A full day at the World Child & Youth Forum

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Motiv: The Royal Family listen to one of the day's many agenda items. Photo: Henrik Garlöv/the Royal Court
The inaugural World Child and Youth Forum (WCYF) was held on 19 November. More than 400 guests came to the Royal Palace of Stockholm to take part, share their experiences and make new contacts. WCYF was launched by The King in his 2009 Christmas speech, and has now become a reality.

Participants arrive at the East Gate. Photo: Henrik Garlöv/the Royal Court

Ten minutes after the doors were opened, things were already busy at the East Gate where guests dropped off their coats and put on their name badges. One of the main aims of the forum is to bring together all the various organisations who work for the rights of children and young people, and this aim was achieved at the entrance: politicians, diplomats, representatives from various children's organisations — everyone got talking with each other and swapping contact details straight away. Here are some comments:

Maria Larsson, Swedish Minister for Children and the Elderly: It's fantastic that The King and Queen have created this forum. Just highlighting the issue of children's rights is important, both here in Sweden and abroad. I've already made lots of new contacts this morning. I've recently become Minister for Children, and I look forward to meeting all the young participants here today, as well as representatives of the organisations that work for children and young people.

Sten Nordin, Finance Commissioner, City of Stockholm: I have great expectations for the day. Of course, I'll be listening from a municipal perspective. What's important for us to change? And it's good to see so many children and young people here, an interesting set-up.

Birgitta Dahl, Chair of the Board, UNICEF Sweden: There are lots of us working to have the Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrined in Swedish law. It's important to get involved in all initiatives to spread and increase awareness of the Convention, which is why I'm here today.

After gathering, all the participants were invited into the Hall of State. The King began by welcoming everyone to the forum and giving a speech in which he spoke about the background to WCYF and how The King and Queen and the rest of The Royal Family often talk about how they could help to improve conditions for children and young people as they grow up. The Queen then took the floor and spoke about her hope that those attending should share the firm belief that it is possible to make a real difference to children and young people. The Queen also mentioned the importance of an ongoing dialogue between the generations, "all the time, and everywhere".

The Queen during her speech. Photo: Henrik Garlöv/the Royal Court

After The Queen's speech, the day's programme began. The chairwoman, Beata Wickbom, welcomed everyone, after which the Swedish Minister for Children and the Elderly Maria Larsson, Maskrosbarn's Therese Larsson and Save the Children's Elisabeth Dahlin each took their turn to speak. There then followed a video message from Yanghee Lee, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child External link, opens in new window..
After a speech from Veronique Lönnerblad, Executive Director of UNICEF Sweden, and a performance by the Junior Academy's brass quintet, it was time for the next item on the agenda: an online dialogue. Pupils from Stockholm sat on the stage, and were joined on a large screen by pupils from Jönköping and Strängnäs via a live link. The young people talked about their experiences of involvement, from sports councils to municipal issues and Friends. One of the pupils from Strängnäs talked about the difference between those adults who are good at listening and those who are not so good. They were referred to as crocodiles (with small ears and large mouths) or rabbits (with large ears and small mouths), which raised laughs of recognition throughout the Hall of State.

Online dialogue with pupils from Strängnäs and Jönköping. Photo: Henrik Garlöv/the Royal Court

Before the networking lunch, the improvisation theatre group ADLIB got up onto the stage and urged the participants to accept their own views and those of others. With these words, it was time for lunch!
On his way to lunch, the British ambassador Mr Andrew Mitchell till stopped to give a brief comment on the morning:
"Sweden is famous throughout the world as a strong champion of human rights. As one of many ambassadors here today, I'd just like to say that it's fantastic that Sweden is once again taking the lead when it comes to children's rights. One thing I'll be taking away with me is The Queen's request for a dialogue between the generations. This isn't about a conversation between a child and an adult, but a dialogue between people. Another inspiration was Therese Larsson from Maskrosbarn, who spoke about how adults, in all their various roles, have an important task: spreading hope. I'm going to go home and do that now — and, as they say, you may quote me on that."
Later that afternoon, the ambassador blogged about WCYF External link, opens in new window..

Lunch was served in Karl XI's Gallery. Photo: Henrik Garlöv/the Royal Court

After lunch, it was time for seminars in which the participants split up into five different groups, with the following subjects being available:

Speaking Youth — Digital Storytelling
Simon Strömberg and Tommy Omazic
Speaking Youth/Kulturskolan Stockholm

With Children and Youth — what do we stand to gain by working for and with children?
Pia Stavås-Meier with members of Plan's youth council.

"Hearings", to include everyone in important dialogues
Marit Sanner
ChangeFactory, Norway External link, opens in new window.

Joint programmes changing reality — experience and learning from cooperation between IKEA, Save the Children and UNICEF
Marianne Barner
IKEA Social Initiative

Children's participation in their healthcare
Gill Brook
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK. External link, opens in new window.

Gill Brook's seminar was held in Prince Bertil's apartments. Photo: Henrik Garlöv/the Royal Court

While participants made their way between the various seminars and the Hall of State, photographers had the opportunity to take a picture of The Royal Family. The picture above was taken just a couple of minutes before The Royal Family came together, as the photographers made preparations in the Jubilee Room. Photo: Henrik Garlöv/the Royal Court

After the seminars, it was time for the afternoon session. More children of various ages from various schools joined in. The afternoon began with a review from the various seminar leaders, who talked about the discussions that had taken place. A panel discussion was then held on the importance of children and young people being listened to, between Lars Arrhenius, Children and School Pupils Ombudsman at the Swedish Schools Inspectorate, Tyko Granberger, Operational Manager of Din Bror, and Jana Söderberg, a conversational therapist.

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe External link, opens in new window., gave a speech which she ended by saying "in this Palace, it is children's rights that are the jewels in the crown". After a video greeting from Bill Gates, the forum concluded with the Spektrum Choir from Botkyrka.

The Crown Princess began her speech after the choir's performance by saying that they were "a hard act to follow". In her closing speech, The Crown Princess reminded those present that "the Convention on the Rights of the Child will become a reality for more children in practice if we make it an important and joint task that concerns us all. In other words, if it accompanies everything we do once we return home." After this speech, a networking session was held in the Hall of State, giving everyone the opportunity to ask questions and meet even more new contacts.

Speaking Youth interview The King and Queen. Photo: Henrik Garlöv/the Royal Court

After WCYF, Speaking Youth had the opportunity to speak with The Royal Family about the day in Princess Sibylla's apartments. First they interviewed The King and Queen, and then The Crown Princess, Prince Daniel and Princess Madeleine. All the members of The Royal Family were pleased with how the day had gone, and spoke openly about their impressions and encounters.