Every child has the right to feel hopeful about the world

Theirworld works with organisations that help children and young people in various countries. This young girl in South Africa is surrounded by books created by Bookdash, one of Theirworld's Education Innovation Awards winners. (Theirworld/Jennifer Khumalo)

Theirworld President Justin van Fleet looks at the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2024.

The headlines from this first week of 2024 suggest this won’t be the happiest of new years.

To sample just a few: “Half of Gazans at risk of starving”; “Burundi’s president says gay people should be stoned”; “120 hostages remain in Hamas captivity”; “31 migrants headed to US kidnapped at gunpoint in Mexico” and “Russia unleashes largest air assault on Ukraine since start of war”.

But if we just scratch beyond the surface, there is a stream of hope running through all these crises: they all can be overcome with human action.

We cannot underestimate the ability of people everywhere to rise to the challenge of showing respect for humankind and creating a world much more akin to the one we want to live in.

For centuries, people have had the power to write their own narrative and shift society’s direction, one action at a time. And that is the challenge for all of us in 2024.

More than 40 countries – home to 40% of the world’s population – will hold national elections this year. This is a tremendous opportunity to raise the profile of positive issues we care about and to ensure empathy, understanding and respect win out over hate and discrimination.

The actions we can take go beyond elections. From engaging with someone from another perspective or rolling up our sleeves to campaign for the rights of children – to supporting organisations that campaign to end poverty, eliminate inequality and expand quality education opportunities.

Every child born on this planet has the right to feel hopeful about the world. We cannot afford to be the generation that stands between children and that sense of innate optimism about their prospects.

From where I sit, I feel privileged that Theirworld will play its part in shifting the narrative for 2024.

Whether eradicating the inequality that starts in the early years, ensuring that children from Ukraine and the Middle East to Africa have a safe place to learn, investing in the next generation of youth campaigners or helping businesses be more proactively engaged in supporting the next generation, we will pledge to make a positive contribution – with positive news headlines – this year.

We hope that you will join us in this mission. The stakes are too high and the bar has been set too low, for too long.