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Speech by Maud de Boer-Buquicchio,
Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Inauguration of the Exhibition on children's rights by the Sanwag Etno Eko Centre, Belgrade, at the invitation of Ambassador Dragana Filipovic,
Permanent Representative of Serbia

Strasbourg, 9 December 2009

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Madam Ambassador,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

John W Gardner, a much-respected American thinker, once wrote that “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser”. I like this sentence because it compares life with an artwork, the result of which depends on the choices we make and that we then have to assume. The real problem comes when we realise that, for many people, the choice is really limited, and they are nevertheless confronted with the dramatic consequences of their lack of freedom.

This is particularly true for children. There are many awful things that come into focus when looking at the picture of a child’s life, and which have lasting consequences on both children and society. When looking at this exhibition, I cannot help thinking of the many things that I would like to erase from some of these drawings made by children in Serbia. Many of them indeed reflect the impact of war and violence against children and remind me, again, that despite the huge progress accomplished by the Council of Europe over the last 60 years, we haven’t managed to prevent all conflicts and to eradicate all forms of violence.

The drawings in this exhibition have been done by children in schools and in residential institutions, some of their authors are children with disabilities. Many of the images we see here are extremely positive and colourful and give us a sense of the way children would choose to depict their lives and the world through a drawing, if they could. There is much to be learned from these kind of exhibitions, as they confront us with our responsibilities as adults and decision-makers. I wish to thank the Permanent Representation of Serbia, the Sanwag Etno Eko Centre and in particular my dear friend Sandrina Wagner, and the International Federation of Educative Communities of Serbia (FICE) for having brought the messages of these children to us.

Swiss architect Le Corbusier used to say that he preferred drawing to talking because drawing was faster, and left less room for lies. I’ll therefore stop talking, will go back to the drawing board and will keep working on the best possible design for life: the one that will ensure that all children in Europe have the opportunity to create the most beautiful drawing of their lives.

Thank you for your attention.