Millennium Post

For the 568 million children around the world

The future of the world is at stake, when 568 million children around the world live in destitution.  Approximately 1.2 billion people worldwide survive on less than $1.25 (Rs 78). During a meeting of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Board, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Bhagwant Bishnoi said, in rather plain words, that poverty eradication and special attention to the needs of children should be central goals for a post-2015 development agenda. Bishnoi argued that such goals are to ensure that children receive the requisite protection and nourishment to grow.

India’s call to protect children, who are either entangled in poverty, or face child abuse, exploitation and malnutrition, is an important one. Moreover, poverty since childhood is the cause of impoverishment in adulthood. Bishnoi stated that the persisting challenge of inadequate investment in a child’s well being is often exacerbated by economic crises, natural disasters, and armed conflict. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru opined that everything can wait except agriculture, which he deemed crucial for India’s rural economy.  We have to realise that the eradication of child-poverty is another such urgent need, which cannot wait any more.

To gauge the seriousness of the issue, it would be imperative to take note of a few figures. Across the world, child-poverty rates up to the age of 12 are 34 per cent. Between 13 and 18 years it is 13 per cent, whereas above 18 the figure go up to 52 per cent. In developing countries, such as those in sub-Sahara region and South Asia, the percentage of child-poverty is higher than overall poverty. Approximately 30 million children are facing poverty in the world’s richest countries. Children in the poorest families are twice more likely to die before the age of five than children in better off families.

Our representative also added that India is home to 472 million children, which is nearly 20 per cent of the world’s population. He voiced the country’s commitment to the development of every child, ensuring their rights and protection from exploitation. Noble laureate Kailash Satyarthi has contributed substantially to the eradication of child labour. There are many more areas concerning children that need to be taken up on war footing.

The United Nations and all its member nations must commit themselves to uprooting poverty, addressing its root causes and accelerating the process of development by taking immediate and effective measures to eradicate child labour.

For the last 15 years, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been a guiding force on many issues affecting the lives of children, young people and their families. More than little has been done to mitigate child labour, getting more children into schools, reducing extreme poverty, and enhancing access to safe drinking water. The existing MDGs are nearing their target-duration this year.  

The world has a wonderful opportunity to set a course for the next era of sustainable development that is transformative for both the people and planet. The UNICEF, it seems, is firmly committed to make sure that children remain at the centre of the next development agenda. It believes that an equity-based approach is essential to ensure that the most disadvantaged children and their families are fully included in future development process.

The next agenda will need to integrate the three core dimensions of sustainable development - the social, economic, and the environmental, and all people irrespective of where they live. In a post-2015 era, our new development agenda must be responsive to their needs and be especially innovative in tackling the dire risks and uncertainties that a child faces in society. The ever-continuing business, involving the rights, as well as the wellbeing of children must be boldly addressed in the vision document. We must scale up the levels of education and nutrition, besides monitoring these aspects at all levels.
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