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An Appeal To G-20 Leaders: Invest In Our Children

We need $40 billion to educate every child—your nations collectively spend 50 times that amount on the military.

07/07/2017 9:36 AM IST | Updated 07/07/2017 9:36 AM IST
Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

You must invest more time, energy and capital on our true inheritors: the children of this world.

There is little doubt that the world we inhabit faces momentous challenges. There is no doubt whatsoever that you, representing the 20 most populous and powerful nations, have the power and can display the purpose to craft meaningful solutions. I am sure all of you are keen to work towards a better world where our most precious and valuable assets, our children, enjoy the freedom to chase their dreams. I strongly urge you not to forget children and the legacy we are leaving behind for them even as we wrestle with geopolitics.

No country or community can lay exclusive claim to children. They are a shared global responsibility and legacy in the making.

More than the meek, it is the children who will inherit the earth. No country or community can lay exclusive claim to children. They are a shared global responsibility and legacy in the making. It is children who will bear testimony if our efforts directed at sustainable growth have succeeded or not. Let us not let them down.

About two years ago, in Stockholm, I met Laureates of different disciplines and spoke with them about the plight of children in slavery. They were deeply saddened and in disbelief. "Is it happening even today, Kailash? Are children really being bought and sold for prices lower than for animals?" The conversation was very emotional. I could sense their compassion and the will to work for children. You, our leaders, too need to muster the same will and compassion.

Even as you gather in Hamburg, let me remind you that more than 5.5 million children are still living as modern-day slaves. What else can be more disgraceful and what else can be a more momentous challenge for global leaders? There is more to be ashamed of and to reawaken our collective conscience. More than 60 million children of primary school age are still denied their fundamental right of access to education and close to 170 million are still forced to work as child labour. How can this planet have a better future if the future of these children remains blighted?

Civil wars, interminable conflicts and natural as well as manmade disasters have made life a living hell for tens of millions of children, not to speak of the millions who have perished. According to a recent UNICEF report, about 50 million children have become refugees because of violence and conflict. Almost half of them come from Syria and Afghanistan. The number of refugee children has doubled in the last one decade. This has encouraged criminal gangs to indulge in child trafficking and slavery with even more impunity. More than half a million children are being trafficked and sold as sex slaves or bonded labour every year. There is a deeply disturbing trend of children being forced into conflict as combatants, suicide bombers and human shields. This reflects a complete disregard for basic tenets of humanity.

You know well that education is the magic wand for children. If we genuinely believe in equality and in globalisation of compassion, every child must get access to education.

This has to stop. We, who have been raising our voices against abuse and exploitation of children and demanding access to education for them for decades, have achieved a lot. Just a few months ago, the World Summit of Peace Laureates was organised in Bogota, Colombia. One of our collective declarations was to: "Call on all sectors to advance concerted action to end human trafficking, modern day slavery, sexual exploitation, child labour and violence in all its forms against women and children." About seven months ago, a global meeting of Laureates & Leaders organized in Delhi, India led to the drafting of the Will For Children. Two years ago, in a historic move, the United Nations included an agenda for children while mapping the 17 Sustainable Goals of Development to be achieved by 2030. More than 180 member countries of the International Labour Organisation have ratified the convention 182 which prohibits the worst forms of child labour.

We have collectively achieved much. But much more needs to be done. If every child must get access to education by 2030, we have to completely eradicate child slavery and trafficking. I constantly dream that ours will be the last generation to witness child slavery and labour. Our children, and our collective future, need your intervention. The time is now. Right now.

Educated children create richer nations which are also healthier. Paying obeisance at the altar of GDP also demands universal education for children.

You know well that education is the magic wand for children. If we genuinely believe in equality and in globalisation of compassion, every child must get access to education. It is our moral commandment. You know how education can magically alter economic outcomes in this age of information and the internet. Educated children create richer nations which are also healthier. Paying obeisance at the altar of GDP also demands universal education for children.

And do ponder over this: Just about $40 billion is needed to ensure every child in this world gets access to education. The 20 nations that you represent spend 50 times that amount every year on the military.

An Appeal To G-20 Leaders: Invest In Our Children

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