After the award ceremony of the 2023 Rafto Prize, the torchlight procession finished with an appeal by Rafto's student leadership, delivered by Sondre Røise and Charlene Atkins. Read the entire speech here:
Dear Rafto Laureate. Dear Defence for Children International Palestine. Dear Khaled and dear Ayed.
The Rafto Prize 2023 is dedicated to children – the most vulnerable members of any society. Today we celebrate Defence for Children International Palestine, and your courageous efforts to promote, and defend, children´s rights in the region.
As we look – often in real-time – at the evolving brutal situation in Gaza we are woefully reminded that the people of Palestine have endured Israeli occupation for decades.
The extensive impact of Israel's military rule on the daily life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is undeniable. It dictates Palestinians´ mobility, employment, education, access to land, electricity, and clean water.
People’s entire lives are effectively held hostage by Israel. This system of control and oppression is categorized as apartheid.
Life, has always been harsh and dangerous for children living in the occupied Palestinian territories.
They have firsthand experience of living through conflict and violence. Many have experienced beatings, arrests, detention, prosecution and imprisonment from a very early age - depriving them of their childhood and basic rights.
By providing judicial services and documenting systematic violations of children's rights- DCIP has -for over 30 years, protected and fought for the rights of children in the region. They have done this in dangerous and precarious situations, often at great risk to themselves.
Since the horrendous atrocities committed by Hamas on the 7th of October - and the following disproportionate Israeli response of punishing all Palestinians for the attacks - the world is witnessing one of its most profound and defining moments in our collective memory.
The indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas using the pretext of wiping out an adversary once and for all, cannot be accepted as a normal military strategy. But, rather must be condemned for what it is: a barbaric, murderous, ruthless, and despicable act.
That lacks the most basic human understanding - we are all humans - we all have basic rights.
Thus, regardless of one's political views, it is vital to agree on fundamental international law.
Because amid these horrific events, we find civilians – we find children. Innocent and defenseless victims of a war they did not choose to be a part of.
A war where civilians are used as targets.
A war where limited access to water, food, electricity, and healthcare is considered a just method.
Bombing civilians and displacing half of the population without providing safe zones or evacuation areas is morally indefensible. Especially when 50 percent of the population are children.
Let us be clear: The collective punishment of civilians is illegal and must stop.
So far, 4 500 children have been killed in the ongoing war. Needless to say, this is 4 500 too many.
Children trapped in the conflict zone are experiencing trauma and abuse that no child should ever endure.
We are witnessing parents - taking the heartbreaking step - of writing names on the arms and legs of their children so that they can be identified if killed.
Children are, without doubt, the biggest victims of war.
Advocating for children's rights is not a divisive issue. It is a matter of humanity.
It is crucial that we in times of war support organizations that tirelessly and continuously work for peace through peaceful methods.
The work of Defense for Children International Palestine has become more important than ever, and will continue to hold immense value in the future.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by nearly every country in the world, strongly emphasizes the protection and welfare of children.
Children do not stop being children when a war breaks out.
Their rights to safety do not cease to exist.
Therefore, we call upon the international community to take all necessary measures to stop the war.
We call on all authorities to enforce and respect children’s rights in compliance with the Child Convention.
We urge the international community to ensure that those violating international law are held accountable.
War crimes can never, and will never, be accepted!
We demand an immediate ceasefire; enough lives taken, enough childhoods stolen!
END. ALL. Violations of children´s rights!