Amongst official representatives of countries and international organizations, students voiced views about children's rights in the international community. The 17th informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights, with the theme of "Human Rights and Children," took place last week in Sofia, Bulgaria—giving a chance for students to cooperate towards a comprehensive resolution to tackle the human rights struggles that children face.
I was one of the three participants in this event representing BISB. We worked hard to prepare for the event and it proved to be an invaluable experience.
All throughout the flight and bus rides prior to the conference, I was overcome with anticipation for the days to come. International relations, especially regarding human rights, was a passion of mine, so I was eager to learn more from this conference, cooperate with like-minded students and adults, and grow from this experience. Whilst traveling there, the three of us spent time reading the research packet written by Professor Liefaard from Leiden Law School and Dr. Bina D’COSTA, both of whom are leading individuals in UNICEF. Along with an exhaustive list on the international treaties and conventions, the research packet outlined the three main issues ingrained in the theme of Children's Rights: State Provision for Survival and Development, Protection of Vulnerable Children, and Participation and Involvement of Children in Decision-Making.
The opening ceremonies took place on Tuesday, November 7th, featuring keynote speakers, including a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF specialists, and more. Their speeches were insightful, drawing in issues that pertain to their area of specialty. The vast seminar auditorium we sat in, accompanied by cameramen and formal representatives, added to the fascinating atmosphere of the experience.
Debates were initiated the following day, when students gathered to discuss the matter in three working groups. I was part of the second working group, focusing on the protection of vulnerable children. My prior knowledge from a plethora of Model UN and debate experiences proved to be useful in this event, as I was able to grasp the concepts, draft realistic solutions, and persuasively convey my ideas to the group. Following the hours of work periods, all the students voted for a representative to voice the collective conclusions of the students at the ASEM seminar. I was honored to have been that representative.
When introduced by a speaker to the stage, I was overcome by nervousness, despite having had lots of public speaking experience. It was different from just another Model UN Speech. I was overcome with the exciting, warm prospect of presenting the product of the students' hard work to the numerous individuals in the audience that I looked up to. Focusing on the content and my will to convey the gravity of children's rights violations, I boldly delivered a speech.
Through this unique experience, I truly grew as a global citizen. Though I regularly express my passion for global issues through academics and extracurriculars, this seminar was a platform for actual involvement in an international realm. I had the invaluable opportunity to cooperate with individuals who drive debates and negotiations, through organizations like the UN, in the real-world. It is my hope that the solutions we students collaborated on, as well as the spirit of our recommendations, will guide future policies and reforms that produce tangible benefits for children.
by Da Won (Amy) Shin
Link to the Amy´s speech: