Queen Mathilde of Belgium wrapped up her working visit to New York City yesterday. At the United Nations Headquarters, she was the keynote speaker about UN Sustainable Development Goals. This high-level event was organised by the Belgian government and “the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN for the plight of children in armed conflict,” according to a statement released by the Belgian Royal Palace.
Yesterday morning, Her Majesty, as Defender of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, gave a speech regarding the importance of human rights to the global agenda. In her speech, she spoke about a young boy she met on a trip to Ethiopia, who was malnourished. She said, “I felt as fundamentally unfair that the chances of the child are also deeply affected. Such disabilities may jeopardise the growth of an entire society. The right to development was recorded by the United Nations in a solemn Declaration, thirty years ago, but more recently the international community has also managed to place human rights at the centre of the global debate on the peace, security and development.”
She continued, “By subscribing to these commitments, the international community formulated a shared vision of a just, peaceful and stable: a world in which the central role of effective and inclusive institutions is recognised, promoted and where the rule of law, access to justice and human rights.” She went on to stress the importance of the dialogue of the day and culture in development. She also emphasised the need to continue the fight against discrimination and inequality.
After her speech, she met with United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development about making mental health a global development priority. Afterwards, she met with Marta Santos Pais, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, regarding work on ending violence against children. More, Her Majesty met with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss their common goals on sustainable development. Finally, she met with UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake about children being at the centre of development.
While in New York, the Queen of the Belgians also campaigned on behalf of Belgium for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for 2019-2020.
Monday at the United Nations, Queen Mathilde gave a speech at the United Nations about “reintegrating children and breaking vicious circle of violence.” In her speech, she said, “If there is one cause we must strive for in these unsettled times, it is the future of our children. Their future is our responsibility, and our societies will benefit from their development. That is exactly why the harm caused by war and conflict is of major concern.”
She further discussed the shared commitment they have to the rights of children and the progress she has seen over the past 15 years. She stressed that there is still much work to be done to protect children. Her Majesty said, “The impact on children of our collective failure to prevent and end conflict is devastating. In fact, conflict prevention should be our common goal…Research shows that effective reintegration programmes for children are not only crucial for their own well-being but are also a critical factor for durable peace and security.”
She concluded her speech by saying, “After enduring the horrors of armed conflict, children and youth should not give up on their dreams and aspirations. We must all do more to provide them with opportunities to heal, to learn and to thrive again. If we help mend their hearts and minds, we will inspire and empower them to help rebuild their countries. That should be our collective primary motivation. Children are our most precious resource, for they represent the future of our societies.”