A global survey from ChildFund released today reveals New Zealand children are more concerned about pollution in our environment than they are of natural disasters.

The results come from ChildFund’s third annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey – released today in conjunction with Universal Children’s Day – and with the highest participation yet this year from 720 New Zealand children aged 10 – 12.

Despite the constant stream of earthquakes here, the survey reveals only 18% of New Zealand children are worried about natural disasters, despite 60% stating they have experienced an earthquake before. This contrasts with responses from Africa and Asia where more than one quarter were concerned about natural disasters such as droughts.

The survey canvassed the views of 6,200 children across 47 developed and developing countries to monitor their hopes, dreams and fears, and this year, included questions to gain their thoughts on the environment.

Results show Kiwi children are more relaxed about issues such as global warming, with only 15% noting it as a concern. In contrast 36% of Japanese respondents said global warming was their highest environmental concern, more so than natural disasters despite 96% saying they had experienced an earthquake.

ChildFund New Zealand CEO Paul Brown says the 2012 results identified trends developing with the hopes and dreams of children here.

“Kiwi kids continue to aspire most strongly to be professional athletes, but despite the Olympics, this is down 5% on last year’s 23% where many may have been influenced by the Rugby World Cup fever gripping the nation.

“By contrast, children in developing countries where ChildFund provides aid, seek careers that will ensure the basic needs of their community are met in the future. Here a quarter of respondents cited doctors, nurses or dentists as professions they aspire to, and even more wanted to become a teacher. It highlights the different ways kids today feel they can make a difference in their environment,” he says.

Globally, children surveyed were united by their fear of animals. New Zealand children are most afraid of spiders, but also sharks and snakes. Violence and crime is the top fear of children in developing countries like war-torn Afghanistan (30%), with only 4% of Kiwi kids placing violence and crime as their top fear. The most distinct exception to this was Sri Lankan children, where 40% cited ghosts as what they fear most.

The results also showed New Zealand children’s desires to help address issues associated with poverty. More than a third said they would provide food, clothing and shelter as a priority if they were Prime Minister for a day. To help improve conditions here, as Prime Minister, these children would also improve education (22%) and create jobs (18%).

“New Zealand children continue to remain strong in their convictions of what would help address poverty. The results have been consistent year on year which shows they have a real grasp of the challenges society faces. They tally with actions other developed and developing nations would take if those children were leaders, with over half globally wanting to improve education as their number one priority,” said Paul Brown.

Secretary-General of the ChildFund Alliance, Jim Emerson, said the results of the survey show strongly that we should be putting children at the heart of the climate change debate. “This young generation will inherit the world we leave them so it makes sense that we listen to their concerns about the environment.

“The fact that 34 per cent of children surveyed cited pollution as their number one environmental worry reveals it is a borderless problem which affects both the developed and developing world in different ways.”

ChildFund’s annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey is a strong channel for children, globally to be given the opportunity to have their say on important issues. This year’s findings are a timely reminder for world leaders to consider the views of future generations, as the next round of UN climate talks begins in Doha at the end of this month.

Mr Emerson said: “ChildFund is committed to learning from children in the communities where we work. Listening to children contributes to our understanding of how they view and experience the world, and helps guide our priorities and programs.

“We are reminded that children can think beyond themselves and consider how their world can be improved. We’ve also gained insight into their hopes, dreams and fears so that we can help them reach their full potential.”

To download the full report, visit www.childfund.org.nz/small-voices.

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