Queen Silvia of Sweden and economics professor Jeffrey Sachs headlined the final World Leaders Forum event of the week, a discussion on sustainable development and climate change on Friday morning.
Entitled "Children in the Age of Sustainable Development," the event was one that Mayor Bill de Blasio was originally scheduled to attend. Requests for comment on de Blasio's absence were not returned.
''Our intention is not only to reflect together, to brainstorm together but also to conclude with the powerful declaration of a way forward," Sachs, also the director of the Earth Institute, said.
Queen Silvia started down that road by discussing the current challenges facing children in less developed countries around the world, and outlining her own efforts to combat them.
"We keep talking about preserving the planet for future generations forgetting about todays children who instead of playing and learning, they are trafficked as prostitutes, as child soldiers and as migrant farmers," Queen Silvia said.
Queen Silvia, who established the World Childhood Foundation in 1999 and the Global Child Forum in 2010, called on the audience to help put children at the center of the sustainable development agenda and praised the forum as a platform for dialogue.
"I wanted to lend my voice, to speak about children at risk and the importance of a healthy and happy childhood," she said.
Queen Silvia also highlighted the commitments made by her daughter, Princess Madeleine, who attended the event with her, to achieving the Millennium Development Goals through her involvement with the Global Child Forum and thankyou.org.
Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, spoke about ways in which the agenda for sustainable development needs to change going forward, particularly post-2015.
"Education is probably the most powerful tool of social mobility," Bokova said.
Deputy Mayor of New York Richard B. Buery Jr., localized the issue with his discussion of education inequality in New York City, and emphasized the de Blasio administration's commitment to universal prekindergarten.
"Pre-K for all is truly a win-win," he said. "[We] hope to provide an example for other cities around the globe."
Continuing with the Swedish theme, speakers from H&M and IKEA also discussed their recent efforts to integrate children's rights with business strategy.
Alek Wek, the ambassador for the H&M Conscious Foundation discussed her childhood in South Sudan and how this affected her position.
"My father told me if you educate a girl, you will educate a family," she said. "You can lose nearly everything, [but] you can never lose your education and your knowledge."
The H&M Conscious Foundation used the event as a platform to announce that they are donating $1.3 million to a school-based project in Harlem, which will strive to "tackle health barriers that get in the way of learning for underprivileged children," according to the press release.
In a slight deviation from the program, Sachs called audience member Agnes Binagwaho, the Minister of Health for Rwanda, to the stage. She told the audience to "be bottleneck breakers" and hoped that other developing countries could follow in Rwanda's footsteps where 90 percent of children are fully vaccinated.
The event concluded with two panels; Core Priority Areas' and Engaging Stakeholders'—both focused on how children's rights can be improved going forward—although the 400 strong audience had already started dispersing at this point.
Sachs closed the event by praising the work of the speakers and of Columbia students, and called for another iteration of the event in 2015.
"I move that we do convene again next year because it will be the occasion of the adoption of the sustainable development goals," Sachs said. "Let's convene and celebrate children at the heart of the SDGs next year."