On a nippy December morning, a mild fog floated over the road curving towards the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s ceremonial hall. Around a water fountain, women in stiff sarees and men in suits manned the gates. Once the guests entered the hall, there was passionate fire in their words that quickly livened up the winter morning. The Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit is a first-of-its-kind congregation of global leaders to address the cause of children’s rights.
The two-day summit began on Saturday with opening remarks by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi. “India is a land of compassion, love and humility. Today, only and only the cause of children can unite the world and a united future is urgently needed,” said Satyarthi whose powerful efforts through the Bachpan Bachao Andolan have drawn the world's attention towards the problems of child labour, slavery and issues arising from stolen childhoods.
Children are not the ones responsible for war, yet they are the worst affected by violence. They are denied education and die of preventable diseases. It is time that solutions that are bold and transformative are put in place, he said. These include holistic policy for children, science and technology that is substantive and making children the beneficiaries of growth and development. “Moral, political and intellectual voices need to come together and turn the tide in favour of childhood, which is in danger,” he said, urging the potent minds in the room to bend the arc of history in favour of the children. In the spirit of ‘building the legacy we want to leave behind’, the summit took off.
President Pranab Mukherjee then addressed the summit which was attended by the Dalai Lama, Princess Charlene of Monaco, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, Unesco pecial Envoy on Literacy for Development and Jose Ramos-Horta, former president of Timore-Leste and Nobel Peace Laureate.
The President reminded the audience that 10 December is Human Rights Day and it is only education that neutralises disadvantages and equalises opportunities. What is required are pro-active policies that place children’s issues at the centrestage.
"We are all the same," said the Dalai Lama. Asserting that the universality of kindness as a source of mental peace, he pointed out that if man has created violence, it is his responsibility to earn back his peace. “A healthy body and a healthy mind have a cross-connection. The basis of inner peace is warm-heartedness,” he said and hoped that those born in the 21st century strive to make it a century of peace and not strife.
While some children die a slow death due to preventable diseases, others lose their lives to accidents. Princess Charlene of Monaco drew the attention of the audience to the fact that the biggest accidental killer of children is drowning. The World Health Organisation estimated that 372,000 people drowned worldwide in 2012. More than 40 fatalities every hour and more than half the victims are under the age of 25 and children under the age of five are the most affected. In case of a non-fatal drowning, often the victim is left with severe after-effects, in particular neurological. Not just formal and moral education, but life skills need to be imparted to children. She reiterated Mandela’s words on ‘owing our children a bright future’.
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein spoke about the thousands of refugees his country hosts and how a majority of them are children, who are victims of rape, prostitution and are forcible relocated. As of November 2015, UNHCR reported that there are 4,289,994 Syrian "persons of concern" of whom 630,776 are registered as refugees in Jordan. There are about 1.4 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, only 20 percent are living in the Za'atari, Marjeeb al-Fahood, Cyber City and Al-Azraq refugee camps. “There is a deficit of hope and dignity,” he spoke, in a language most people seem to immediately understand.
Kerry Kennedy, president, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Centre, told Firstpost that protecting the dignity and safety of the human rights defenders is important because it motivates others to take up the cause. The Speak Truth To Power curriculum developed by her foundation is based on the UN’s principles of human rights education and taught to millions of students around the world. Using the stories of human rights defenders in an innovative, flexible manner, lessons are designed to fit any subject, teaching students that they too can learn to self-identify as a human rights defender and have a role to play in the global fight for justice.
Amid world leaders like Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia; Gilbert Houngbo, former prime minister of Togo; Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate; Jeffrey Sachs, director, The Earth Institute; Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate; Angel Gurria, secretary-general, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; was a young boy named Imtiyaz Ali. He was trafficked from Bihar at age nine and made to work in a garment factory for Rs 50 a day. After being rescued by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, he said his life has found a goal. If one man’s conviction can change thousands of lives, imagine if each one present in this hall (let alone the country) thought like him, how many lives will be saved? he added.
The summit featured sessions on ‘Circles for Freedom: Lend Voices to our Children’, ‘Children’s Freedom’, ‘Creating Better Lives: Healthy & Educated Children’ and ‘Changing Our Children’s Future: The Ripple Effect’; ‘Building collective wisdom for our children’. These voices that are raised were in favour of humanity, and not for political or economic gain. And, even those millions who have been nearly deafened by roars of violence and injustice are waiting to hear them.
Updated Date: Dec 11, 2016 15:48:37 IST