The King and The Queen talk about their work with WCYF. Photo: Henrik Garlöv/the Royal Court
On Friday 19 November, the World Child and Youth Forum will be held at the Royal Palace of Stockholm. Organisations that work for children's rights, school pupils and experts from Sweden and abroad have been invited.
The event will take a full day, including talks, a networking lunch and a number of workshops. The King and Queen, The Crown Princess Couple and Princess Madeleine will all be attending. The World Child and Youth Forum (WCYF) was launched by The King in his Christmas speech last year, and has long been a dream shared by The King and The Queen. The idea is to create a forum for inspiration and support, to ensure that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is adhered to. Just a few days before the event is held, The King and The Queen have taken the opportunity to talk about their work with WCYF.
Tell us about the background. Why did you decide to start WCYF?
The King: With The Queen's background with Childhood and my background with the Scouts, we felt that there was much to be gained by finding a common way of working and creating a new platform. It all began with the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child last year... The Queen: ... when many of Europe's First Ladies came together here in Stockholm to raise awareness of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, from Madame Barroso to Queen Beatrix, Queen Paola, Queen Sofía and Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa, all of whom are strongly committed to these issues. We also brought together a number of organisations that work for children's rights. Questions were raised about what children know about their rights, and what families and teachers know. The Children's Ombudsman said that only one in five children had heard of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We carried on discussing these issues at home, and we have now created a platform to raise awareness of children's rights, both among society as a whole and among children themselves. We want to create a non-political platform that enables us to help bring together organisations and experts. The King: We've also seen a great deal on our travels. Last year in my Christmas speech I mentioned a journey to South Africa where we visited a shanty town, which affected both of us deeply. We heard about gang crime there, young men and women threatening other children and young people. Now we want to see how we can create positive groups of young people instead, and look at how the Scouts work. We saw how Childhood's knowledge of vulnerable children can be combined with the Scouts' way of working.
What do you hope to achieve with WCYF?
The Queen: To spread knowledge about children's rights. The King: If we can help to create a platform, that would be fantastic. We have an excellent programme for Friday, and both The Queen and I are very proud. And it'll be fun to see so many children and young people involved! The Queen: We've also invited members of the diplomatic corps and their children, so that we can spread knowledge of WCYF to more countries.
In his Christmas speech, The King spoke about “Glad tidings from our young people
. Tell us more about the reactions you have received over the course of the year.
The King: Both The Crown Princess and Prince Daniel will be attending the first forum. And Princess Madeleine will also be there... The Queen: ... Princess Madeleine is very committed to these issues, both as patron of the My Big Day Foundation and in her work with Childhood in New York. She will be returning here from China, where she took part in a conference on children's rights. Unfortunately Prince Carl Philip is unable to attend, due to his studies at Alnarp. And then, of course, there are many others who have been in touch to support this work in various ways.
As the forum approaches, how do you feel? Nervous?
The Queen: Not nervous! We had a meeting, and everything feels good: calm, and well-prepared. We have excellent speakers, an excellent chairperson, and an excellent programme. But we are hosting the event at the Palace, so of course it's a little nerve-wracking with all the practical details that need to be ready. The King: Both the Queen and I want the Palace to be a place where people can come together to discuss our society and important issues. The more of us there are working for a common goal, the stronger we become. We should be able to draw strength from each other, and that's what we hope WCYF will achieve.
The Queen has worked for children's rights in various contexts for many years, and Childhood celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. What position are children in today? Has their position grown stronger?
The Queen: Not enough. The King: It takes time. Change takes time. But we hope that WCYF can be part of the process of making the world a bit better for children and young people, speeding up the pace and spreading knowledge.