19 November 2009, “Berwaldhallen”, Stockholm
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Plato the philosopher, once said “Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul”.
I shall therefore seize my chance. I shall follow in the whistling wake of the last sounds we just heard and tiptoe into your souls. I’ll do so because I carry an important message, one which can only be delivered to that particular, often hidden place.
This message carries with it the sounds of millions of children’s voices. A symphony of laughs, cries, whispers and… silences. This message is a reminder of a promise: the promise we made to the world’s children, 20 years ago.
We promised our children we would protect them from all kinds of violence. And yet we are still compromising about the sense of the word “violence”.
We promised that we would ensure their survival and access to health care. And we still have millions of children starving. We deny health care to children because they lack the right papers.
Children are also denied access to schools because of their origins or a disability. We promised access to quality education and time for culture, rest and play. Instead, we build walls between social classes and prisons for children who are first and foremost the victims of social exclusion and violence.
We promised we would support families of children in need and pay attention to particularly vulnerable children. And we respond to the financial crisis by cutting the budgets of social services and assistance.
We promised that “the best interests of the child” would guide us in our decisions. In fact, we are still playing with words and concepts to accommodate the “adults’ more important interests”.
At this birthday party I could have opted for congratulating ourselves on the important progress accomplished in Europe. But I have chosen, instead, to place a reminder in all of our hearts.
Because I feel that the promises made to children should remain in our hearts and weigh upon our minds until they are fulfilled – and we are released.
Because children’s rights concern us all.
Because we have the tools, the knowledge and the resources to keep our promises. Because the 21st century can and should be the Century of the Child. And this, this is extremely good news.
Victor Hugo once wrote that “music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent”.
May this symbolic ceremony help us to overcome our silences and transform our words into the most beautiful of all concerts: the concert of nations playing a moving Ode to Joy. The joy of promises kept.
Thank you for your attention.