Laureates and Leaders come together to announce their ‘Will for Children’

The inaugural ‘Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit 2016’ was held at the RashtrapatiBhavan, New Delhi on 10-11 December, 2016. The two-day Summit was inaugurated by the Hon’ble President of India, ShriPranab Mukherjee.

At the Summit, Nobel Laureates and world leaders met for a common and an urgent goal to unite the world through compassion for our children.

Over 300 delegates from various walks of life participated in the Summit – academia, business, human rights, civil society and media. At the end of the Summit, a declaration was shared detailing the joint ‘Will for Children’ from all the eminent participants.

According to an excerpt from the declaration: ‘We will use our voices to protect and amplify the voices of millions of girls, boys and young people- as equal citizens of today and decision makers of tomorrow; We will take actions and experiences towards concrete efforts to ending child labour in all its forms; we will use our voices to increase awareness in society.’ Read the entire ‘Will for Children’ here.

Speaking at the Inaugural session, the Hon’ble President of India, ShriPranab Mukherjee said: “I’d like to congratulate ShriKailashSatyarthi and his organisation for taking this timely and thoughtful initiative. It is disappointing to see children struggling for basic needs, and being caught in child labour, child slavery and other forms of exploitation. I remember MrSatyarthi raised an important point in his Nobel lecture- ‘Children are watching our actions. They are asking us questions’. This day is celebrated every year as the Human Rights Day. I call upon this gathering to assimilate this day’s significance for humanity, in spirit.”

Welcoming the gathering, 2014 Nobel Peace Laureate KailashSatyarthi said: “The idea of a united future has never been more urgently needed than today.”He emphasised, “Let our intellectual and moral might arrive at its rightful conclusion, our children.  We must leave behind a legacy of compassion. The dreams of our children can only be fulfilled by our collective will and strong resolve.”

In a session titled ‘Let us Globalise Compassion for our Children’, His Holiness Dalai Lama (Nobel Peace Laureate, 1989) spoke about the urgent need to come together for peace and sustainability of the planet.

HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco narrated her experiences with marginalised children from across the world and paid tribute to ShriSatyarthi for rescuing more than 85000 children and restoring their childhoods.

Child Participant Imtiyaz Ali, a former child slave rescued by BachpanBachaoAndolan, astounded the gathering with his questions towards the end.  He exclaimed, “We, the children have questions.  And, I bring them to you. How much longer are we to wait?”

The Summit convened by Indian Nobel Peace Laureate KailashSatyarthi, aims to be the platform to channelize the intellectual, moral and political power of the world’s leaders to focus on the greatest challenge of our times: the need to protect and educate every child. Other Laureates and Leaders at the Summit were: HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan; HRH Princess Laurentien of The Netherlands; HE Lorena Castillo de Varela, First Lady of Panama; former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard; OECD  Secretary-General Angel Gurría; Ms Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights; Mr Jeffrey Sachs, Director of Center for Sustainable Development, Earth Institute; and Mr Noriyuki Suzuki, General Secretary, ITUC Asia Pacific, among others.

Some of the Nobel Laureates included HE José Ramos-Horta, former President of Timor-Leste; MdmLeymahGbowee and MdmTawakkol Karman. Nobel Prize-winning organizations included International Labour Organization (represented by HE Mr Gilbert Houngbo), International Committee of the Red Cross (represented by Dr Helen Durham), Médecins Sans Frontières (represented by DrUnni Krishnan Karunakara) and Grameen Bank (represented by MrRatan Kumar Nag).

Elaborating on the Summit’s rationale, MrKailashSatyarthi said: “Two years ago, in Stockholm, I met Laureates of different disciplines and spoke with them about the plight of children in slavery. They were deeply saddened and in disbelief. ‘Is it happening even today, Kailash?’ ‘Are children really being bought and sold for prices lesser than animals?’ The conversation was very emotional. I could sense their compassion and the will to work for children. This compassion is the inspiration behind this Summit.”

The 2-day long Summit saw sessions and plenaries highlighting various aspects of child rights. A Town Hall session moderated by Prannoy Roy, the executive co-chairperson and cofounder of NDTV, had children and young leaders pose questions to the assembled Laureates and leaders. At the culmination of the summit, a march of almost 10,000 children and young people was led by the Laureates & Leaders from the RashtrapatiBhavan to India Gate, which marked the launch of the historical 100 Million for 100 Million campaign.

The Summit acted as a call to urgent action for the world to allow children to enjoy their childhood years unhindered, globally. This was the first-ever event of such scale held on Indian soil.The next Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit will tentatively be held in United Arab Emirates in 2017.