As the full-day Global Child Forum was coming to an end, held in Kuala Lumpur on 5 May, the last words were those of Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden.
Their Majesties of Sweden had attended the entire forum day, after having travelled all the way to Malaysia from Sweden only for the Forum; something that was highlighted by Global Child Forum’s Chairman of the Partner Advisory Board, Ulf Karberg and that resulted in a resounding, long applause from the delegates.
In her closing address to the Forum H.M. Queen Silvia highlighted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and that she had learned about recent strengthened legislation in the host country as well as in Thailand.
In April Malaysia’s lower house amended the country’s Child Act 2001 to provide better protection for children, however without banning all marriage by girls and boys under the age of 18, as called for by several members of parliament and rights groups.
And last year the National Legislative Assembly of Thailand voted unanimously to amend the Criminal Code of Thailand to criminalise child pornography, a legislation that would help protect children from sexual abuse. (Previously, the possession of child sex abuse material without intent to distribute was not considered a crime under the Criminal Code of Thailand.)
H.M. Queen Silvia especially expressed hope that the business and financial sectors would engage in ensuring children’s safety and rights onwards.
This was the third ever regional forum, which serves as a unique platform for the identification of opportunities on how businesses can contribute to the promotion of children’s rights.
Ulf Karlberg pointed out that the non-profit organisation wanted to go places where they could make a difference, and had been encouraged to go also to South Africa, after the first ever regional forum outside Sweden was successfully held in Dubai (in 2014).
At the start of the day Ulf Karberg had express a wish to connect all delegates electronically so that they could all use all their experiences and put that into a database.
“But we will try to make this happen without the electronics. The more you are active we will get a good result out of this. It will all be recorded,” he said about the Forum.
He referred to CRC as one of the most ratified UN agreements of all.
“On the other side children’s rights and business principles are very serious for companies and a very powerful instrument. It’s all about involving the corporate and financial sectors in a way it hasn’t been done before. This is not only a government issue; it’s for everyone; you, me and every part of society,” said the Global Child Forum chairman and continued: “The most important part is the next generation, our future. Are we proud about what we have achieved so far? In Europe we see it; war and conflicts happening every day. Behind that, we have to move from charity to real sustainability. This forum is maybe a little step to involve everyone and take these issues very seriously.”
“Old men like me are not too happy with what we have achieved, in terms of environmental protection, sustainability and human rights,” Mr Karlbeg said elaborated during the press conference, as answer to the introspection he had asked earlier in the day. “We are trying to engage, and we urge the businesses to perform.”
“But if we don’t have the facts we just have a talk show. This is why we are producing research reports to show comparisons, and put this knowledge on the social media and give it to the world. We constitute an information service and inspiration to the world, and our objective is to engage businesses in the next generation.”
Following on the afternoon’s ActionLab group sessions, each group’s recommendations were presented on stage to all delegates, even including an audiovisual documentation from each ActionLab.
One of the groups had looked at safeguarding children’s rights in the travel and tourism sector, not least as this sector is seeing growth at an unprecedented scale in Southeast Asia.
In the afternoon’s High-level session speakers on the topic ‘Perspectives for the Future – What will it take?’ included the IKEA Foundation CEO Mr Per Heggenes.
To summarize the Forum the co-organiser ASEAN CSR Network’s representative Thomas Thomas, as well as Åse Bäckström, Managing Director for Global Child Forum took to the stage and presented their conclusions.
The Global Child Forum on Southeast Asia was organised in close association with UNICEF, UN Global Compact, ASEAN CSR Network, Save the Children, Plan International and ECPAT International.