Last week, 17-year-old Gabriel from Brazil participated in the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) in Belgrade, Serbia, between 6 – 11 April. Invited by the Bridge 47 and CIVICUS and supported by our member the Marist Solidarity Network, Child Rights Connect helped to secure connections between these organisations which led to Gabriel participating in the round-table discussion on data, technology and global structures alongside Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the status of human rights defenders.

The theme of ICSW 2019 was “The Power of Union,” and it brought together about 700 civil society leaders to build bridges and strengthen processes in the face of major global challenges.

In his speech, Gabriel asked adults representatives of civil society organizations about the language used in the production of data on childhood and youth, “You are here to build bridges, to walk the streets, to climb stairs, but where are you looking at? What language are you using”, in reference to the distances between the action of organizations and the peripheries.

Gabriel also called for organizations to work more closely and with young people, guaranteeing their right to participation. “It’s not technology we need to connect and impact. Our bodies find many other ways to express themselves and gain the attention that should actually be a right […]. Our bodies and our arts scream. Can you see?”, he asked.

Gabriel was a child speaker during the Day of General Discussion (DGD) 2018 on protecting and empowering children as human rights defenders. During a DGD interactive dialogue with Alejandro Cussianovich (academic) and 17-year-old Camila from Chile, Gabriel spoke about children human rights defenders and freedom of speech and violence in schools.

His participation at the ICSW is a follow-up to his empowerment in the DGD and shows a continuing engagement and commitment to defending human rights.

The participation of the young Marist can be watched in Portuguese from the time of 1:18 on the link (the rest of the dialogue is in English).