Toespraak staatssecretaris van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport, Paul Blokhuis, bij de Voor de Jeugd Dag

Staatssecretaris Blokhuis opende de bijeenkomst ter ere van de International Children’s Peace Prize op 4 december 2017, in de Ridderzaal, te Den Haag.
De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Speech State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport, Paul Blokhuis, at the International Children’s Peach Price,
4 December 2017, The Hague.

Your Royal Highness, your Excellencies, distinguished guests, dear Malala, dear Chaeli,

On behalf of the Dutch government, I welcome you to The Netherlands. And to the Hall of Knights. It is here that our King opens the parliamentary year, each September. A tradition we have honored for decades, in a Hall that resonates history and honor. Today, we honor the winner of the International Children’s Peace Price. What a great privilege to speak to you on this wonderful occasion. An occasion that sparks joy and hope.

As most of you know, we have a new government in the Netherlands. I am the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport. And one of my first proposals in my new office, is to install a Junior State Secretary. Of about sixteen years old. I would like him or her to act as a special adviser on policy issues concerning children and young people. And since there are, besides me, two ministers at our department, we will also be recruiting two Junior Ministers.

Needless to say we must take our special advisors seriously. They cannot be treated as some form of “token representation”. At the same time, I am confident they will speak up for themselves if they ever feel treated as such. I hope we will soon be able to welcome the ‘mini-ministers’ and ‘mini-me’.
Children have a unique way of looking at things. They have a perspective that we, as adults, have usually lost along the way. It cannot be easily retrieved. So, I would like to have regular meetings with them.

Meetings in which they can share their hopes and worries, as well as their experiences. Meetings in which we listen to what they have to say and hear their advice on various matters. For example, we could use their input to intensify the fight against child abuse. One of the top priorities of this government.

This is an important task. Because child abuse is not only heartbreaking, it is also an attack on children’s health and wellbeing. It has an enormous impact on their self-confidence. Which, in turn, can have a serious impact later in life.

In this light, dear Malala, I am happy to hear that our Development Minister, Mrs. Kaag, confirmed Dutch participation in your initiative ‘Political Champions for Education in Conflict’. An initiative which not only aims at getting more children in school, but also in increasing the quality of what they learn. Especially for refugee children.

Dear friends,

One of the greatest riches is growing up in freedom. Being allowed to play, to participate in society and to pursue your dreams.

Perhaps an even greater wealth - especially at a young age - is the discovery that one human being can truly make a difference.
A difference in their own life. And also, a difference in the lives of others.
It is precisely this knowledge, and the willingness to act, to reach out to others, which determines our future.
All finalists – today and in previous years - have shown this to us. They are an inspiration to children – and adults – around the world.

Thank you.