THE EARTH TIMES
June 14, 1993
For children, Vienna means more than talk
Ambitious plans to persuade diplomats to act on Right
By Ashali Varma
The World Conference on Human Rights will have a special significance for some 200 children who will be in Vienna between June 14-25.
They will be attending a parallel conference for children organized by the Coalition for Children of the Earth, at the Austria Center. The Coalition is an international network of individuals and groups committed to providing forums where the voices of young people can be heard with regard to decisions that will affect them.
Children from 40 countries as diverse as Bosnia, the Philippines, Tibet, India and Brazil will meet to discuss the four themes affecting children the world over; Survival Rights, Development Rights, Protection Rights and Participation Rights. At the end of the Conference on June 21 a representative from the young people will present their conclusions in an address to the delegates. For the organizers, Teresa Vannini, Caroline Mueller and Debra Kreuter-Grant, the overwhelming response by letters and calls from the children wanting to attend has been a moving experience. As Vannini says, “These are children who have been affected by human rights violations whether they are from Los Angeles, Harlem, the streets of Brazil or from refugee camps from the war-torn areas of Croatia and Bosnia. They are already preparing and studying for the conference as for them it involves their whole future.”
Valon Dedushj a 17-year-old from Kosovo called Vannini just to say, “I thank you for making this possible and I will come even if I have to walk over the mountain to get there.” For some young delegates it is even tougher than scaling mountains to attend, as in the case of eight children from the refugee camp in Pula Istria in Croatia, where despite several calls to Ambassador Turcovic they have still not been granted their travel papers. Janet Amon from the Bosnian Mission in New York said, “We very much encourage them to attend and so I have been trying to get Ambassador Turcovic to approve it.”
As Vannini put it, “Part of what we are trying to achieve is the concept of getting these young voices heard. It is not just 200 children once a year speaking out but an outreach at a global level, where it can have a rippling affect and these children can reach out to 3000 more in their communities.” She added, “We hope the media in Vienna will also focus on what the children have to say as the media has the power to spread the word.”
Perhaps the objective of this conference can best be summed up in the words of a 14-year-old from Jordan, Zeid Salameh Abdul-Hadi: “I would like to see our leaders in Vienna translating their words into deeds. We need to know that our future will be a better one than our present.”