Noble laureates and leaders call for a child-friendly world

New Delhi, Dec 10 (IANS) Deliberating on issues such as child trafficking and child slavery, Nobel laureates and leaders from around the world on Saturday called for the need to build a child-friendly world.

Inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee the first-ever ‘Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit’ at Rashtrapati Bhavan here brought together the collective leadership of around 25 laureates and leaders, and called for urgent action for the world to allow children to enjoy their childhood years unhindered.

Addressing the inaugural session of the two-day summit, Mukherjee said programmes and actions for children have to take centre stage in national policymaking.

He said the disparities in education, health and poverty indicators will have to be eliminated and that education was the strongest weapon in the fight against inequality.

“We have a shared responsibility to reduce the inequalities that harm the underprivileged children. We have a moral obligation towards our children; towards their development and security, and in giving them equal opportunity. Let us commit ourselves to the noble task,” he said.

Mukherjee said that problems of varying degrees afflict children — from bullying at school to cases of sexual harassment, child marriage and trafficking — and quoting Unicef he said that 80 per cent of child deaths occur in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who conceptualised and organised the summit, harped on the importance of the world to act collectively and urgently.

“The forces that exploit children are stronger and we are lagging behind. We have to reach out to them before the fire of war turns our children into ashes.

“We must leave behind a legacy of compassion. The dreams of our children can only be fulfilled by our collective will and strong resolve,” said Satyarthi.

On the occasion, Princess Charlene of Monaco said children have the right to participate in decisions affecting them.

“We should bear in mind that children have a right to be heard and a right to participate in decisions that affect them. We should invest in children, allow them to speak and equip them with the knowledge and understanding of their rights,” said the former Olympian swimmer.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan urged the world to recognise the plight of children in war zones.

“We might ask ourselves why so many refugees, from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia etc, cannot find a safe haven and are being turned away by some of the wealthiest countries of the world.

“We might ask why the Middle East peace process is in standstill and why teenagers from Britain, France, Australia and Middle East are falling prey to the narratives of terrorist groups,” he asked.

Princess Laurentien of The Netherlands, who is also the UN special envoy for literacy and development called for changing the mindset of society towards children.

“So long as we adults don’t see children and young as equal human capital and unbridled assets of our society, we will continue to have our priorities wrong,” she said.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama called for making the 21st century a century of peace and said today’s education was “materialistic”.

The world is facing a lot of troubles, a lot of issues most of which are man-made. Basic human nature is of compassion, so there is hope,” said the Nobel laureate.

–IANS

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