Your Majesty, Excellencies, Partners and Friends,
Thank you for letting me share this moment of celebration with you.
The rights of the child are of great importance to Sweden and to the new Government that I lead. Immediately upon taking office, we began work to incorporate the Convention on the Rights of the Child into Swedish law. Our commitment is to seek all possible ways to improve children's enjoyment of their rights - locally, nationally and globally.
Is the world a better place for children today, 25 years after the adoption of the Convention?
Undoubtedly, much has changed for the better:
- The Convention is the most ratified human rights treaty in the world.
- Infant mortality is clearly declining.
- School enrolment is rising, not least for girls.
But in other areas, there is still cause for alarm:
- Only nine per cent of the world's children have legal protection against domestic violence.
- Tens of thousands of children under the age of 18 continue to serve in armed forces.
- There are over 160 million child labourers worldwide.
- 1.2 million children are trafficked each year - many for purposes of sexual exploitation.
These outrages are a call to act. Far too many children live under conditions that wipe out their smiles.
We must make the world safe for our children. It is our collective duty. This means that all forms of violence and abuse towards children must be eliminated.
We cannot wave the banner of humanity if we deceive the most defenceless and vulnerable among us, our children, by being violent towards them - or by tolerating such violence.
Thirty-five years ago, Sweden decided to ban domestic violence against children. Other countries have followed, but there are still more that haven't. Violent discipline against children is still a general practice in many countries - all over the world, my own continent included.
We need to work through law reform and the promotion of positive parenting. We also need to raise awareness, to change public attitudes and behaviour. To be successful in this new drive for child protection, governments need to join hands with civil society, religious leaders and media.
The right to education is necessary to make progress - and make it sustainable. Education is the most effective weapon we have in the fight against poverty. It is also a powerful tool to make societies more equal and to unlock the potential of all. We cannot spare any effort to make education universal, for girls and boys.
I believe that children have a right to hope, to a future full of promise. I see this as a right in itself - for our children to claim, and us to provide.
I grew up in a foster home. And I thrived. I know what it means to be offered a future, a hope, a promise. And I know what it entails to be denied it. That is why joining you today is so rewarding, personally and politically.
Of course, we have heard presentations of facts and data that contrast starkly with the principles of the Convention. But we have also taken good note of examples and solutions.
My own conclusion is this: the vision of a better world for children, which lies at the heart of the Convention, can indeed come true. We need to focus our minds and feel the call of duty to future generations. Get inspired and get on with delivering concrete improvements for them - so that every child smiles.
This is a commitment we should rally round. And that is how I'd like to celebrate this day.