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Sunday, 9 January, 2000, 22:25 GMT
Children run the world

Child labour Child labour will be at the top of the agenda

By Geraldine Carroll in Bangkok

Forty children from 32 countries are meeting in Bangkok this week in the inaugural session of the Children's Parliament of the World.

The organisation, which is funded mainly by corporate sponsors, will debate issues such as child labour, drug abuse and education on behalf of impoverished children who have no public voice.

The opening session will launch a crusade to ease the suffering of millions of young people who lose their childhood to child labour, pornography and war.

Child delegates between the ages of 12 and 16 will challenge Thai parliamentarians in a special meeting to join their campaign to ostracise those reponsible for forcing children into prostitution and military combat.

Drug abuse

They will also seek to spark a new effort to save millions of the world's children from slipping into the agony of drug abuse.

The young delegates will also hold a debate in the Thai Parliament on a set of resolutions drawn up on behalf of the world's 2.1 billion children which will be sent to governments throughout the world, the United Nations and the international media.

The Children's Parliament of the World was set up last year as a forum for children to speak for themselves about political, social and environmental issues, shaping their lives and future.

Based in Finland, the 46 permanent members from a mix of developed and developing nations are chosen by their embassies in Helsinki.

The parliament meets four times a year, once in a host country and three times over the internet.

Raise public awareness

Its founder and chairman, Jyrki Arolinna, a Finnish entrepreneur, believes that the world's best hope for peace lies in enlisting the spirit and promise of young people around the globe.

He decided to give them the stage to voice their concerns.

Thailand was chosen to host the first Asian session in honour of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest serving monarch who was a noted advocate of children's rights.

In a private ceremony at the Grand Palace on Sunday, Crown Prince Mahavajiralongkorn welcomed the children to Bangkok.

The children's week-long stay in Thailand will include a trip to the northern province of Chiang Mai where delegates will hold rallies with local children to raise public awareness of child rights.

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Children top conference agenda

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