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Kinderrechten in Europa - Toespraak van Hare Majesteit de Koningin

5 juli 2016

(Toespraak uitgesproken in het Engels.)

Keynote Address by Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians

Conference “Children’s rights matter: Why Europe needs to invest in children”, Brussels 5-7th July 2016


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure to be able to share some ideas with you at the start of this conference. In my opinion, it is very important that we take this time to pause and reflect on the subject of children’s rights. It is an opportunity for us to make a constructive and critical evaluation of our commitments and to gain inspiration for new undertakings.

After all, could any cause be more important, more challenging, than the protection of the interests and rights of the child? We are all aware that our modern society confronts us with situations and circumstances that are difficult to manage. They affect us all.  At the same time though, previously unseen, even undreamed-of opportunities and perspectives are opening up - in the scientific and technical domain, but also at the economic, social and cultural level.

Today, in the face of this duality, I am all the more convinced that we must give children and young people their rightful place in society. There can be no doubt that the best investment in the future is to take the best possible care of the next generation.

This is also the approach I will adopt as UN special advocate for the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals. Besides the protracted fight against poverty, education and health deserve the utmost attention, certainly where the young are concerned.

Let me give you just an example: if small children do not receive healthy nutrition, if girls do not receive adequate education, not only will their own development be hampered, but that of their entire society.

The right social framework and structural solutions are a matter of the greatest importance. Nonetheless, parents, friends and family members play an essential role in the harmonious development of a child. Indeed it is there that affection and security can flourish best. But human failures, poverty, migration pressure, war and conflict tear families apart and deprive them of the necessary educational opportunities.

It is essential, therefore, that policy makers play their complementary and supporting role. First and foremost, by providing an efficient and relevant legal framework that guarantees respect of the rights of the child. For more than 25 years, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has offered a powerful incentive for action throughout the world. The global community has pledged to safeguard children’s rights in education, health, participation and protection. These rights entail moral and legal obligations. For instance, the right to education must be emphasized.  The importance of the provision of good schools and well-trained teachers is not to be underestimated.

Youth movements and non-profit organisations likewise merit appreciation and encouragement for the opportunities they offer. So I am pleased to learn that your programme includes visits to some successful examples of this type of civil society organisations in Belgium. They are magnificent initiatives, offering underprivileged and vulnerable children and families support and a chance to widen their contacts. Truly enriching environments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Isn’t that what it’s all about? That a child should feel accepted and recognised? That it feels at home in a generous environment where services – and therefore opportunities – are there for the taking. Where nobody is left behind. Where each individual is respected, as part of a rich and diverse society.

This is what gives a child a positive self-image. This is what makes it feel valued and loved. This is how vulnerability is transformed into self-esteem and self-confidence.

A confidence which can then become the catalyst for development, because it generates the strength to reach for and take opportunities. Unleashing these positive forces is an exciting challenge for every society, every country and, indeed, for the whole of civilisation.

I know that this is also the vision and the conviction underlying the work of Eurochild, of Kind en Gezin, and the Office de la Naissance et de l’Enfance. It is a sound conviction, with a noble objective: to narrow the gap between children who have opportunities and those who do not. The duality that characterises our society – the creation of ever more opportunities, coupled with the exposure of its vulnerable flanks – invites us to engage in such endeavours. 

Last but not least, I would like to specifically address the young people among us today. Obviously this conference is about you. But you also have an active role to play, participating in the deliberations, the discussions and the subsequent action. Both today in the conference room and tomorrow in society, YOU will be instrumental in the success or failure of the goals we formulate and celebrate here. YOU must be given a voice and YOU will make good use of it.

Every child, every young person should count, should be valued by others. Resilience and solidarity are important values that children can and should practise amongst themselves from their earliest years.

I wish you all stimulating and productive debates that will energise and inspire you in your endeavours.

I thank you.