International community urged to meet the urgent need for social protection of children

Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi

Nobel laureates, heads of state, international leaders, survivors of child labour and youth activists hold meeting, call for increased and permanent social protection for children to reverse the growing child rights catastrophe:

Following reports of a global increase in child labour for the first time in decades and less than four years from the UN Sustainable Development Goal deadline to end all child labour, the Fair Share to End Child Labour: Survivors & Leaders On Social Protection event put pressure on the international community to meet the urgent need for social protection for children. A significant increase in social protection investments for the world’s most marginalised children and the establishment of a global social protection fund for low-income countries were among the demands made by speakers to reverse a child rights catastrophe, by high-profile speakers from every continent.

Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, “Moral courage must be demonstrated by world leaders to say YES we have failed our children, that we are responsible. Somebody has to take the responsibility when every day 10,000 children are pushed into child labour and slavery, when the world has become $10 trillion richer. We, as survivors, students, Nobel Laureates, trade unions, will keep knocking on the doors. Now is the time to globalise social protection for our children.”

Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister, Sweden, “An empty school desk is likely to mean a child in child labour. We must keep children in schools and offer adults social protection and decent working conditions to end child labour. And we must focus on the poorest. Sweden will continue to be a major donor of international aid and work to abolish child labour in our supply chains.”  

Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization, “One of the ways that we need to ensure that we move forwards and not backward, is through universal provision of adequate social protection to children and their families. The financial investment involved is absolutely possible and absolutely necessary.”

Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister for International development, Norway “We were supposed to end child labour by 2025 but every day 10,000 are being forced into child labour, not released from it. It is time that we step up and offer them their fair share. There is no way we will eliminate poverty without bringing children back to school, be it from COVID or slavery.”

US Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, “When families have sufficient resources, their children do better, they learn more, they are healthier. A child allowance reduces child labour. We know the solution, we just need the will to take the bold steps to help the most vulnerable children.”

HE Kandia Camara, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Côte d’Ivoire: “We have set up an institutional framework and a national action plan to combat this scourge of child trafficking, exploitation and labour. The issues of poverty in Africa and child trafficking should be addressed diligently and holistically. It is our honour and our human dignity.”

HE Björn Böhning, Permanent State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Germany, “A significant proportion of child labour is in global supply chains. This is one area where governments of industrial countries must act.”

Ninety percent of children in low-income countries live without social protection. Despite hard evidence that social protection can end child labour the amounts afforded to social protection in international aid are extremely lacking. In 2017, aid to social protection represented just 0.0047% of the GNI of the OECD/DAC countries, in stark contrast to social protection forming 40% of government expenditure in EU member states domestic budgets. In a new analysis prepared by Laureates and Leaders for Children, the financing gap to provide an historic universal benefit for every child in every low-income country is $53 billion a year – the equivalent to just two days of last year’s COVID relief spending in G7 countries.

This gap can be met by governments in low-income countries allocating a ringfenced 6% of their domestic budget, and external financing equivalent to just 0.073% of the OECD/DAC countries’ GNI. In addition, contributions from a new global social protection fund, designed to accelerate the implementation of social protection floors and programmes in low-income countries, would provide reliable resources to help maintain them.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC, “Social protection is absolutely fundamental: if parents have it, if it includes vital public services, health, education, childcare, age care – the things that actually allow workers and their families to have hope from themselves and their children then we can make a change. The only challenge we have is to have the richer world build a universal social protection fund.”

Amira el Fadil, Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union, “Child labour is one of the biggest challenges Africa has. The pandemic revealed that already weak social protection systems exist in many countries. We need to work on eliminating the root causes of child labour.”

Martin Chungong, Secretary General, Inter-Parliamentary Union, “We are alarmed by the exponential increase of children in child labour. We as parliamentarians need to institute mechanisms that offer social protection to children.” 

Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, Deputy Director-General, WHO, “We must ensure fair share for our children and their families. This includes urgent action to ensure that they are protected from the catastrophic consequences of paying health services out of their own pockets. WHO joins you in committing to do all we can to eradicate child labour.” 

Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO, “We can end child labour with political resolve, legal measures and global cooperation. With all our partners, we strongly determined to act together to end it.”

Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, “46 million more children may be forced into child labour if they don’t have access to critical social protection and if austerity measures are introduced. We demand fair share for all children and fair share to end child labour.”

The event also heard from powerful survivors of child labour, who now work in countries as diverse as India and South Sudan to prevent other children being forced to work to survive.

Wani Francis, Child Labour Survivor-Advocate and Founder, Street Beats Foundation South Sudan, “At the age of 7, our village was attacked by militia and children were abducted. I was among them and would carry weapons, food and water the whole day. I have been haunted by my past but I knew I would one day do something to help someone not to go through the same ordeal.”

Manan Ansari, Child Labour Survivor-Advocate, Bal Ashram, India, “I will fight to the last bit of my life that no child should lose his or her life in the mines anymore. We all need to stand together to demand a fair share to end child slavery and to get social protection for each and every child.”

Jeffrey Sachs, President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, “It is heartbreaking and disgusting to hear testimonies of children and what they are put through. We must raise financial resources now for children to have education. If they are in school, they are out of mines. We need to go after the money now.”

Kailash Satyarthi will be taking these powerful messages to a Meeting of Heads of State and Government on Jobs and Social Protection for Poverty Eradication on September 28. This is being convened by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, together with the International Labour Organization under the aegis of the Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond Initiative (FfDI).

The event was co-sponsored by the Government of Sweden, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the International Labour Organization. Full speaker list at www.laureatesandleaders.org/unga2021.

More information about the UN Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 event is available at https://www.un.org/en/coronavirus/financing-development

Laureates and Leaders for Children is a movement of visionary leaders across diverse fields of expertise and influence, committed to working together to inspire the international community to globalise compassion for the world’s most vulnerable children. Initially convened by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Laureates and Leaders for Children was formally established in 2016 following commitments and actions taken for the benefit of marginalised children by the Nobel Laureate Class of 2014. Laureates and Leaders has grown its network of Nobel Laureates and world leaders to become an internationally influential platform for the rights of children to be free, safe, and educated, everywhere. Laureates and Leaders is an initiative of the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation US. More information can be found at www.laureatesandleaders.org.

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