KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — The world would improve if global leaders simply paid attention to the young, said an overwhelming majority of local children and adolescents in a global survey of commissioned by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
In the World Children’s Day poll, Malaysian respondents were remarkably certain about the wisdom of youth, with an overwhelming 95 per cent saying they felt their views would make the world better, if only global leaders would listen.
This conviction was among the highest, exceeded only by those in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
However, most respondents globally were sceptical that adults would do so, as 54 per cent believed their views would not be considered; fewer than half also said they thought world leaders would act in children’s interest.
In addition, less than half (47 per cent) of Malaysian respondents trusted their leaders to make good decision. Except for India (70 per cent), almost all of the global respondents mostly do not trust adults with their decisions.
“The survey clearly demonstrates that children in Malaysia take an interest in global issues and are concerned about their impact on their lives and that of their peers. They also have opinions about issues affecting them closer to home,” said Marianne Clark-Hattingh, the Unicef representative to Malaysia.
Clark-Hattingh also noted Malaysian children’s scepticism that adults would take heed of youth views, saying it was important to consult children on matters that affect them directly.
“Although we might think it, we don’t always know what is best for them. When children and adolescents are engaged and encouraged to participate, it builds confidence, global citizenship and helps build democratic and peaceful societies,” she said.
Bullying was the primary topic of concern for the respondents aged nine to 18, as it was both the threat personally feared by most (77 per cent) and the issue the majority (67 per cent) gave the most attention.
Aside from bullying, local respondents also expressed general concern about violence against children as well as terrorism.
The survey also revealed a political bent among respondents, with former US president Barack Obama coming in first as the celebrity they would most like to attend their birthday. This was followed by former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma was fourth, ahead of US pop star Taylor Swift. A generic “Malaysian prime minister” was the fifth most popular choice.
The survey polled 11,733 children and adolescents from 14 countries: Brazil, Mexico, India, Japan, Malaysia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK, the Netherlands, the US, New Zealand, Egypt and Turkey.
Half the respondents were between 9 and 12, while teens aged 13 to 18 made up the rest.