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Address on the occasion of the acceptance of the Charity Bambi Award

21 November 2019

Thank you for your kind words.

Meine Damen und Herren,
Guten Abend,

Ich danke die Hubert Burda Media Holding für diesen prestigeträchtigen Preis für mein soziales und humanitäres Engagement. Es bewegt mich tief.

Belgium and Germany share common values regarding human rights and social justice. I believe that if there is one cause that should be paramount in these unsettled times, it is the future of our children.

Their future is our responsibility and our societies will benefit from their development. Investing in human capital is essential for prosperity and wellbeing.

The protection of children’s rights is a cause that is especially dear to me personally.  Vulnerable children, in particular, deserve our attention. Children living in extreme poverty, conflict or migration, and those who are in poor health or deprived of a quality education must not be left behind. Girls are particularly vulnerable in this regard.

During my field visits in recent years, I have seen many children in complex situations.

That is why I take every opportunity to give a face and a voice to children, who cannot speak up for themselves. In all my activities as a UN Advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals, or as President of UNICEF Belgium, or for the Queen Mathilde Fund, I insist on meeting young people. I want to hear what they think. I want to listen to their voices, especially on issues that affect them directly.

And here, I want to raise a matter of increasing importance in today’s society: mental health. I often say, “there is no good health without good mental health”. 

We know that young people are most vulnerable to mental health issues. They are easy victims of cyber bullying and violence. Furthermore, suicide figures are alarmingly high.

So, what can we do about it?

Stigmatization of people with mental disorders and the taboo that surrounds them is still high. We must listen to what young people have to say about the issue. We must talk about it. Draw attention to it. Above all, we must break the silence. Each and every one of us can be an influencer and a changemaker for the common good. 

My aim is to make a difference by “giving a voice to the voiceless”.  I feel humbled by this prestigious award. I want to share it with the many people who are committed to defending children’s rights.  In particular, I want to share it with the local changemakers in the field, who work so hard, every single day, to create equal opportunities and justice for all.

Thank you for this wonderful token of recognition, which I dedicate to vulnerable children and youngsters, wherever they are growing up.



Only the spoken word counts.