Welcome Speech from the François Delattrem French Ambassador to the United Nations
Cher Monsieur Vinicius Pinheiro, Special Representative of the International Labour Organization,
Chère Madame Carla Mardini, Director of Public Partnerships Division of UNICEF,
Excellencies, Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs, mes chers amis,
It is a great pleasure and honor for my team at the French mission - Mylaèle Negga, whose commitment has been instrumental, Alexis Mojaisky - and for me to welcome you all this evening to the second edition of our street art exhibition at the United Nations, “UN-Ji”, and it is a very special privilege to do so in the presence of Thibault and Audrey Decker, co-founders of Street Art for Mankind, who truly are international treasures; and also of some of the artists who honour us with their presence tonight.
In January 2017, when we hosted for the very first time a street art exhibition here at the UN, we were convinced that the fight to end child slavery was a global fight, involving all stakeholders; street artists are one of them. Today, we are more convinced than ever that we must not rest until child slavery becomes a remnant of the past. That’s why we are all here this evening and I can’t thank you all enough for your time and commitment, that are more than ever needed to get rid of this scourge.
I would like to thank particularly the co-sponsors of this exhibition, the Permanent Missions of Argentina- bienvenue à l’Ambassadeur d’Argentine qui est juste devant nous -, Brazil, Canada, the United Kingdom, as well as the International Labour Organization and UNICEF. I’m really glad to see other ambassadors who took of their time to be with us to express their support to the cause (…). We are also very lucky to have with us tonight two very inspiring people, Rocky Peter and Melanie Thompson, who were both affected by the tragedy of exploitation at a very young age. I don’t want to speak for them as they will speak in a minute, but it’s a great honor to have them with us and for us this evening.
Today, my dear friends, just to put things into perspective a little bit, 168 million children around the world are trapped in child labour, depriving them of their childhood, their health and education. Child labour, child slavery, child soldiering,
sexual exploitation or drug trafficking, children who harvest coffee, who break stones in quarries, children fishermen, street vendors or domestic servants… these are deeply shocking violations of human rights and children’s rights. Unfortunately, my dear friends, no country is immune of this tragic reality that is often hidden from the public eye. Every day, we ourselves buy, without knowing it, products that children’s hands have helped to make.
But child labour, this is the good news, is not inevitable. We more and more now know about the ways to fight against this plague. We must look at child labour through a broader lens, and address this issue as a whole. Street Art for Mankind’s work is key in this respect as it provides us with a different lens – the lens of art, of sensitization, of awareness-raising, that you both are really masters in doing. This is for both of you the engagement, the commitment of a lifetime. It is not something that you do “en passant”, this is truly the fight of your life. Street Art for Mankind and the artists, some of them, as I said, are present with us tonight, bring us the power of art to awaken consciences, to create bridges between cultures and between people, and to finally make real change possible. Again, this has become an “industry”, one of the fastest growing industries on earth. And in the fight against this “industry”, we need to be united and determined. And this is exactly how you both are. And we need to follow your leadership here at the UN.
Street art is particularly powerful in this fight because it is a transformative power, because it connects people together. Street art is also a symbol of freedom of expression, and it has a lasting effect, as street artists can convey a message that’s being portrayed to everyone. Street art shows the world its true face. And this is the true face of these children that we are going to see tonight, of the children who are suffering and whom we want to protect.
Through those paintings, we do not forget that these children exist. Let us see their unseen face. Let us communicate their stories. Let us fight for their rights. Let us be their unheard voices. And let us claim their humanity.
So my warmest thanks again to Audrey and Thibault Decker, and to Street Art for Mankind and to the artists for their very inspiring work. And my heartfelt thanks also to each and every one of you, because if we are truly together, truly united, we can win this battle.
（ The text of the statement is taken from the French Permanent Mission to the United Nations）