São Paulo, Brazil
(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and Gentlemen.
This is a very special Forum for me. As you may know, I spent part of my childhood here in Brazil. Furthermore, it was here that my commitment to children’s rights issues was once ignited.
Many years ago, while visiting Brazil, I met a young boy. He was anxious to show me something and beckoned to me. At the side of the street, he pointed to a large brown box and told me it was his home. He was living on the street, alone. Later that evening, as I boarded my flight home, there was a severe tropical storm. As the wind howled and the rain fell, the only thing I could think about was this boy and his cardboard box home. What was he doing now?
If I had to pinpoint one moment when my life’s calling turned to children’s rights, it would be the meeting with that little boy. A child’s life is too fragile to be protected from the world’s harsh reality by a cardboard box. Our children deserve more from us.
When His Majesty and I launched the Global Child Forum in 2009, our aspiration was to create a global platform where we could all come together to discuss and bring about action on children’s rights.
Over the years, the Forums have taken us across the globe, from Stockholm to Dubai (Middle East and Northern Africa), to Pretoria (the southern Sahara countries), to Kuala Lumpur (the countries within ASEAN), and now to Sao Paulo (South America). We have learned a great deal, and most importantly, we have realised that what joins us is much stronger than what divides us. We are, after all, inter-connected: through our economies and our businesses; through technology, media and the environment.
But we are also connected on a deeper level – through our shared values and our joint desire for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Those shared values make the path forward clear to us.
We are living in a time of rising insecurity. A time, where business leaders have unprecedented opportunity – and even a responsibility - to build a more inclusive and safe society for our children.
The Global Child Forum is a universal call to live our values, to build a global movement where business acts as an agent of change – and a force for good.
Today, corporate leaders have shared valuable insights on the opportunities that businesses have.
We have learned how marketing and communication can be used to advance children’s rights awareness and to promote positive self-esteem, healthy lifestyles and non-violent values.
We have heard you talk about ways that business can minimize environmental damage that its operations may cause.
And we have identified ways that companies can bring children’s rights into the heart of their operations and activities.
In short, we have highlighted how the Children’s Rights and Business Principles can be put into practice, to ensure that children’s rights are respected and supported.
Thank you, for sharing your inspiring examples – giving us evidence of the power that the business community holds!
Your business is an employer, a place where people spend their day and a source of salary and benefits for families. Your business has purchasing power that can support communities and causes you care about. Your business’s activities and products affect the global environment — as well as rely on it. And as a business leader, you have an influential voice in your community.
At this Forum we would like to call on all business leaders to do two things:
First, we have asked you to stand up and to speak out, together and clearly, when you see injustice.
Second, we have asked you to take concrete action in your own businesses to create an inclusive economy – one that is equitable and creates opportunity for all and for the long term.
I do not under-estimate this commitment. It will require businesses to look beyond what regulation demands. It may require business leaders to speak out against injustice or sacrifice short-term gains.
It may require much of you.
But, I promise you this. It will always be worth it.
So I urge you to seize the opportunities that we have heard about this afternoon and take action. Regardless of sector and position, you can contribute to a better world for our children and young people by investing in every child.
This has been a very exciting and important day for His Majesty and me. I hope you feel the same. Please continue to share your ideas and experiences with us on how to improve the lives for the children in South America – and beyond. Thank you for being here with us today – for listening, learning but most importantly, for leading the way.
I want to end this wonderful day by thanking UNICEF and Childhood Brasil for their contribution to this Forum and for their tireless work in protecting children. I would also like to thank the UN Global Compact, the Secretaria Nacional dos Direitos da Criança e do Adolescente and Fiesp for their partnership and support.