I spent this morning in the company of some extraordinary young people at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. The occasion for this gathering was the inaugural meeting of the World Child and Youth Forum, a body established by King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia to provide inspiration and support to children’s organisations and to promote the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Aside from Ambassadors from many nations the gathering brought together organisations that work for children’s rights, schoolchildren and experts from Sweden and abroad under the watchful eye of the King and Queen, The Crown Princess and Prince Daniel and Princess Madeleine.
There are not many people who’d argue with the sense of working to protect child rights. It is, to apply a metaphor, motherhood and apple pie. But this was no ordinary event. It was enlivened not by august adults and lofty promises but by the voices and testimonies of children. The heart of the event was a panel discussion via videoconference with young people from around Sweden. And they told us – in no uncertain terms – that they didn’t wanted to be treated like kids. That we should stop talking to them like children. The Queen told us that what mattered was dialogue between the generations. And the kids agreed. But for it to be a dialogue it needed us to listen.
It’s not for nothing that Sweden is a leader in the protection and promotion of human rights around the world. This event today brought that home once again. But I took a rather more personal lesson too. I’m going home tonight to do less talking and more listening.