It’s Time To Globalise Compassion, Says Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addresses the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Despite setbacks, he is optimistic that child labour can be abolished. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addresses the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Despite setbacks, he is optimistic that child labour can be abolished. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS

By Fawzia Moodley
Durban, May 16 2022 – A mere 35 billion US dollars per annum – equivalent to 10 days of military spending – would ensure all children in all countries benefit from social protection, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi told the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour.

He said this was a small price to pay considering the catastrophic consequences of the increase in child labour since 2016, after several years of decline in child labour numbers.

An estimated 160 000 million kids are child labourers, and unless there is a drastic reversal, another 9 million are expected to join their ranks.

Satyarthi was among a distinguished group of panellists on setting global priorities for eliminating child labour. The panel included International Labour Organisation(ILO) DG Guy Ryder, South African Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, James Quincey, CEO of Coca Cola,  Alliance 8.7 chairperson Anousheh Karver and European Union Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen.

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

Satyarthi said the 35 million US dollars was far from a big ask. Nor was the 22 billion US dollars needed to ensure education for all children. He said this was the equivalent of what people in the US spent on tobacco over six days.

Satyarthi said it was a travesty that the G7, the world’s wealthiest countries, had never debated child labour – something he intends to change.

The panellists attributed the increase in child labour to several factors, including lack of political will, lack of interest from rich countries and embedded cultural and economic factors.

Asked how he remained optimistic in light of the dismal picture of growing child labour rates. Satyarthi told IPS that having been in the trenches for 40 years, he had seen and been happy to see a decline in child labour until 2016 – when the problem began escalating again.

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

Satyarthi, together with organisations like the ILO, succeeded in putting the issue of child labour on the international agenda. Through his foundation in collaboration with other NGOs, he got the world to take note of this hidden scourge.

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

“I am hopeful because there was no ILO programme when I started 40 years ago. Child labour was not recognised as a problem, but slowly, it is being realised that it’s wrong and evil – even a crime. So, 40 years isn’t a big tenure in the history of human beings. This scourge has been there for centuries.”

Yet he recognises the need for urgency to roll back the escalation of child labour.

“The next ten years are even more important because now we have the means, we have power, technology, and we know the solution. The only thing we need is a strong political will but also social will,” Satyarthi said. “We have to speed it up and bring back the hope. Bring back the optimism. The issue is a priority, and that’s why we are calling on markets to globalise compassion. There are many things to divide us, but there’s one thing we all agree on: the well-being of our children.”

Satyarthi said to meet the SDG deadline of 2025, he and other Nobel laureates and world leaders are pushing hard to ensure that child labour starts declining again.

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

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

Then they are pushing governments on social protection, which he believes in demystifying.

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

The Nobel laureate knocked on the doors of the leaders of wealthy nations.

“I have been talking to leaders of rich countries to address the problem of post-pandemic economic meltdown. We have to work for social protection for marginalised people in low-income countries and focus on children, education, health, and protection. That is not a big investment compared to what we are going to lose – a whole generation.”

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

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

And Satyarthi is not going to stop soon. With the Laureates and Leaders For Children project, he and fellow laureates are determined the world sits up and finds the will to ensure every child can experience a childhood.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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

 


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No Climate Transition Without Securing Land Rights

The 15th session of the Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), is taking place in Abidjan Côte d’Ivoire, from 9 to 20 May 2022. The theme: “Land, Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity.” “We are faced with a crucial choice,” Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told participants: “We can either reap the benefits of land restoration now or continue on the disastrous path that has led us to the triple planetary crisis of climate, biodiversity and pollution”

By Alexander Müller and Jes Weigelt
BERLIN, May 16 2022 – The landmark land tenure decision by parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 2019 offers a blueprint for upcoming climate negotiations in Sharm El Sheikh in November.

The ongoing UNCCD COP15 conference in Abidjan (May 9-20) is taking necessary next steps to guide countries on how to embed land rights within national implementation processes.

As the first of the three Rio Conventions (addressing climate, biodiversity and desertification respectively) to explicitly refer to land tenure as a critical enabler for the transition to more sustainable pathways, this meeting could advance the landmark land tenure decision by proposing guidelines to safeguard legitimate land rights, argues Berlin-based think tank TMG Research.

According to the UNCCD’s recently published Global Land Outlook, roughly $44 trillion of economic output (more than half of global GDP) is moderately or highly reliant on natural capital.

Yet this natural resource base is under intense pressure from changing land use patterns and the accelerated impacts of climate change. This already has huge consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable communities, who depend on natural resources for their survival, and even more people will be affected as natural capital dwindles.

Current land restoration efforts, such as the global goal of restoring 1 billion hectares of degraded land or achieving ‘land degradation neutrality’ by 2030, are seen as offering new opportunities to tackle the impacts of climate change while addressing food security needs, creating livelihood opportunities, especially in rural areas, and countering growing land-based conflicts and migration.

But such initiatives need to account for all existing legitimate tenure rights for Indigenous Peoples, smallholder farmers and pastoralists, women and youth, and other vulnerable groups.

Otherwise, restoration efforts and especially large-scale investments will lead to new conflicts, violating the rights of people and risking the success of the planned measure.

The UNCCD is the first of the three ‘Rio Conventions’ to explicitly recognize the importance of safeguarding all forms of legitimate land tenure – especially for women, youth, Indigenous communities, and smallholder farmers and pastoralists – as a prerequisite for the sustainable management of land and other natural resources.

But with land governance enacted at the national and sub-national levels, how can this progressive decision at the global level translate into a governance environment that promotes good land stewardship by strengthening the land rights of vulnerable groups at the local level?

As noted by the Global Land Outlook, “land is the operative link between biodiversity loss and climate change,” but to deliver on global aspirations, restoration must take place “in the right places and at the right scales.”

We therefore welcome the decision to devote a ministerial roundtable at COP15 to the theme of “Rights, Rewards and Responsibilities – the future of land stewardship” and invite TMG to deliver the keynote address.

The relationship between a decision on principles of good governance at global level and action on the ground must acknowledge that “all land stewardship is local.” This means that “localizing” the global land tenure decision requires analyzing the concrete situation on the ground, respecting people’s rights and strengthening the ability of local communities to protect their rights and become actively involved in restoration processes.

This approach is particularly critical for the implementation of global efforts to achieve carbon neutrality and afforestation for carbon offsetting purposes.

Our work with national partners in four African countries points to how the link between legitimate tenure rights and restoration can be made. National governments must incorporate land rights as a starting point in developing restoration agendas, including their UNCCD targets to achieve land degradation neutrality.

We welcome the strong statements made by many countries at the session and the commitment of multilateral agencies to support countries in more explicitly linking land governance and policies to reverse land degradation, desertification and drought. At its heart, this calls for “changing mindsets towards land tenure,” as FAO’s Maria Helena Semedo noted.

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) were designed to do exactly this. Adopted exactly 10 years ago by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the VGGT are “true connectors” of work across the three Rio Conventions, in the words of CFS Vice Chair Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio.

The UNCCD/FAO Technical Guide on implementing the land tenure decision in the context of the VGGT, which TMG helped develop, explains how to reinforce actions at the sub-national and local levels by building on efforts by communities and civil society organizations.

Our ongoing partnership with four African governments shows how responsible land governance can be meaningfully realized from the ground up.

Explore the Human Rights & Land Navigator, launched at UNCCD’s COP15, on May 12th in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. This tool was developed by TMG Research, the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Malawi Human Rights Commission, with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Alexander Müller is Founder & Managing Director, TMG Think Tank for Sustainability, based in Berlin, with a regional office in Nairobi; Jes Weigelt is Head of Programmes, TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

IPS UN Bureau

 


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