(Det talade ordet gäller)
Good morning excellences,
Ladies and gentlemen.
“If we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children.”
These words are not mine, but Mahatma Gandhi’s. They are, however, just as relevant today as when they were spoken a long time ago, in 1931.
Gandhi often spoke about children. He recognized the importance of protecting and investing in children for sustainable peace. Therefore, I find it especially fitting that our meeting is being held on this very special day, October 2nd: Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday and the International Day of Non-Violence.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to be here today at the United Nations to see what progress has been made in supporting the world’s children since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) on September 25th, 2015. I am also grateful and proud to be joined today by my supporter and partner in the fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation, my daughter, Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine.
In 2015, I spoke at the United Nations on the eve of the adoption of the new global goals. I was hopeful that the 2030 agenda would help us give every child a chance to reach their full potential. Two years later, I am very excited to be back at the UN to learn how this important development agenda is being transformed into practice, and how collective actions and innovative solutions are helping is reach the Sustainable Development Goals for children.
While we understandably focus on today and tomorrow, we should also remember the important steps that have already been taken, by visionary leaders that have understood the potential of creating a better world for children:
The Convention of the Rights of the Child remains the most widely ratified of all UN conventions. Now that this convention has been complemented by Sustainable Development Goal16.2 – which calls for ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture of children by 2030 – we have an unprecedented opportunity to intensify our collective efforts. An opportunity that we cannot afford to waste!
Globally, hundreds of millions of children in the world are malnourished and lack access to education and health care. Children constitute almost half of all refugees and forced migrants. Many of them are unaccompanied and run the risk of being exposed to violence and exploitation. Where extremist movements and criminal cartels are thriving, children become targets and, incredibly, even weapons used by these criminals and terrorists.
To stop these atrocities, we all need to accelerate our efforts. We need to rally global institutions, governments, civil society, academia and the private sector to join forces and put children first. And, most importantly, we need to ask ourselves: How can I, personally, contribute to the achievement of the SDGs? To quote Mahatma Gandhi once again: how can I be the change that I want to see in the world?
My own journey began in the 90s. In 1996, I attended the First World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Stockholm. My dear friends, I was haunted by the testimonials of children. I felt that too many people were unaware of this global scourge, and I wanted to bring the world’s attention to the scale of sexual abuse and exploitation of children and the need to protect children.
Therefore, in 1999, I established the World Childhood Foundation. Today, with offices in Sweden, Brazil, the USA and Germany, the World Childhood Foundation is a recognized partner to hundreds of projects in more than 20 countries, and explores how innovation can help prevent and address these evil crimes.
Working by my side since 2007 is my daughter, Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine, a mother of two. Princess Madeleine has been instrumental in bringing the WCF to the world of social media and campaigns, using new platforms to raise awareness about Child Sexual Abuse.
To give you a sense of what Childhood does, in the US alone in only one year – 2016 – Childhood served over 73,000 clients. In addition, partnering with Ericsson and a visionary American NGO called DarknessToLight, we have launched the first-of-its-kind mobile app for prevention of child sexual abuse.
In Brazil, Childhood has made dramatic reductions in exploitation of children by partnering with the private sector and educating strategically important target groups. For example, in the On the right track project, more than 1400 Brazilian companies signed the Corporate Pact Against the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents on Brazilian Highways. As part of the same project, more than one million truck drivers were educated about children’s rights and encouraged to act as protection agents for children and adolescents. Another important partnership was formed when Childhood supported the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee in its efforts to protect children before, during and after the Games held in 2016.
In Germany, as well as in several other countries, Childhood has helped to establish a child friendly response to abuse by starting the Child Advocacy Centers, also known as Barnahus, where children who are survivors of abuse are interviewed in a safe environment and examined by a paediatrician, social worker and law enforcement officer to establish if the child was abused. An important principle of Barnahus is that a child should only have to tell their story of abuse once, and in a setting that meets the needs of all stakeholders. This way of cooperating in child-centered multidisciplinary teams, helps to ensure that young victims of abuse are not retraumatized in the legal process.
In my own home country, Sweden, Childhood has funded several projects aiming to protect children online. With 83 percent of Swedish 8-year olds using the internet several times a week, many of them every day, this is a highly topical issue – not only in Sweden, but globally.
With increased access to the Internet and the omnipresence of smart phones, we are experiencing a global increase in cyber violence against children. This is, of course, a frightening development. But let’s not forget that technology can also be a powerful tool for good. It can provide access to education and healthcare. It fuels economic development and provides access to markets. It helps us to collect vital data and monitor progress.
I make this point because with us, today, are several companies that have already chosen to be part of the solution. Hopefully, this meeting will serve as an inspiration to other companies to join the fight against child abuse and exploitation.
I am proud to say that Childhood has been at the forefront of public-private partnerships, working against online child abuse since 2006 by investing in a project called NetClean - one of the most powerful and widely used tools to detect child sexual pictures on line. Today, our partners include also Telia, Ericsson, Zain and other telecom giants.
In the travel and tourism sector, Childhood benefits from a close partnership with and support of the Carlson Companies.
I am proud of the achievements of World Childhood Foundation. But great challenges remain. Sexual abuse of children is deeply associated with stigma. Despite the truly great work of Childhood, Ecpat, ICMEC, the Freedom Fund and many other great organizations, the UN agencies and some governments, sexual abuse of children remains an unaddressed, hidden public health epidemic. An epidemic leading to dire consequences including mental health problems, learning disabilities, increased risk of substance abuse and the perpetuation of violence.
The only way to stop violence, abuse and exploitation of children is to break the silence and to work together across sectors, engaging the health and education sectors, governments, civil society and the private sector. Each one of us can and should be part of solution.
Children are not only beneficiaries of the Sustainable Development Goals ; no, they are indeed the very foundation of sustainable development. And this is why, in order to build a sustainable and peaceful world, as Gandhi said: we shall have to begin with the children.
So, ladies and gentlemen: let us begin.