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Kids tell ASEAN: build one caring and sharing community for children

Child delegates from ASEAN countries at the first South East Asian Children's Conference
Child delegates from ASEAN countries at the first South East Asian Children's Conference, Philippines

Antipolo City, Philippines – 13 December 2006

Child delegates, at the conclusion of the first South East Asian Children’s Conference, called on their leaders to give children more priority in the region’s development.  The three-day event, initially timed to coincide with the ASEAN Summit, brought together thirty-four children from Cambodia, Laos PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.  In a final declaration, they urged their Governments to involve young people more actively in developing policies, progammes and laws that affect them.

The declaration, based on the outputs of the conference workshops, spells out specific recommendations related to each of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  It acknowledges the problems common among them, and outlines specific actions to involve young people in addressing them.  It calls for better linkages between Government, community groups and young people in the formulation of policies and programmes to alleviate poverty.   The declaration will be formally presented to ASEAN members.

“It is important for young people from this region to come together to share experiences”, said 15 year old Jasmine Kaur from Malaysia,” Often we are perceived as the problem, but we are also the solution and our opinions and experiences do matter. Adults usually only know the theory but we know from practical experiences.

“I have noticed that in almost every leaders meeting they have their own agenda and children’s rights are not the priority issue. I believe if more and more children begin speaking out and really crying out to claim their rights, saying to their leaders this is what should be given, because we deserve this as children, little by little, the leaders in South East Asia are going to listen,” said 17 year old Apple Fale, a youth facilitator from the Philippines.

The child delegates called for more participation at all levels of society including community, provincial, national and international.  They also want to see more youth involvement in all aspects of policy, planning and monitoring for young people.

They also recognized the work young people are already doing in their countries, including advocacy, peer education, creative arts and youth produced media.

“ASEAN is an important forum that represents millions of children across the region.  We hope the outcome declaration can help to make sure that children’s priorities are given the prominence they deserve within South East Asia”, says Ms. Lina B. Laigo, Executive Director of the Philippines Council for the Welfare of Children, a co-organizer of the event.  “The Philippine Government is a strong advocate of the rights of children to participate and we hope that in the future, ASEAN will continue to support more consultative processes with children.”

Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, who met with the child delegates, acknowledged that the conference underscored the capacity and potential of young people in a region. “This region’s economic, political and social development is dependent on young people”, she said. “It is crucial we listen, consult and involve them in the region’s development, especially in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and recognize the important contribution they can make to society.”

The conference was facilitated by young people from the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia. They employed various creative techniques to solicit full participation of all child delegates and to bridge cultural and linguistic barriers.

“Whether we like it or not, children really do communicate better to fellow children because we understand each other more, “said Apple Fale, one of the youth facilitators, who has been trained in communication skills.

Each workshop session focused on a different MDG and involved young people working through art to define the problems in their respective country determine what needs to be done to address them and identify how young people can be involved.  The creative artwork of these sessions culminated in an exhibition. 

A highlight of the three day conference was field visits to youth support projects around Manila.  On the visits they were able to see practical examples of community based activities to help vulnerable children.

The five projects visited by the delegates were:

  • Kabataan News Network, a thirty minute weekly youth produced news programme, which is conceptualized, written, and shot by young reporters from all over the Philippines.
  • Educational Research and Development Assistance (ERDA) Foundation, which has projects to help children at risk including street children, child labourers and indigenous children.
  • SABANA or Sanayan ng mga Batang Nananambakan (Comprehensive Development Center for Child Scavengers), which helps children find alternative incomes through creative handicrafts.
  • Lunduyan Para sa Pagpapalaganap, Pagtataguyod at Pagtatanggol ng Karapatang Pambata (Center for the Promotion, Advocacy and Protection of the Rights of the Child) that helps children through their issues by using appropriate alternative art forms, i.e., play and games, story telling, puppetry, drama and children’s theater.
  • World Vision Development Foundation, which operates child rights and empowerment projects through schools in poor communities.
  • Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (VF) works for the welfare of marginalized migrants, especially those working in the invisible and informal sectors, like domestic workers, and trafficked women and children. 

The South East Asian Children’s Conference was supported by the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) is the apex agency for children's protection, welfare and development in the Philippines. The CWC aims to improve the quality of life for Filipino children thus enabling them to develop their full potentials and participate in community life and nation-building.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please call:
Vincent Henson: (+63916) 455-6707 or (+632) 901-0175
Mitch Navares: (+632) 781 1035
Mr. Dale Rutstein: (+63917) 866-4969.





More information

First Southeast Asia Children’s Conference declaration

Way forward after the first SEACC


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