Time to globalize compassion, says Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi — Global Issues

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addresses the 5th World Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Despite setbacks, he is optimistic that child labor can be abolished. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS
  • by Fawzia Moodleydurban)
  • Inter Press Service

He said this was a small price to pay considering the catastrophic consequences of the rise in child labor since 2016, after several years of declines in child labor figures.

An estimated 160 billion children are child labourers, and unless there is drastic change another 9 million are expected to join their ranks.

Satyarthi was among a distinguished group of panelists on setting global priorities to eliminate child labour. The panel included the Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, the Minister of Labor and Employment of South Africa, Thulas Nxesi, James Quincey, CEO of Coca Cola, the president of Alliance 8.7, Anousheh Karver, and the European Union Commissioner, Jutta Urpilainen.

The panel discussed child labor in the context of decent work deficits and youth employment. It identified pressing global challenges and priorities for the international community.

Satyarthi said the US$35 million was far from being in high demand. Nor was the US$22 billion needed to ensure education for all children. He said this was the equivalent of what people in the US spent on tobacco for six days.

Satyarthi said it was a farce that the G7, the world’s richest countries, had never discussed child labour, something he wants to change.

Panelists attributed the rise in child labor to several factors, including a lack of political will, a lack of interest from rich countries, and entrenched cultural and economic factors.

He was asked how he remained optimistic in light of the bleak picture of rising child labor rates. Satyarthi told IPS that after 40 years in the trenches, she had seen and was glad to see a decline in child labor until 2016, when the problem escalated again.

“I strongly believe in the freedom of human beings. The world will slowly move towards a more compassionate society, sometimes faster, sometimes slower,” he said.

Satyarthi, together with organizations such as the ILO, managed to place the issue of child labor on the international agenda. Through his founding and in collaboration with other NGOs, he got the world to take note of this hidden scourge.

He is convinced that child labor will be eliminated despite recent setbacks.

“I am hopeful because there was no ILO program when I started 40 years ago. Child labor was not recognized as a problem, but little by little it is being realized that it is bad and bad, even a crime. So, 40 years not a great permanence in the history of human beings. This scourge has been there for centuries.”

However, it recognizes the urgent need to reverse the escalation of child labour.

“The next ten years are even more important because now we have the means, we have the power, the technology and we know the solution. All we need is strong political will but also social will,” Satyarthi said. “We have to accelerate it and restore hope. Restore optimism. The issue is a priority, and that is why we call on the markets to globalize compassion. There are many things that divide us, but there is one on which we all agree: the welfare of our children.

Satyarthi said that in order to meet the SDG deadline of 2025, he and other Nobel laureates and world leaders are pushing to ensure that child labor begins to decline again.

“We, as a group of Nobel laureates and world leaders, are working on two fronts. One is a fair share for children in budget allocations and policies,” he said, referring to the

The group engaged with governments to ensure children received a fair share of budget and resources.

They are then lobbying governments on social protection, which he believes in demystifying.

“We have seen in different countries, social protection, helping through school feeding schemes, employment programs and conditional grant programs to ensure children can go to school, with proven success in reducing child labour.”

The Nobel prize knocked on the doors of the leaders of the rich nations.

“I have been talking to the leaders of rich countries to address the problem of the post-pandemic economic collapse. We need to work for social protection for marginalized people in low-income countries and focus on children, education, health and protection. That’s not a huge investment compared to what we’re going to lose: an entire generation.”

Satyarthi said he was encouraged by the response to his efforts to motivate governments and the private sector to join the fight against child labour.

“I have been optimistic in saying that many of the EU governments and leaders are not just listening, they are talking about it. Just yesterday, I was so happy that President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke very explicitly on this issue, and almost everyone was talking about this problem. But it took several months, several years to get there.”

And Satyarthi will not stop anytime soon. With the Laureates and Leaders For Children project, he and his fellow laureates are determined that the world sit up and find the will to ensure that every child can experience a childhood.

Report of the UN Office of IPS

This is part of a series of stories published by IPS during the 5th World Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor in Durban.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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