Kailash Satyarthi campaigns for a social protection mechanism for children in low-income countries

The issue is urgent because child labor has increased for the first time in the last two decades in the world, says Nobel laureate

The issue is urgent because child labor has increased for the first time in the last two decades in the world, says Nobel laureate

Nobel laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi will attend the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Durban, South Africa, May 15-20. His trajectory for the future, however, is to build support for an international social protection mechanism for all children and pregnant women in all low-income countries, and he is campaigning vigorously for this among world leaders.

In an interaction with The Hindu in a video call, Mr. Satyarthi clarified his plans. “I work with a number of other lobbyists, not only [Nobel] Peace laureates, but also experts from other disciplines; we demand the establishment of an international social protection mechanism. We have seen in a number of countries, including India, where social protection schemes such as midday meals, conditional cash transfers or MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) are in place, many have been done to address issues, such as child labor or child safety and child trafficking, but also towards the empowerment of women within the family,” he explained.

“During the pandemic situation, we calculated that $53 million per year could provide social protection for all children in all low-income countries, as well as pregnant women,” Satyarthi continued. “It is not serious in the sense that it could be mobilized. We have received good responses from a number of countries in the European Union. Recently, he also met with some senior officials from the White House, USAID, as well as lawmakers, congressmen and senators to mobilize support for such a fund.

This will naturally also be part of his agenda for the Durban conference. The issue of the growing number of working children is of great concern to Mr. Satyarthi. “We know that due to the pandemic, an additional 200 million people are pushed into chronic poverty, according to the World Bank report. In addition, 60 million people will be pushed into acute poverty or chronic poverty due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Their children would certainly be the worst victims and many of them could be forced into child labor and trafficking etc. “, did he declare.

The demand is also simply, at some level, to seek enforcement of existing laws and to invest in education. He underlined that at the grassroots level, children from marginalized sections of low-income countries need rapid, immediate and direct support, which cannot be allocated without mobilizing resources to the global scale.

“Universal social protection programs for children should be on the agenda in the future. Otherwise, I’m afraid to say, as one of the UN Secretary-General’s advocates on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we can’t achieve any of the goals,” Satyarthi insisted. “So we pushed that with several governments, within the G7 and G20 as well. If social protection, centered on marginalized children, figures anywhere in the discussions of these two communities – G7 and G20 – it will be huge.

The problem is “urgent”, he insists, given that there has been an increase in child labor for the first time in the last two decades in the world, and it is very alarming and very concerning. . “It is true that the number had been decreasing for some time, and we celebrate it too. However, it is not only the pandemic that is responsible. We noticed it even before the pandemic as well. We are all committed to eradicate child labor by 2025. This is the only SDG target that must be achieved by 2025. Thus, between 2016 and 2020, the first four years of the announcement of the SDGs, the number rose of 152 million 260 million. And it is really very, very serious,” Mr. Satyarthi added.

Joel C. Hicks