By Nita Bhalla
NEW DELHI, Dec 11 – Royalty, presidents, prime ministers and spiritual leaders joined hands with Nobel peace prize winners on Saturday in the fight for child rights, saying they wanted to “globalise compassion for children” in a world which has forgotten to care.
Despite greater wealth across the world, millions of children still languish in poverty and are trafficked, exploited, forced to flee their homes due to conflict and denied basic rights, including an education.
Speaking at a summit in Delhi, prominent figures including Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Tibetan Spiritual Leader the Dalai Lama, Princess Charlene of Monaco, former President of East Timor Jose Ramos-Horta, said it was time to speak with one voice for the rights of children.
“The world is facing many problems. We humans have created these problems, and it is only we who can solve them. We can’t blame Buddha, or God or Jesus for the problems faced by our children,” the Dalai Lama told delegates at the two-day event.
“This can only come from compassion, from ending all the violence which we have seen in the 20th century. The 21st century has to be the century of peace.”
According to the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, children continue to live – and die – in unconscionable conditions. In 2015, an estimated 5.9 million children died before reaching age 5, mostly as a result of preventable and treatable diseases.
Millions more children are still denied access to education simply because their parents are poor or from a stigmatized group, because they were born female, or because they are growing up in countries affected by conflict or chronic crises.
Even though poverty is falling globally, nearly half of the world’s extreme poor are children, and many more experience multiple dimensions of poverty in their lives, adds UNICEF.
Indian child rights activist and laureate Kailash Satyarthi said he organised the summit, bringing together 250 leaders and laureates from politics, corporates, civil society, academia and the judiciary, to harness their voices to advocate on one single platform for children.
He told delegates that while progress has been made in decreasing the number of child labourers and increasing the number of children in school over the last decade, it was not enough as millions of children continued to be exploited.
“You are the strongest moral voices we have in the world today and together we will turn the tide in favour of the most marginalised children. Let us build a legacy together,” Satyarthi said.
“We need solutions that are bold and transformative. We need new partnerships that are innovative and inclusive. We need new resources that are sustainable, and fundamentally, we need a new resolve that would be the will for children.”
Participants included Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Holland’s Princess Laurentien, Australia’s former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Yemeni human rights activist and laureate Tawakkol Karman and Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development.
The summit will end on Sunday with delegates expected to come up with an action-based declaration on what they will do in their own countries and across the world to push policy, funds and solutions towards ending violations against children.