UNITED NATIONS - Pakistani education advocate Malala Yousafzai has called on world leaders to promise that every child will have the right to safe, free and quality primary and secondary education.

“World leaders sitting there, look up because the future generation is raising their voice,” Malala, who was shot in 2012 by the Taliban for promoting education, told hundreds of Heads of State/Government and senior government officials in a stirring address delivered from the highest mezzanine of the General Assembly Hall on Friday.

“Today, we are 193 young people representing billions more. Each lantern we hold represents the hope we have for our future because of the commitments you have made to the global goals,” she added as each young person held up a blue light.

The 17 Global Goals are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by the General Assembly just minutes after the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate addressed the Hall. They aim to build on the work of the historic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which in September 2000 rallied the world around a common 15-year agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty.

“I’m hopeful that we all in the UN will be united in the goal of education and peace, and that we will make this world not just a better place, but the best place to live. Education is hope, education is peace,” Malala stressed.

Later, she addressed a crowded press at which she answered a wide range of question from the UN corps of correspondents. Replying to a question whether she had any plans to return to Pakistan, Malala said it was her dream to go back to her homeland, and especially to the “beautiful Swat Valley,” where she was born and brought up. She wanted to be in Pakistan to help promote education and put the country on the path to progress.

Malala sympathised with the plight of Palestinian children who, she said, were suffering because of the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and occupation. She said she had donated the entire money she received as part of an award for rebuilding a war-destroyed school in Gaza and would continue to be of help to the Palestinian children.

At a press briefing for Pakistani journalists, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Dr Maleeha Lodhi, said she was proud of the honour accorded to Malala by the UN.

“We are proud of Malala Yousafzai because she emerged as a leader of the world youth and, particularly the Pakistani youth,” she said.