Opening Anne Frank exhibit in Sao Paolo

Good afternoon everybody,

I am very happy to be here this afternoon in the Centro de Educação Unificado of Paraisópolis. Shortly we will look at the Anne Frank exhibition together. And we can talk a little about her life, and about your lives.

Anne Frank was an ordinary teenage girl, just like you, just like my own daugther not so long ago. Anne died in a concentration camp because she was Jewish. Her diaries were saved, and so her story and her suffering took on a life of their own. Anne became a symbol, reaching out to children all over the world whose rights are violated. Children who are trapped in miserable situations.

For example:

Children who are caught up in war, or even forced to fight as child soldiers.

Or children who are forced to work at a very young age, in harsh conditions. Some of them might even be sold into slavery or forced to work as prostitutes.

Or children living in the favelas who are confronted with violence – domestic or street violence – every day.

I once met a girl from the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, I met her several times. The first time was when she came to my country, where she was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize. She received that prize because of her struggle to overcome violence in the favelas of Rio and to help children like herself go to school. She could not accept that children did not feel safe in their own schools and their own neighbourhoods. Sometimes even in their own homes. She was brave enough to stand up against this injustice. Her name is Mayra Avellar Neves.

I saw her again in New York last year. She was at an event at the United Nations hosted by the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Celso Amorim, together with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and myself. We brought together many other government ministers and asked them all to work hard to stop violence against children. Mayra told these ministers about her life in Brazil and how she had improved the conditions in the favela where she lived. They were impressed. And so was I.

What Anne tells us and what Mayra tells us, too, is that children have rights. That it is wrong to violate those rights. Governments should make sure that children can grow up knowing that their rights will be respected. Brazil and the Netherlands work closely together on improving the human rights situation around the world and in our own countries. I am very happy about that. We owe it to Anne, we owe it to Mayra and we owe it to all the children of the world.

Let’s go see the Anne Frank exhibition now! This exhibition has travelled all over the world. Millions of people have come to see it. And now it is here at Paraisópolis, thanks also to the efforts of the Plataforma Brasil Holanda. The great thing about this exhibition is that young people play a central role. You, like many others before you, will be trained to guide visitors through the exhibition. This makes Anne’s message even more compelling.

I hope that you will be inspired by Anne’s story. And I hope that you will find the courage and strength to improve your own situation and that of other children. Every big change begins with small steps! Let’s talk about how we can make that change happen together.

Thank you.