(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Distinguished guests, Ladies & gentlemen, Faculty and students,
It is my great pleasure to be with you today in this beautiful library at Columbia University in the city of New York.
I am happy and very proud to be part of this gathering and to have a chance to tell you how my family, in various ways, is working on contributing to a happier childhood for children in many parts of the world.
Fifteen years ago, I established the World Childhood Foundation. Its work is based on the articles of the UN Convention on the Right of the Child, and focus on prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation of children. In 2010, His Majesty the King of Sweden, and myself, launched the Global Child Forum, a new platform to promote engagement of the private sector in children's causes. Today, I have the privilege to be at this event that is co-convened by the Global Child Forum together with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Earth Institute of Columbia University.
With me is one of my three children, Princess Madeleine who for the last years, has been working at the World Childhood Foundation and who recently launched a new campaign, the Thank You Campaign using social media to engage today's youth in children's causes and raising awareness about the work of Childhood. It's fun: just try: "Thankyou.org" and you can thank somebody for a happy childhood …with a song…
But how did it all start?
It was on one of my trips to Brazil, almost 20 years ago, that I met a young boy in the Favelas in Rio. He very proudly showed me his home – a box where he could barely fit to sleep and where he kept all of his belongings. The box was his comfort zone and his safe place. It was his little universe. As I left Brazil I could not stop thinking of the boy. The rain was pouring down, and I was wondering what would happen to his home and if he would have to find a new safe place. It was at this moment the idea of Childhood was born. When I returned home, haunted by the picture of the little boy living alone in a paper box on the street, exposed to all possible risks, including the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation, I decided to start a foundation. I wanted to lend my voice to speak about children at risk, and the importance of a healthy and happy childhood. I wanted to support development and implementation of programs aiming at preventing abuse of children or their rehabilitation. Today, Childhood supports programs in 16 countries.
In Brazil, I was lucky to be joined by my good friend, Rosana Camargo who started Childhood Brazil. Rosana is here today and I want to thank her for her leadership in improving children’s lives in Brazil. Childhood Brazil has pioneered and scaled up an innovative approach to protection of children. By working with 1,500 transportation companies, the Foundation has trained the truck drivers to become protectors of children instead of perpetrators. It has also led campaigns to prevent abuse of children at risk during the last World Cup. In the US, Childhood is supporting a number of projects including teenage mothers and legal services for children. Other models and methods where Childhood has managed to lift the support to extraordinary heights, are for example Half the Sky Foundation who have established a method for children living in institutions in China – Children who now have a 'mother' and are being loved and cared for. The model has been so successful that it has been adopted by the Chinese state.
Or the Mama+ program in Russia which ensures that children born to HIV positive mothers can stay within their biological family, go to school and daycare and not be stigmatized by society. A model so successful that it now exists also in Ukraine, Vietnam and Cambodia.
I am a mother of three children and a grandmother of two little granddaughters. His Majesty and I, like most parents, love and deeply care about our children. But we also want to find ways to help other children and parents. That is why I am here.
We have gathered this morning to discuss the future of the world’s children, and how we collectively can ensure and promote integration of children's rights, like access to nutrition, health, education, safety, love and happiness, in the new set of the universal global goals, the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time more children than ever before are victims of violence, including sexual violence, conflicts, forced migration, and climate change. We keep talking about preserving the planet for the future generations, forgetting about today's children.
There are still millions of children who grow up in extreme poverty, in war-torn conditions, in unstable environments, and are subjected to some of the worst forms of human rights violations imaginable. Instead of playing and learning, they are trafficked as prostitutes, as child soldiers, and as migrant farmers. Instead of feeling loved and nurtured, they are robbed of their childhoods and their dignity. These experiences not only shape the people they become when they grow-up, but also shape the world that we all live in.
His Majesty and our family created the Global Child Forum as a platform helping to raise awareness of the rights of children, to engage the private sector and to inspire more people to take action. Through the power of partnerships, we hope to create environments where children feel safe, secure and respected; where they can grow up to reach their full potential.
Opportunities for dialogue, like the meeting today, help us look forward as a global community, and explore how we see children fit within a broader sustainable development strategy. Investing in children and youth is necessary to build pluralistic and inclusive societies, which is the foundation for sustainable development. And there is no better time to do this than now, as we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
My hope is that we can work together to put children at the center of the sustainable development agenda.