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World Child and Youth Forum

Speech by Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General



Stockholm, 19 November 2010

Your Majesties,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Dear Young people,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This week, a new record was set. A rare pink diamond smashed the world record for a jewel at auction. Somebody paid 46 million dollars for it.
“It is a wonder of nature, very rare, flawless”- experts say.
So are children.

When I thought of the many children’s lives that this amount of money could have saved, I felt like there was something terribly wrong with our scales of values. Then I started thinking whether we couldn’t take some inspiration from the qualities that make this diamond so precious and apply them to our work around the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Let’s see.

The word “diamond” comes from the ancient Greek and means “unbreakable”. Diamonds are known for being the hardest of all bulk materials.

I indeed believe that we need an “unbreakable” Convention on the Rights of the Child. We have to make sure that all countries respect this unique legal text and react to any attempt to compromise with its implementation.

At the Council of Europe, we are giving priority to the promotion of children’s rights. To make them “unbreakable”, we are filling gaps in legislations (for instance to criminalise all forms of sexual violence against children). We are also developing efficient policy models (in the fields of justice, education, parenting, health, disabilities, minorities, media…). We are offering training programmes and launching campaigns to empower both adults and children.

I am deeply convinced that social tolerance of some forms of violence against children is one of the weakest points in the protection of children’s rights. 30 years after the Swedish ban of corporal punishment, there are still 25 Council of Europe member States that have not taken that essential step. So: we keep working on that front while we open a new one: the fight against all forms of sexual violence. Estimates show that about 1 in 5 children is a victim of sexual violence. In ten days, we shall be launching an ambitious campaign to stop this scourge. It is an empowering campaign: one of its aims is to equip parents and children with the tools they need to prevent and report sexual violence. Child participation is present in our legal texts, in our awareness raising material and in the events we are preparaing: the views, experiences and ideas of children are precious to our work on prevention and protection.

Let’s continue exploring diamonds’ unique qualities.

Diamonds are composed of just one substance: carbon atoms. In this, they are not different from graphite or charcoal. It is thanks to the bonds between the atoms that diamonds are so sound and solid.

We need to work on our bonds in order to resemble those carbon atoms and be organised and cohesive. The role of legislators and policy makers is very important but it is not enough. The CRC can only resist and shine if parents, professionals working with children, civil society, the business community and of course, children themselves contribute to the crystallisation process.

The Council of Europe is bringing all these actors together. Sometimes it may be really challenging! It is difficult to consult and involve children from 47 countries in our work! But we are making good progress. Children in care told us how to make a child friendly version of our standards on their rights. Over 3.700 children shared their views on their justice systems and this helped us to draft our guidelines on child friendly justice that were adopted last Wednesday. Children will participate in the drafting of our guidelines on child friendly social services and health care. At the same time, we are developing a tool for countries to assess their participation policies.

Let’s now talk about transparency. In its pure condition diamond is the most beautifully clear and transparent. How clear and transparent are children’s rights to those who are supposed to either guarantee them or enjoy them? For the CRC to be valued as the jewel it is, we need that its principles and rights are first understood and then enshrined not only in our legislations, policies and practices, but also in our hearts. The Council of Europe has prepared awareness raising material that has reached now hundreds of thousands of children in Europe. We want to make sure that children know their rights and make it easier for them to use, for instance, the European Convention of Human Rights and its Court.

But … did you know that most diamonds are formed at high pressure and high temperature conditions? A diamond can take 3 billion years to grow, hidden 150 kilometres deep in the Earth mantle until a volcanic eruption brings it to the surface.

It is clear that we need pressure to advance children’s rights. It is also clear that we cannot wait 3 billion years to achieve this. However, with our motivation, our strength and our knowledge we can create the eruption that will bring children’s rights to the top of the political agenda. This is what we did in 2006, when we launched the Council of Europe programme “Building a Europe for and with children”. This is the momentum we kept in 2008 when we gathered in Stockholm the whole European children’s rights “community” to set up our strategy for the years 2009-2011. Not surprisingly, child participation is one of the three pillars of our Stockholm strategy.

Your Majesties,
The Forum you have convened is an eruption of creativity and optimism. Through Article 12, ideas are sparkling and bringing light and warmth to children across the world. In the worrying times we are living in we need people with energy, vision and convictions. I feel very honoured and fortunate to have been able to share this day with you. Thank you for your support and for these inspiring moments.

Young participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, in this royal palace, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is THE jewel in the crown. We need to let it shine and inspire our work and our feelings. As it has a quality that no diamond has: the ability to make millions of children happy. And this, this is much more worth than 46 million dollars.
Thank you for your attention.