On Friday 11 April, the Global Child Forum 2014 was held. This was the fourth forum on children's rights to be held at the Royal Palace of Stockholm. This year's theme was "Partnerships for children's rights – today and for the future".
The doors to the Royal Palace of Stockholm were opened early in the morning, and more than three hundred guests gathered in the Hall of State to discuss children's rights issues. The invitees were leaders from international businesses and financial institutions, and representatives from the UN, academia and the Swedish Government.
The Global Child Forum was initiated by the Royal Family in 2009. The forum is an independent platform that brings together world-leading players for in-depth dialogue and to raise awareness of children's rights.
The King welcomed the participants to this year's Global Child Forum, a day for all the children of the world. He explained that he hoped the day would help to improve children's situations more quickly, including by resulting in inspiration, innovation and collaboration.
Chairman of the Global Child Forum Ulf Karlberg then introduced the day's moderator, journalist Lydia Capolicchio.
Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, then spoke on the subject of "Trade's impact on children's rights", including the role trade can play in improving the lives and future prospects of the next generation. He mentioned the way in which the crises affecting Western economies in recent years have led to high rates of youth unemployment, which has had a negative impact on faith in the future for many young people. Here, trade can help to create jobs. He also emphasised the importance of reducing child poverty, but that this alone is not enough. We must also create quality, in terms of education, healthcare and the environment.
Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, then spoke about "Complementary roles for children's rights". She highlighted the fact that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was established 25 years ago, is about children's rights and not about charity. Today, more and more children enjoy better circumstances. For example, many children go to school and have access to healthcare. But the convention still has a long way to go before achieving full acceptance. She quoted Nelson Mandela, who pointed out that the convention is a living document. Today we face new problems, such as the internet, which gives children more opportunities to communicate, but which also leaves them more vulnerable.
There then followed a discussion, "Children in a sustainable world", led by moderator Lydia Capolicchio.
Marta Santos Pais, UN Special Representative on Violence Against Children, explained that we need to use legislation to make it clear that violence is not permitted. We must also improve when it comes to drawing up data and facts, since there is currently a great deal of guesswork involved when it comes to children's situations. She also said that in order to understand the world, we need to listen to children.
Martin Mogwanja, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, spoke about aspects of children's vulnerability online, and the fact that more people will live in large cities in the future – an environment where pollution and violence are more problematic.
Sheila Tlou, Regional Director for East and Southern Africa at UNAIDS, spoke about the situation of children, particularly girls in Africa, living with AIDS. She pointed out that, in order to achieve a sustainable world for children, the right of children to grow up healthy with the right to healthcare should be promoted, as should gender equality.
"Children's rights and the Corporate Sector" is the name of a report drawn up by the Global Child Forum together with Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Johan Öberg, Managing Director of BCG Sweden, explained that there is still a focus on child labour when discussing children's rights, with 62 percent of companies having a policy on child labour, but only one in seven companies deal with responsibility and the safety of their products for children.
The next item on the agenda was a discussion on corporate responsibility as a part of companies' core operations. Mats Granryd, CEO of Tele2, spoke about the company's work with telecommunications. Mobile internet is a relatively new area, but by constantly being alert, acting and influencing other market players, the company works actively in the best interests of children.
There then followed some good examples of cooperation that has produced results. Nigel Chapman, CEO of Plan International, and Howard Taylor, Managing Director of Nike Foundation, spoke about their collaboration with The Girl Declaration. This is a movement that aims to help young girls to escape from poverty, including through education and health information.
Three entrepreneurs spoke about their work to bring about change. Niclas Matseke Kjellström, CEO of the Postcode Lottery Sweden, spoke about trying to inspire other companies to do something to benefit society. Dr Percy Barnevik, Chairman of Hand in Hand International, explained how the organisation helps people to escape from extreme poverty by finding jobs. This self-help project has resulted in a million women becoming entrepreneurs.
Luke Dowdney MBE, founder and CEO of the organisation Fight for Peace, talked about the work he began fourteen years ago to offer an alternative to local children who were exposed to violence, crime and drugs. Using boxing as an incentive, children and young people can take part in "citizen education", which involves everything from knowledge about the Convention on the Rights of the Child to basic nutrition. The organisation was founded in Rio de Janeiro, and now operates in 22 countries.
A networking lunch was then held in Karl XI's Gallery. After lunch, the participants attended three different seminars:
"Children in the digital world" in the Karl XV Hall.
Afterwards, everyone gathered in the Hall of State for a summary of the seminars. All the discussions had been extremely interesting. The first two groups' discussions resulted in decisions being made on continued joint work after the forum. Nigel Chapman, CEO of Plan International and moderator for the session on children in the digital world, summarised the discussion by highlighting a need to introduce regulations so that children are not exposed to the worst materials online, but explaining that the internet also brings great opportunities.
Yves Daccord, Director-General of the International Red Cross, then gave a perspective for the future. He mentioned that the Syria conflict will affect us all for a long time to come, and hoped that some of the many people attending the day's forum would keep Syria in their thoughts when starting projects. To date, more than five million children have been affected by the conflict, which is likely to continue for many more years.
Kirsten Sandberg, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, explained that we must have expectations for the future and said that she could see greater awareness of children's rights.
Sudanese film-maker and photographer Issraa El-Kogali, who was a guest student at the Royal University College of Fine Arts in 2013, showed her photographs from different locations in Sudan. Despite the ongoing conflicts, she sees positive forces in Sudan's children. She encouraged everyone to invest in our future by listening to children and learning from them, and by avoiding thinking in terms of "us and them".
The meeting in the Hall of State was rounded off by The Queen, who gave a speech. She thanked everyone for all the commitment and idealism expressed during the day, and expressed a wish that children around the world would now be able to see that we are working for their rights.
The day concluded with a concert in the Royal Chapel. In the evening, a reception was held at the Tessin Palace, hosted by the County Governor of Stockholm County, Chris Heister.