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Laureates and leaders for children – Loudest moral voice for child rights

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Exactly 5 years ago came in the Nobel Peace Prize to shine the spotlight on the most marginalized and exploited children of the world who are languishing in child labour, slavery, trafficking, refugee crisis, child marriages, child prostitution, armed conflicts and forced beggary facing unimaginable violence day in day out. The Nobel Peace Prize was conferred to the internationally acclaimed humanitarian Mr. Kailash Satyarthi who is revered as the Father of the Global Child Rights Movement for the work that he has been doing  to reclaim and restore lost childhoods since 1980.

The Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 came in at a time when the world had once again failed its children owing to the parochial Millennium Development Goals that had fallen short of both honesty of purpose and resources to ensure freedom, safety and education of all children. As the loudest global voice in support of the children who have been suppressed, Nobel Peace Laureate Mr. Kailash Satyarthi turned the table around and rallied support from Heads of States and Multilateral International Agencies in support of the most marginalized children. Working in over 140 countries, he succeeded in getting children related goals included in the Sustainable Development Goals that happens to be the blue print for attaining a Just, Fair and Equitable World by 2030 placing People, Peace and Planet at the vertex. Nobel Peace Prize for Children to Mr. Kailash Satyarthi has served to be a shot in the arm for the global civil society to be heard and collaborated with in the best interest of children.

Maintaining that even if one child is not safe in any part of the world, entire humanity is in danger Mr. Kailash Satyarthi launched the first of its kind global initiative Laureates and Leaders for Children back in 2016. The Raison d’être of this platform is to build a sense of urgency, collective responsibility and mobilize a strong moral voice to galvanize political will for the left out children.

With over 152 million child labourers, 263 million children out of school, 10 million children in modern day slavery, 1.2 million children trafficked annually and millions more displaced due to conflict and natural disasters, Mr. Satyarthi brought together the tallest Leaders of the World and Nobel Laureates to catalyze collaboration and partnership between governments, civil society organizations, the academia, the corporations and youth activists to take action for prioritizing children’s well-being in national and international agendas.

In December 2016, the first Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit convened twenty-one Nobel Laureates and World Leaders, along with 400 eminent guests who declared their “Will for Children” – to protect the world’s most vulnerable children at Rashtrapati Bhavan (the Presidential Palace) in New Delhi, India hosted by the then President of India HE Pranab Mukherjee. The Summit concluded with 6,000 youth marching to history’s largest youth-led movement – the 100 Million for 100 Million Campaign – to build a world where every child is free, safe and educated.

The second Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit, convened by HE President Jose Ramos Horta, was held under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein on the historic banks of the Dead Sea in Jordan in March 2018. Building on the 2016 inaugural Summit in New Delhi, these powerful change agents, 21 Nobel Laureates and Leaders as well as leading thinkers, doers and nearly 200 youth hailing from the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, including representatives from the 100 Million Campaign came together to find solutions and inspire the world to act to address the urgent needs and protect the rights of the world’s most vulnerable children.

At the culmination of the 2018 Summit, Laureates and Leaders issued the Dead Sea Declaration that included calls for:

  • Scaling of efforts to eliminate slavery, trafficking and child labour;
  • At least a 10% reduction in global arms spending and investment in achieving all child related UN SDGs;
  • Inclusion of child rights education in national curricula; and
  • A legally binding global convention against online child sexual abuse backed by a Global Task Force against online child pornography, child sexual abuse and child trafficking providing holistic support to victims.

Since the launch of Laureates and Leaders for Children in December 2016 by Nobel Peace Laureate Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, its snowball effect has been felt across the globe:

  • The Government of India announced the ratification of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 182 for the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour and enacted legislation in India against the most hazardous forms of child labour (June 2017).
  • HE the President of Panama committed Panama to be the first country in the region to eradicate child labor (March 2018), a reaffirmation of HE First Lady of Panama’s declaration to rid her country of child labour (December 2016).
  • In the final declaration of the 16th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, Nobel Laureates Ms. Tawakkol Karman, Ms. Rigoberta Menchu Tum, HE Jose Ramos Horta, Ms. Jodi Williams, among others, recognized violence children suffer as a serious global crisis and called on governments to allocate the financial resources to implement the related UN Sustainable Development Goals (February 2017).
  • OECD’s Secretary General Mr. Angel Gurria committed to incorporating the well-being of children into OECD measures and indicators of inclusive growth. At the G20 Summit 2017, he called for the world’s governments to support Laureates and Leaders for Children, reiterating the need for urgent action to end slavery and ensure education for all children (July 2017).
  • Former Prime Minister of Australia HE Julia Gillard and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) pledged to examine the links between child labour, slavery and economic growth in a global study.
  • Since the 100 Million for 100 Million Campaign was formally launched in India at the culmination of the 2016 Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit, the Campaign has grown to 35 countries with young people holding events calling for a world where all children are free, safe and educated.
  • The Bharat Yatra, a 12,000 km march across 22 states in India in the autumn 2017 galvanized public support for strengthening laws against child rape and trafficking resulting in the amendment of India’s Criminal Law stipulating very stringent punishment for child rape. (July 2018).
  • In September 2018, the First Lady of Panama presented the Dead Sea Declaration issued in Jordan at the 2nd Summit to UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres.
  • His Holiness Pope Francis, Chancellor of Germany HE Angela Merkel, HE Erna Solberg the Prime Minister of Norway and HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar, HE President of Argentina pledged their support to the Dead Sea Declaration’s call for a legally binding UN convention against online child sexual abuse, pornography and child trafficking (January 2019).
  • At the call of Nobel Peace Laureate Mr. Kailash Satyarthi within 2 days, 74 Nobel Laureates lent support in writing a joint letter to the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India to defuse escalating tensions. Both the nuclear states had come on the brink of a full-blown war in the last week of February 2019 on account of cross border terrorism that had taken a toll on India’s patience. Had this war happened, the entire progress made thus far in South Asia for protecting peace and well-being of children and their communities would have been undone.
  • In September 2019, at the 17th Nobel Peace Laureates’ Summit in Mexico, Mr. Satyarthi and other Nobel Peace Laureates on the platform Laureates and Leaders for Children made a clarion call to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. Special emphasis was laid on goals related to wellbeing of children – especially with regard to the prohibition of child slavery; promoting youth development and encouraging countries and people around the world to support the victims of sexual violence. The final declaration also called upon all states and national and international actors to protect citizens, and particularly, women and children, from violence.
  • Owing to the impending target of eliminating child labour in all its forms by 2025 for achieving goal 8.7 and strong policy advocacy by Laureates and Leaders for Children, 2021 has been designated as International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. This has once again put the global spotlight on the burgeoning issue of child labour, forced labour, child slavery and trafficking in an endeavor to bring them on national and international agendas with adequate financing and political will.

Laureates and Leaders for Children initiated by Nobel Peace Laureate Mr. Kailash Satyarthi has emerged to be the loudest moral voice that will not fade until all children of this world have inalienable and unfettered right to life, right to freedom, right to health, right to education, safety, right to dignity, right to equality, right to peace and above all the right to be a child!

By Awadhesh Kumar Singh, Child Rights Activist

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