On Thursday 26 November, the Global Child Forum 2015 was held at the Royal Palace - the fifth forum for children's rights.
The doors to the Royal Palace were opened in the morning, and more than three hundred guests assembled in the Hall of State to discuss the topic of children's rights. Participants included leaders from international companies, financial institutions, UN representatives, the academic world and the Swedish government.
Established 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 aim is to identify solutions for the most urgent issues in terms of companies' opportunities to influence children's rights.
The King welcomed the participants to the annual Global Child Forum. The King emphasised that by putting children's rights on the agenda, we can speed up the necessary measures to improve the situation for children; however experience shows that we must all collaborate through all areas of society if we are to succeed.
The moderator for the day was journalist Lydia Capolicchio then introduced Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights . He spoke about the vulnerable situation that millions of children are currently in due to war and conflict; that all companies, governments and civilised societies must work together to achieve peace and sustainability. He also emphasised the importance of educating our children on human rights.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, a global aid organisation working with people against poverty, highlighted the need to reduce the extreme inequality around the world. This is something she believes can be reduced through the world's financial elite paying their share of taxes. She also stated how important it is that children have access to a good and free school.
Irina Bokova, Director-General of Unesco, said that everyone has a responsibility towards children, and that it has never been as essential as now. There are a number of good initiatives but there must be more still, and that civilised society and companies must be the driving force.
Under the heading of Educating children for a connected world, Seok Pil Kim, Vice President of Samsung Electronics, explained about the company's initiative to improve the quality of and access to education around the world. This is how the company intends to contribute to reducing the gap between the rich and poor and reduce youth unemployment. There are currently around fifty programs on five continents aimed at bridging the digital divide and creating technical skills for pupils in countries such as Vietnam, India, South Africa, the Philippines, Egypt, China and the USA.
The morning then continued with four different seminars.
1. Paying Dividends: Investing in future generations in the Bernadotte Library.
2. Crossing borders: Multi-sectoral solutions to the refugee crises in Queen Lovisa Ulrika´s Dining Hall.
3. Putting the SDGs to work for children: integrating the goals into your corporate model in the Green Drawing Room,
4. Responsible marketing to children in Karl XV´s Gallery.
A networking lunch was then held in Karl XI's Gallery.
Afterwards, everyone gathered in the Hall of State for a summary of the seminars. The discussions also raised the importance of children's rights becoming a part of companies' core operations and that the subject must be widened and not just be about child labour. Other areas discussed were the need to find solutions to the migration crisis that is affecting children; partly those directly for immediate survival, and partly a long-term solution. Other subjects included the importance of working at a local level and travelling in order to see how the situations work in reality.
On the topic of Children’s Rights within the Corporate Sustainability Agenda, Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF then made a speech. She spoke about how steps have been made and have resulted in more children going to school and a reduction in childhood mortality. However, there is still a lot to be done and the threat against children in our world is increasing, and with increasing conflicts.
Karl-Henrik Sundström, CEO for Stora Enso, explained about the experience of how clear it is that employees, customers and investors want good companies with long-term sustainable supply chains. Last year, it was discovered that one of Stora Enso's suppliers used child labour. The company is now working to rebuild customers' trust.
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International - a global children's rights organisation with operations in 72 countries around the world. She believes that we need to change ourselves, not just the world, and that we have to increase our ambition, cooperation and be bolder, as the work on children's rights is moving too slowly.
Gunhild A. Stordalen, founder and Director of EAT Initiative, then spoke about finding new solutions for food and health for a growing global population that is also in harmony with the environment. Today, food and food production is responsible for a large part of global warming. There are now more people dying of food-related illnesses than of starvation. EAT is a global initiative that has gathered researchers, politicians and food industry leaders from around the world.
During the afternoon, the RobecoSAM Global Child Impact Equities fund was launched, an initiative to help companies check on the risks of children's rights in ten various industries. The fund was created by the Global Child Forum together with Unicef.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven stated that the work to improve children's rights is one of the most important issues facing us today. He pointed out that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child only works if world leaders act upon it. Sweden was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention and works actively in increasing global awareness.
This was followed by speeches by Sandra Polanski, Deputy Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Carol Batchelor, UNHCR and Michael Meehan, Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative, on the UN´s Agenda 2030 which is a general framework for all countries to contribute to eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development by 2030. The agenda contains 17 objectives and 196 intermediate targets.
One subject that Shaikha Al Maskari, of Al Maskari Holding, considered to be key for the future of our society is that we must teach children the world over about tolerance and love and give them the opportunity to gain a healthy attitude.
John Holmes of the International Rescue Committee explained about the IRC, an international player founded in 1933 by Albert Einstein. They currently have a presence in over 40 countries and work in some of the world's worst humanitarian crises – caused by both conflict and natural disaster – to help people survive and regain control of their own future. The focus is on restoring people's health, safety and opportunities for education and financial prosperity.
The day finished with a concert held in the Hall of State performed by the Junior Academy, and during the evening, a reception was held at the Tessin Palace, with Stockholm County Govenor Chris Heister as host.