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Open Letter to the World Economic Forum from Countess Albina du Boisrouvray

The Children Are Watching Us: Children Orphaned by the AIDS Crisis Need Our Intervention

Imagine how you would feel, and what you would think if a group of destitute children were seated or standing in every session of this year's World Economic Forum (WEF). They might come from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, silent physical witnesses to how some of the world's most powerful decision makers treat the plight of 200 million vulnerable children worldwide, living on the streets of cities in the developing world -- all scavenging for survival. By the end of this decade, there could be 100 million children orphaned by the AIDS Pandemic, if we take into account the potential uncounted victims in India, China, Russia, and Africa. Another 100 million are street kids -- victims of poverty.

Imagine if they were here, in the flesh, in all the meetings and the hotel lobbies, testifying to the inattention of so many decision makers. You would see their pain and hear their tears. You would have to look into their eyes, and recognize that, for all too many of us, these children are hidden away, invisible, voiceless, and forgotten. AIDS orphans are the latest visible expression and the tip of the iceberg of vulnerable children everywhere, the best illustration of how the poor and voiceless -- deprived of their human rights -- are the most susceptible victims of every plague.

Last year, and in years past, I raised their concerns in Davos -- and was pleased when Senator John Kerry of the United States responded by recognizing the global problem of AIDS orphans, and by acting to increase U.S. aid appropriations for these children. Thus, acknowledging that what he heard in Davos moved him to act in Washington. Thank you Davos!

I am writing you because I am concerned that the issues of children's health and rights are not on the formal agenda even as AIDS will be discussed. Because children are voiceless, we -- the adults of the developed world -- must speak up for their needs.

Will they become a permanent class of unemployed and unemployable people? Will they join armies as child soldiers? Terrorist groups? Fall into barbarism after falling out of a fragile social safety net? Will they fuel more disruption and dislocation in many countries that will never develop to their potential? This is social dynamite and an urgent global public health emergency.

I am writing to move you to action in the name of enlightened self-interest. I intend to raise this issue at the Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly next September for Follow-up to the World Summit for Children. I aim to secure the backing of global civil society by bringing to the hall of the U.N. some 100,000 signatures, weaving a symbolic safety net to pull these children back into their societies.

You cannot discuss economic development without considering the needs of these children. Please discuss their urgent plight at the Forum and act to move governments and the private sector to respect their rights, health and futures as a priority. Join concerned people worldwide in signing my petition. It is also accessible on our web site: www.fxb.org.

100,000 signatures can make a point; 100,000 committed persons can make a difference!

-- Albina du Boisrouvray
President, Association François-Xavier Bagnoud




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