never stop learning. Neither should we. Children never stop asking questions and demanding more. Neither should we. So please join me in this mission for children. Let's listen to our young people, because they will show us the way.
I am proud to be here lending my voice to this conversation and supporting brilliant young activists like Millie Bobbie Brown who is using her platform to command attention to the cause.
So today, on World Children’s Day, let’s make new promises to the children of the world. We promise to listen to you. We promise to learn from you. We promise to act for you. Together, we promise to work harder to protect your dreams. Thank you very much.