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On November 15 2012 War Child received the Carnegie Wateler Peace Prize.
The Carnegie Foundation awarded the Carnegie Wateler Peace Prize to War Child for the global efforts that War Child has made on behalf of children and young people affected by armed conflict.
War Child is an independent humanitarian organization that since 1995 has committed itself to helping children and youngsters that have been affected by war.
War Child aims to create the conditions that will fulfill the protection, development and survival rights for children and young people who are living with or recovering from the effects of armed conflict. It will ensure the participation of children and young people in decisions which affect their lives so that their voices will be heard and their contributions made to count. The organization promotes the psychological and social development of the children and teens affected by armed conflict and organizes education for them. The humanitarian organization works in collaboration with dozens of local partner organizations and is active in 12 countries.
The Carnegie Wateler Peace is awarded every two years to a person or institution that “in a prominent manner in speech, writing or attitude has committed itself to international peace.” The winner of the Peace Prize receives the award at the Peace Palace. The reward owes its name from the Dutch banker, Johan Wateler, who bequeathed a substantial legacy to finance this Peace Prize in 1928. The Wateler Peace Prize, which first has been awarded in 1931, has many laureates. For example, Danny Kaye (1981), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2000/2001 and General-Major (ret) Patrick Cammaert, the Dutch commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Congo (2008).
War Child received the Wateler Peace award from the Chairman of the Carnegie Foundation, Dr. Bernard Bot, a former Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs. The award consists of a certificate and a cash prize of 35,000 euros. Liesbeth List, a Dutch singer, stage actress and tv personality performed during the ceremony. Two years ago she visited the programs of War Child in Uganda in the context of the Dutch celebration of 65 years of liberation (since the Second World War). As a “war child” herself, she feels personally committed to the goals of this organization.
Below you can find the acceptance speech of Bernard Uyttendaele, the director of War Child Holland.
Carnegie Wateler Peace Award
The Hague, The Netherlands,
15th of November 2012
Your Excellencies, distinguished guests and friends, ladies and gentlemen,
Ten year old Sarita grows up in a metropolitan outskirt where armed actors from different groups are fighting for control. She often dreams that she is being killed. She doesn’t have friends, because she doesn’t trust anybody. But still she says: “I want my neighborhood to be happy”.
Jorge is a former child soldier from Colombia. He was enrolled in an armed group at a young age. They killed his best friend, while he was standing next to him. He says: “I felt so much anger. Others had to pull me back, otherwise I think I wouldn’t have been here”. But the disciplined life within armed groups doesn’t allow anger to be your companion. Nor is there space for sadness or fear. From that day, Jorge was no longer a child. He didn’t have a choice, he had to turn his heart into stone and fight for his survival.
In Colombia, as in many other countries worldwide, armed groups have been fighting for decades. Thousands of children are dealing with the horrific acts of violence, abuse, and neglect that result from it. Generations of children grow up without knowing peace. They never asked for conflict and yet they all bear the scars of those experiences and carry a burden far too heavy for their young shoulders. Ladies and gentlemen, no child should be part of war. Ever.
Sarita and Jorge couldn’t play; they either had to hide or to fight. What would peace look like for them? How do they want to build their future? At this moment we are at the beginning of peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC. Although the outcome remains uncertain, an opportunity has arisen to have the voices of children and young people be heard during these talks. To facilitate this, War Child is starting up a new project that will permit the inclusion of the opinions and ideas of children and young people within the current peace process. Special attention will be given to the perspective of children from indigenous and afro-Colombian communities, because they are most marginalized. We will identify children’s expectations and hear their proposals on what is needed to have sustainable peace within Colombia. Their input will be shared with the people at the negotiation table. In addition, we will organize regional and national conferences to prioritize the issue of inclusion of children and young people within the peace process.
Honored representatives of the Carnegie Wateler Peace Award, thanks to this award and the amount of money that we received, War Child is able to take up this new project with our Colombia team. There have been a number of other peace processes in Colombia which did not result in peace, and in none of them were the voices of children taken into consideration. War Child strongly believes that the participation of children and young people is crucial in building sustainable, lasting peace.
Children often have great solutions that adults do not even think of. Children can bridge matters unhindered by prejudice, pride or beliefs. By involving them and taking them seriously, we empower them to unleash their inner strength and take up leadership roles. This way they can be advocates for their own rights. Participation of children is not only their basic right, but it is also a necessity. A necessity to increase the sustainability of the effects of our programmes and a necessity to contribute to the peaceful development of the communities they live in.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with gratitude, pride and humility that I accept the Carnegie Wateler Peace Award on behalf of all the people who are War Child. War Child now has existed for over 17 years and many people are involved and have been involved over the years. Our work could never be done alone; it is made possible by the great efforts of hundreds of companies, schools, clubs, foundations, and individual donors who support us here in the Netherlands. It was achieved by working together with children and young people, with partner organizations and thanks to our colleagues in conflict areas worldwide. People who are tirelessly working under difficult and risky circumstances. Today, with this award, you honor all these people. I am most grateful to you for that. For us this award is an acknowledgement of the impact of our programs, and an inspiration to continue.
War Child believes that children are our best peace builders. Children like Sarita and Jorge want to discover the world. It’s their nature. They are open and listen to whatever is presented because they cannot act differently, because they have to develop. They have to grow up and want to learn. But if we fail in fulfilling their fundamental rights to protection from violence, to education, to love and support, seeds of anger and fear are planted. And those seeds will grow, perpetuating the cycle of violence.
In order to break this cycle, we have to limit the effects of conflict. War disrupts the life of children. Their development either stops or it continues in a harmful way. By providing psychosocial support, children can rebuild their self-confidence and build positive relationships with other children, their family and their community. By stimulating education, children can also regain a positive outlook. And by protecting them from violence, they can feel safe. This way, children open up again and develop positively. They become change agents – peace agents – able to change their own future and eventually the future of others too. They can develop as balanced and self confident adults who know how to resolve conflicts in a peaceful way.
The children in our projects – in all 16 countries we’ve been active so far – show us over and over again that this is possible. Sarita let go of her fear. She learnt to gain confidence and has now taken up an active role in organizing activities in her community. Jorge had a long way to go in learning how to deal with his emotions. Now he is helping others, by working on projects preventing children from joining armed forces.Your Excellencies, honourable friends and guests, War Child strongly believes that empowering children and young people is crucial in building sustainable, lasting peace. I am very grateful to you for supporting our mission by granting us this Carnegie Wateler Peace Award. Thank you for this great honour. Frederick Douglass, the famous leader of the movement to abolish slavery in the United States, once said: “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” We will. And we would like to thank everybody who joins and supports our mission.
Together we can change the future.