Towards child-centric goals

This is a very important week for the world.

Kailash Satyarthi

This is a very important week for the world. This is the first time that the United Nations General Assembly highlighted children-specific issues. Fifteen years ago, all the world governments finalised the Millennium Development Goals. These goals were finalised to alleviate poverty, starvation, diseases, illiteracy and others. There is atleast some progress in every field. But no goal is completely achieved till now. 

This time, 17 goals have been decided. These include: By the year 2030, elimination of all types of poverty, starvation, riddance from AIDS, TB, malaria and other contagious diseases, Integrated and balanced education, provision of water and hygiene, emphasising renewable and new energy sources, improving the economic development, providing employment for everybody, disparity alleviation, encouraging environmental protection and peace and other goals.

The only reason for which I was invited to address this significant session is not just the Nobel Peace Prize. It is because significant issues related to children, which were being neglected till now, are to be included in the development goals. 

Me, and many of my associated organisations and other social organisations are fighting for these issues. I myself have been raising various issues related to children from the time before framing the Millennium Development Goals to this day, on different platforms. I sincerely believe that without stopping child labour, slavery, child trafficking, and rising violence against children, most of the targets/goals cannot be achieved. Just think, how can we accomplish the school education while almost 17 crore children are working as child labourers in fields-gardens, mines, factories and houses, etc.? Crores of parents of those children who are working as labourers, are forced to be unemployed. Children are very cheap or free labourers. Therefore, while 17 crore children are working as labourers, on the other hand, almost 20 crore youth are unemployed. Out of the six crore children, who have never even seen a school, more than half of them are residing in violence-marred and war-torn regions. Every year, one-and-a-half crore minor girls are married away. Eight-and-a-half crore children who are doing hazardous labour are compelled to get life-threatening diseases. 

For the last two years, we, along with many other organisations, started an agitation to include these issues in the Continuous Development Goals. Nearly six lakh citizens sent their application to the United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon for this purpose. Fortunately, I got the Nobel Peace Prize last year. 

Without losing time, I intensified my mission. I met Shri Moon personally and discussed the subject in detail. His attitude was positive. But to get any issue passed in the United Nations, you need to have support of some influential countries. 

I met the world's most influential personalities like the American President Obama, French President Hollande, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. I even discussed the issue with officers of significant countries like Brazil and India. 

Now I am happy to say that all the children-related issues we have been raising are included in the draft Development Goals that are going to be placed before United Nations on September 25. For the first time in history, it has been accepted that without protecting childhood, sustainable development of mankind is not possible. 

Continuous Development Goals include significant goals like immediate alleviation of modern slavery and all forms of trafficking, eradicating child labour by 2025, to provide quality primary and upper middle education free of cost to all boys and girls by the year 2030, liberating all the children below the age of five years from malnutrition and starvation by the year 2025, stopping child marriages completely and ending all sorts of violence being committed on children. 

The corporate world and non-government organisations should work together to achieve these goals. Till now, child development, protection and rights are divided into various parts and the responsibility to achieve them rests with various organisations, departments and ministries. 

There is a severe deficiency of mutual understanding and responsibility amongst them. My suggestion would be that internationally various organisations of the United Nations and in the same way various ministries and departments of each country should work in tandem. Children-related Development Goals should be given priority and budgetary allocation for education, health and protection should be increased. Foreign development subsidy amount should also be increased in this direction. 

These are excerpts from the address the writer, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, delivered at the UN General Assembly on September 26, 2015

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