Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Unbroken: An Exhibition of Hope and Determination

(photovoice.org)

(photovoice.org)

Dr. Sadik
Okay, thank you. I will also be not very long. I think that Olara made a very wonderful case, but I just want to make a few points. First of all, I would like to start by congratulating Anna Blackman and Marjorie Victor, and all of the young people, and the photographers, and the project manager, and those who couldn't come here, for the wonderful exhibition that you have put on. I recently saw another exhibition of Afghanistan, and you know, again the same kind of images come through. And I hope these images are going to inspire people to really think about our future, our future which is our young children. And as Olara says, hope and determination is really a wonderful theme, but my point is that we really should...you know we look at this 21st century, we haven't had major wars yet like we had in the last century...but all around the world, as Olara pointed out, there are pockets of conflict and conflict that has been there for long time, and 24 of these conflicts are really violent. In all these armed conflicts, the majority of the people that suffer in today's kinds of wars are really civilians, who really are not the people actually fighting, so the majority of these people who suffer and are affected are women and children. They're sometimes the targets of warring groups. I mean we've seen women abducted, children abducted, and violated and so on. And children lose their homes, their schools, they often lose their parents, they become orphans and often they lose hope. I mean, you do see that. And the resulting trauma...we look at some of the physical things we do for them, but the psychological and the trauma to the spirit is something that we also have worry about. As Olara said, for those who have been in conflict situations for all their lives, and in fact perhaps even die with the conflict situation, from childhood to adulthood, and the rights of the vulnerable groups, they're now the focus of attention, but they still continue to be violated. I looked up some estimates. I don't know, the estimates vary from 31million refugees to 50 million refugees, mostly women and children in conflicts situations. The number of children...I was trying to get figures of the number of children that have died in conflict situations, and I really couldn't get it. It just said, "millions have died," and I'm sure they have, but there were no figures for them. There were figures for the number of children affected by landmines, and it was only 6000, and somehow I thought that that's a very understated figure. I don't think that that could be the figure. I mean you think of the millions of landmines in Afghanistan alone, or in Vietnam, or in these other places. So in fact, the data is so, so poor on the effects on children, so the number that you get from various sources is very underestimated. In fact the real situation is much much worse. I was shocked to find that there were 300,000 children known to be serving in armed forces in various parts of the world. That's a huge number. I thought that would be a lower number, but this as Olara has pointed out, I think it's a landmark that we finally got agreement that children under 18 will not be allowed to go to war. I hope that we can find a way to actually make sure, ensure, that this convention is really respected by all of the countries. I did get some figures of the number of children displaced in conflicts and it was 20 million. So you know of that 31 million refugees, and 20 million of these are children, so it's a huge number of children that we have to worry about. The needs of children are really very much multifaceted. I think we take care often, of as I said, of the physical needs and you know medicines and so on. But the nurturing and the love and so on that children need during the time of development and growing up, the parental support system, those...how do we find a way to provide those to children? The emotional development of children is as important as the physical development, and even the intellectual, I think emotional is as important in the future of a child. So most vulnerable of the children have deep emotional and spiritual needs, and these are not enlisted in any Convention or in any report. And you know, most of the reports, I looked at a few reports of visits to war-torn areas, nobody talks about the emotional needs and the spiritual trauma. It's not easy to measure. It's not easy to find out and people are not skilled in doing that. But how do you pick up the pieces of your life shattered by war? Children are not in a position, or not able to even express their emotions on many occasions. They do that in normal situations. So in abnormal situations they're even more helpless. So the tragedy of war cannot be any worse than when it affects children because sometimes it really crushes the heart of the child. But I think there's always light in all the darkness we have seen and we have been talking about. There are many many agencies around the world that are there to help the children. I'm please to note that so many now are working together, not everybody working in different directions. And I think Olara has a lot to do with that, to make sure that the programs that are undertaken are much more coordinated and really reflect all the needs that exist in that particular group. I also want to make the observation that where there are women and mothers, we need to also take special care of them because many children lose both parents, but there are many children who have at least the mother there. And the needs of mother in conflict and refugee situations are not always recognized. I think that we have to address the needs of the mother as well, in terms of also providing support to her, to educate her, to inform her, and provide other support for her, because after all she was not the head of the household in most of our developing countries. She's suddenly been forced to become that. Adolescent needs are particularly great. They're our most vulnerable group in conflict and disaster situations, and particularly in refugees' camps. I think Madam Ogata, when she was the High Commissioner for Refugee recognized this...they're especially vulnerable to rape and violence in refugee situations...and she then provided special security protection for young girls in particular, but young people in these refugees camp situations. And they have reproductive health needs, which you know is a subject which is so sensitive. It's not discussed anywhere, and even less discussed in these refugees camps and other situations. But children of all ages need protection. They need care and we need to be concerned about them. Many scars are visible, they're physical, but many of them are not. And I want to underscore that point and that we need to address them. I think probably projects like these, which allow them to express their thoughts, may be a way of catharsis. I hope that this will help them to say the things that maybe they're not always able to say. You know to get a child to speak and express what he or she feels is not always very easy. I believe that the international community has to do a lot more to assist. The first instance, we have to stop wars. I mean, there's no question. Why should we always have to look at the effects of and then protect people? We have to protect people from the scourge of war. And look at the amount of money we spend on the wars...one-twentieth of that money, if we spent in the peace times to prevent the wars, would go so much further, and I think the world would be a much much healthier, and happier, and a place where everyone had a future, had an option, had a life. So once again, I don't want to belabor the point, but I want to also underscore the need for all kinds of attention, but including the attention to try to prevent these situations from happening. And since we're dealing here with children and our future, maybe we should put into their minds also these thoughts of how and what they could do to promote peace between people and nations around the world. So what ever we can do to help children in conflict situations, I know that we will, at least those of us assembled here today, for those who are the youngest amongst us, you will end up carrying the banner of hope for generations yet to come. You are our future and we have to make sure that we do the best for you future. So I congratulate all of you. I congratulate the children, and I congratulate our other partners in this enterprise who are going to speak after us. And I want to introduce to you Hari Acharya from the Bhtutanese youth refugee group. I am not sure whether he is still a Bhutanese, but he came here as a refugee from Bhutan. He was given asylum in the United States before asylum became more difficult to get. He worked with the Association of Human Rights (AHURA)-BHUTAN, and soon after his arrival from Nepal in Bhutan, he was actively involved in the appeal movement coordinating Council Peace March. He has been in the United States since 1999. And since March, Hari has been working with the Global Youth Connect as a speaker in the Youth Action Campaign for Peace in Bhutan. He's spoken in high schools, at colleges, at universities, all over this country. He's helped to organize and lead a youth delegation from New York City to the refugee camps in Nepal in summer last year. His parents, both of them were born in Bhutan, and siblings still live in one of the refugees camps in Bhutan. So I hope that you will hear what Hari has to say, and I hope you can find a way to help him and the refugees in Bhutan. Hari you have the floor.