The first ASEAN children’s forum calls for action on child labour, climate change and disability awareness
By Angela Travis
Pampanga, Philippines, 22nd October 2010. The first ASEAN Children’s Forum (ACF) supported by UNICEF, closed in the Philippines with children calling for an annual gathering to consolidate and build their agenda for action. Thirty two children and adolescents from the ten ASEAN member nations, including 6 children with disabilities, gathered for the opening ceremony, in Angeles City, Philippines, attended by the Philippines Secretary for Social Welfare, Ms Corazon Juliano-Soliman.
In her opening speech, Secretary Soliman said:
‘ I think it is important for the voices that you will be bringing and sharing in this discussion [for us] to translate the voices into action and the action must lead into a stronger and united effort of the adults in your different societies, to address the needs of children and young people especially as we build a future with justice and compassion,’
The children, aged between 13 and 20 years, had a packed four days together and discussed key issues that affect children and adolescents in South East Asia.
‘I’m proud to be one of the ASEAN children,’ said Aditya from Indonesia.
Venz from the Philippines added: ‘We are very lucky to represent our country to voice out and share what’s happening or [the] situation our nation’s children have.’
UNICEF Philippines has been working with the Council for the Welfare of Children for more than 10 years on child participation initiatives, and previously hosted two regional children’s meetings in South East Asia. This was the first time a meeting of young people came within the official ASEAN structures and processes. Outputs from this meeting, will be taken forward by the young people themselves, to the ASEAN meeting of senior officials in Brunei in November.
Through three days of interactive sessions, workshops, cultural events and field visits the young people learnt about the ASEAN processes, developed their ideas and formulated plans for how children and adolescents will interact with ASEAN and how and when the next forum will take place.
In their concluding statements the young people defined the criteria for selection to the forum, and agreed they wanted an annual gathering, to include a representative selection of young people from all sectors of society, including disabled and disadvantaged children.
The meeting also launched the ACF website www.aseanchildrensforum.org which will become the main tool for communication and exchange amongst the attendees and other children in their home countries.
Closing the forum, Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF country representative, said:
‘ You have worked hard to collect and present your views here, on important subjects such as child labour and HIV & AIDS. It is now the responsibility of the adults in your countries to support you as you go forward, and realise the forum theme from vision to action.’