Kirstine von Blixen-Finecke and Ulf Karlberg were extremely busy. Preparations were well under way for the third World Child & Youth Forum, with the theme "Children's Rights — Any of Your Business?". Ulf Karlberg has been Chairman of WCYF for one year. First Lady of the Court Kirstine von Blixen-Finecke manages The Queen's Household, and together with Marshal of the Realm Svante Lindqvist is one of the Royal Court's representatives on the WCYF board.
What is the background to WCYF?
"For many years, The King had a dream of using the Royal Palace of Stockholm as a forum where people of all ages could meet for discussions and to exchange ideas," explains Kirstine. "In 2009, when the Convention on the Rights of the Child marked its 20 anniversary, The Queen held regular meetings with the Children's Ombudsman and our most important children's organisations at the palace, to ensure that the Convention was high on the agenda for politicians, children, parents and teachers. The Convention has worked relatively well in Sweden, with a few exceptions. It was in this context that the Royal Family had the idea of an annual forum, which came to be known as the World Child & Youth Forum. The first forum was held the next year, in 2010, with the second forum taking place a year later."
How does this year's WCYF differ from previous forums?
"It will be very different," explains Ulf Karlberg. "The two previous, highly successful forums have related mainly to Swedish and Scandinavian circumstances, and only a few representatives from the business community were involved. But a year ago, Save the Children, UNICEF and the UN Global Compact launched the revolutionary Principles for Companies. For the first time, principles were formulated for how businesses should address children's rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is extremely comprehensive and focuses mainly on states, which should ensure that it is complied with. This additional document also states that businesses have a responsibility, and must act. It was launched simultaneously in London, Latin America, Africa, Asia and Stockholm. The Queen was the main speaker at the launch here in Stockholm. It was decided at the time that this year's WCYF should be all about businesses and children's rights. The forum would become international, and companies would be invited to take part. The aim is to follow up on what has happened since the launch of the Principles for Companies."
Is there anything in particular that the programme aims to highlight?
"Yes," says Ulf. "The title of the forum is 'Children's Rights — Any of Your Business?'. The business focus is unique. Around half of the 350 invitees are from businesses, including IKEA's CEO Mikael Ohlsson, Nike's CEO Maria Eitel and Pär Boman, CEO of Handelsbanken. The world elite in connection with children's rights issues will also be attending, including the international and Swedish secretaries general of Save the Children, the UN Global Compact, Plan International and UNICEF. This is even more support that we could have hoped for."
What do you want businesses to do?
"The issues that we deal with at WCYF involve making the Convention on the Rights of the Child a reality. Companies need to understand that whatever they work with, be it furniture, oil or cocoa, they come into contact with children at some point. This could involve child labour or children who are affected because of changes to their living environment. Or children may be consumers. Banks that lend huge amounts of money to other countries need to find out how this money is being used. Children's rights issues must be part of a company's inner life, feelings and values."
What is WCYF's position today?
"We're starting to find ourselves on firm ground, and many others want to get involved," says Kirstine. "Many of Sweden's most respected companies have joined us. We make it clear that cooperating with us does not involve WCYF promoting the company. Instead, they become a partner who wants to help make the Convention on the Rights of the Child a reality."
What will next year's WCYF be like?
"We already have lots of ideas," says Ulf, "but before next year's forum we'd like to hold a small satellite forum somewhere in the world. In Asia, Africa or Latin America, to find out more about their specific problems."
"The idea in the long term is that we should also support research within various fields relating to children," adds Kirstine.