It’s Time To Globalise Compassion, Says Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addresses the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Despite setbacks, he is optimistic that child labour can be abolished. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addresses the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Despite setbacks, he is optimistic that child labour can be abolished. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS

By Fawzia Moodley
Durban, May 16 2022 – A mere 35 billion US dollars per annum – equivalent to 10 days of military spending – would ensure all children in all countries benefit from social protection, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi told the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour.

He said this was a small price to pay considering the catastrophic consequences of the increase in child labour since 2016, after several years of decline in child labour numbers.

An estimated 160 000 million kids are child labourers, and unless there is a drastic reversal, another 9 million are expected to join their ranks.

Satyarthi was among a distinguished group of panellists on setting global priorities for eliminating child labour. The panel included International Labour Organisation(ILO) DG Guy Ryder, South African Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, James Quincey, CEO of Coca Cola,  Alliance 8.7 chairperson Anousheh Karver and European Union Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen.

The panel discussed child labour in the context of decent work deficits and youth employment. It identified pressing global challenges and priorities for the international community.

Satyarthi said the 35 million US dollars was far from a big ask. Nor was the 22 billion US dollars needed to ensure education for all children. He said this was the equivalent of what people in the US spent on tobacco over six days.

Satyarthi said it was a travesty that the G7, the world’s wealthiest countries, had never debated child labour – something he intends to change.

The panellists attributed the increase in child labour to several factors, including lack of political will, lack of interest from rich countries and embedded cultural and economic factors.

Asked how he remained optimistic in light of the dismal picture of growing child labour rates. Satyarthi told IPS that having been in the trenches for 40 years, he had seen and been happy to see a decline in child labour until 2016 – when the problem began escalating again.

“I strongly believe in freedom of human beings. The world will slowly move towards a more compassionate society, sometimes faster, sometimes slower,” he said.

Satyarthi, together with organisations like the ILO, succeeded in putting the issue of child labour on the international agenda. Through his foundation in collaboration with other NGOs, he got the world to take note of this hidden scourge.

He is convinced that child labour will be eliminated despite the recent setbacks.

“I am hopeful because there was no ILO programme when I started 40 years ago. Child labour was not recognised as a problem, but slowly, it is being realised that it’s wrong and evil – even a crime. So, 40 years isn’t a big tenure in the history of human beings. This scourge has been there for centuries.”

Yet he recognises the need for urgency to roll back the escalation of child labour.

“The next ten years are even more important because now we have the means, we have power, technology, and we know the solution. The only thing we need is a strong political will but also social will,” Satyarthi said. “We have to speed it up and bring back the hope. Bring back the optimism. The issue is a priority, and that’s why we are calling on markets to globalise compassion. There are many things to divide us, but there’s one thing we all agree on: the well-being of our children.”

Satyarthi said to meet the SDG deadline of 2025, he and other Nobel laureates and world leaders are pushing hard to ensure that child labour starts declining again.

“We as a group of Nobel laureates and world leaders are working on two fronts. One is a fair share for children on budgetary allocations and policies,” he said.

The group engaged with governments to ensure that children received a fair share of the budget and resources.

Then they are pushing governments on social protection, which he believes in demystifying.

“We have seen in different countries, social protection – helping through school feeding schemes, employment programmes and conditional grant programmes to ensure that children can go to school, with proven success in bringing down child labour.”

The Nobel laureate knocked on the doors of the leaders of wealthy nations.

“I have been talking to leaders of rich countries to address the problem of post-pandemic economic meltdown. We have to work for social protection for marginalised people in low-income countries and focus on children, education, health, and protection. That is not a big investment compared to what we are going to lose – a whole generation.”

Satyarthi said he was heartened by the response to their efforts to motivate governments and the private sector to join the fight against child labour.

“I have been optimistic to say many of the governments and EU leaders are not only listening – they are talking about it. Yesterday only, I was so happy that President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke very explicitly on this issue, and almost everyone was talking about this issue. But it took several months, several years to get there.”

And Satyarthi is not going to stop soon. With the Laureates and Leaders For Children project, he and fellow laureates are determined the world sits up and finds the will to ensure every child can experience a childhood.

IPS UN Bureau Report

This is part of a series of stories published by IPS during the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban. 


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No Climate Transition Without Securing Land Rights

The 15th session of the Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), is taking place in Abidjan Côte d’Ivoire, from 9 to 20 May 2022. The theme: “Land, Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity.” “We are faced with a crucial choice,” Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told participants: “We can either reap the benefits of land restoration now or continue on the disastrous path that has led us to the triple planetary crisis of climate, biodiversity and pollution”

By Alexander Müller and Jes Weigelt
BERLIN, May 16 2022 – The landmark land tenure decision by parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 2019 offers a blueprint for upcoming climate negotiations in Sharm El Sheikh in November.

The ongoing UNCCD COP15 conference in Abidjan (May 9-20) is taking necessary next steps to guide countries on how to embed land rights within national implementation processes.

As the first of the three Rio Conventions (addressing climate, biodiversity and desertification respectively) to explicitly refer to land tenure as a critical enabler for the transition to more sustainable pathways, this meeting could advance the landmark land tenure decision by proposing guidelines to safeguard legitimate land rights, argues Berlin-based think tank TMG Research.

According to the UNCCD’s recently published Global Land Outlook, roughly $44 trillion of economic output (more than half of global GDP) is moderately or highly reliant on natural capital.

Yet this natural resource base is under intense pressure from changing land use patterns and the accelerated impacts of climate change. This already has huge consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable communities, who depend on natural resources for their survival, and even more people will be affected as natural capital dwindles.

Current land restoration efforts, such as the global goal of restoring 1 billion hectares of degraded land or achieving ‘land degradation neutrality’ by 2030, are seen as offering new opportunities to tackle the impacts of climate change while addressing food security needs, creating livelihood opportunities, especially in rural areas, and countering growing land-based conflicts and migration.

But such initiatives need to account for all existing legitimate tenure rights for Indigenous Peoples, smallholder farmers and pastoralists, women and youth, and other vulnerable groups.

Otherwise, restoration efforts and especially large-scale investments will lead to new conflicts, violating the rights of people and risking the success of the planned measure.

The UNCCD is the first of the three ‘Rio Conventions’ to explicitly recognize the importance of safeguarding all forms of legitimate land tenure – especially for women, youth, Indigenous communities, and smallholder farmers and pastoralists – as a prerequisite for the sustainable management of land and other natural resources.

But with land governance enacted at the national and sub-national levels, how can this progressive decision at the global level translate into a governance environment that promotes good land stewardship by strengthening the land rights of vulnerable groups at the local level?

As noted by the Global Land Outlook, “land is the operative link between biodiversity loss and climate change,” but to deliver on global aspirations, restoration must take place “in the right places and at the right scales.”

We therefore welcome the decision to devote a ministerial roundtable at COP15 to the theme of “Rights, Rewards and Responsibilities – the future of land stewardship” and invite TMG to deliver the keynote address.

The relationship between a decision on principles of good governance at global level and action on the ground must acknowledge that “all land stewardship is local.” This means that “localizing” the global land tenure decision requires analyzing the concrete situation on the ground, respecting people’s rights and strengthening the ability of local communities to protect their rights and become actively involved in restoration processes.

This approach is particularly critical for the implementation of global efforts to achieve carbon neutrality and afforestation for carbon offsetting purposes.

Our work with national partners in four African countries points to how the link between legitimate tenure rights and restoration can be made. National governments must incorporate land rights as a starting point in developing restoration agendas, including their UNCCD targets to achieve land degradation neutrality.

We welcome the strong statements made by many countries at the session and the commitment of multilateral agencies to support countries in more explicitly linking land governance and policies to reverse land degradation, desertification and drought. At its heart, this calls for “changing mindsets towards land tenure,” as FAO’s Maria Helena Semedo noted.

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) were designed to do exactly this. Adopted exactly 10 years ago by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the VGGT are “true connectors” of work across the three Rio Conventions, in the words of CFS Vice Chair Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio.

The UNCCD/FAO Technical Guide on implementing the land tenure decision in the context of the VGGT, which TMG helped develop, explains how to reinforce actions at the sub-national and local levels by building on efforts by communities and civil society organizations.

Our ongoing partnership with four African governments shows how responsible land governance can be meaningfully realized from the ground up.

Explore the Human Rights & Land Navigator, launched at UNCCD’s COP15, on May 12th in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. This tool was developed by TMG Research, the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Malawi Human Rights Commission, with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Alexander Müller is Founder & Managing Director, TMG Think Tank for Sustainability, based in Berlin, with a regional office in Nairobi; Jes Weigelt is Head of Programmes, TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

IPS UN Bureau


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Undocumented Migration Puts Pressure on New Chilean Government for Solutions

Lacombe (right), from Haiti, and Ricaela, a Dominican who recently arrived in Chile, pose at the stall where they work for a Chilean entrepreneur at a popular outdoor Sunday market in Arrieta, in Peñalolén, in eastern Santiago. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Lacombe (right), from Haiti, and Ricaela, a Dominican who recently arrived in Chile, pose at the stall where they work for a Chilean entrepreneur at a popular outdoor Sunday market in Arrieta, in Peñalolén, in eastern Santiago. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 16 2022 – The pressure of the influx of migrants, especially Venezuelans, has reached a critical level in northern Chile, and is felt as far as the capital itself, forcing the government that took office in March to create a special interministerial group this month to propose solutions that respect their human rights.

The first problem is that the number of undocumented migrants is unknown, since in recent years thousands have entered the country unregistered, especially through Colchane, a small town in the Andes highlands in the northeast bordering Bolivia.

Jorgelis, a 23-year-old Venezuelan woman, crossed the border into Chile there last December.

“It was the longest 11 days of my entire life,” she told IPS, her face darkening as she remembered the journey from Caracas to Colchane.

Today she sells fruit at a stand on Santiago’s main avenue, Alameda, on the corner of Santa Lucía street outside the subway station, just five blocks from La Moneda palace, seat of the presidency, where leftist President Gabriel Boric, 36, has been governing since Mar. 11.

Jorgelis’ 33-year-old cousin Engelin arrived two months ago “after a 10-day journey that at one point took us though the middle of the desert.

“I left behind two daughters in Venezuela, 15 and five years old,” she said. “That is a very strong pain in my heart.” And she complained about the cold, pointing out that in tropical Caracas the temperature only drops – and much less than in Chile – in December and January.

Engelin lives in a Haitian camp in the municipality of Maipú, on the west side of Santiago, and sells fruit at a stand outside the Metro República subway stop, also on Alameda avenue.

Dubarly Lorvandal, 23, arrived from Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, when he was 18 years old, after studying in high school. He does not have a visa and works at a vegetable stand in an open-air market in Arrieta, in eastern Santiago.

Relaxed entrance policies that were introduced in 2010 and later eliminated turned Chile into a popular destination for Haitians fleeing a cocktail of natural and economic tragedies.

“I worked at the beginning for a month laying cables, but now I’m a papero (potato seller). Everyone loves me at this market,” he says with a smile.

Lacombe also came from Haiti six years ago and works alongside Ricaela, who arrived six months ago from the Dominican Republic. The two undocumented migrants sell vegetables at a stand in the Arrieta market. Lacombe says he is happy.

Jorgelis, Engelin, Dubarly, Lacombe and Ricaela are all part of the long line of at least half a million people waiting to regularize their legal status in Chile, a long narrow country of 19.4 million inhabitants that stretches between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

According to the latest official figures on migration in Chile, from 2020, there were 1,462,103 foreign nationals in the country, including 448,138 migrants from Venezuela, which since 2013 has experienced a massive exodus of more than six million people, a good part of whom are scattered throughout neighboring Latin American countries.

But these statistics do not include migrants who remain undocumented and whose real number the organizations working with immigrants prefer not to divulge.

Venezuelan immigrants Engelin, Jorgelis and Edgar sell fruit at a street stall on Alameda Avenue, near the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Venezuelan immigrants Edgar. Engelin and Jorgelis sell fruit at a street stall on Alameda Avenue, near the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

A shaky ship

“Over the last three years, 90 percent of people entering have come through unauthorized crossings,” said Macarena Rodríguez, chair of the board of directors of the Catholic Jesuit Migrant Service.

“Since 2020 the border has been closed, and before that the government required a visa (acquired in their countries of origin) for Haitians and Venezuelans. When you restrict regular entry, irregular entry increases,” Rodríguez, the head of one of the country’s main immigrant-serving organizations, told IPS.

“There is a huge number of people who are not counted, who have no papers and cannot work (legally). And their children have irregular migratory status. And they pay five times more in rent (on average) for precarious housing,” she said, listing some of the problems faced by undocumented migrants.

Luis Eduardo Thayer, who took office in March as director of the National Migration Service, is part of the new Interministerial Commission expanded to include civil organizations, created on May 6 by the government to seek solutions to a growing social problem that has given rise to expressions of xenophobia.

President Boric stated that the solution must include other countries of origin or transit of migrants, although there are no details yet as to what this eventual participation would look like.

The commission seeks to “address with a sense of urgency and responsibility the challenges and opportunities posed by migration in different territories,” said Minister of the Interior and Public Security Izkia Siches.

The new authorities do not want a repeat of the measures taken by the government of Boric’s right-wing predecessor Sebastián Piñera, which loaded dozens of migrants dressed head-to-toe in white sanitary protective gear onto airplanes and deported them. The widely published photos were aimed at dissuading migrants from coming to Chile and at reassuring worried Chileans.

Thayer said the National Migration Service “is a ship that is now in the process of stabilization and we are taking the necessary internal measures so that we can fulfill our mandate.”

“Today we have almost 500,000 pending applications for visas, renewals, definitive stays, refugee applications and naturalizations,” he said.

The head of migration proposed moving towards “a rational migration policy.”

Workers at the Chevery Bakan, a Venezuelan restaurant in the La Reina district in Santiago, Chile that employs nine Venezuelan immigrants, six of whom have visas. "We all do everything, working in the kitchen or serving customers. And I work hard, I haven't had a vacation for three years," says Yulkidiz Pernia, the Venezuelan owner. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Workers at the Chevery Bakan, a Venezuelan restaurant in the La Reina district in Santiago, Chile that employs nine Venezuelan immigrants, six of whom have visas. “We all do everything, working in the kitchen or serving customers. And I work hard, I haven’t had a vacation for three years,” says Yulkidiz Pernia, the Venezuelan owner. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Pressure cooker

According to Rodríguez, in Chile “today we have a pressure cooker with many people having to take informal jobs or even to rent an identity to sign up for an application and be able to work.

“This situation must be urgently addressed,” she said. “That means recognizing them, identifying them, documenting them, issuing visas, prioritizing the situation of children and pregnant women and thus try to put things in order.”

She also cited “the impact on the communities where these people arrive, where the impression is socially complex. They are described as criminals, generating among the local population the sensation that migration is bad.”

Yulkidiz Pernia, 38, a publicist from Caracas, comes from a different generation of migrants, as she arrived six years ago with her son and got a visa without any problems, “although it took seven months.”

Today she has a restaurant that serves Venezuelan food, Chevery Bakan, which employs nine other Venezuelans, six of whom have legal documents.

“I have not done badly. I miss the rest of my family, uncles and aunts. Several of them have died and we couldn’t be there,” Yulkidiz said. “In Chile I have found a warm welcome. The cases of xenophobia are isolated.”

But the study “Immigrants and Work in Chile”, by the National Center for Migration Studies at the University of Talca, found that 51.1 percent of the migrants surveyed said that being a foreigner has had a negative influence on their labor integration in Chile and 51.4 percent said that at work many people have stereotypes about them and treat them accordingly.

 Dubarly, a Haitian immigrant, lives alone, but he gets together with cousins and other Haitian friends to eat because "it’s hard to get home and have to do everything yourself." At the food market in Santiago, Chile where he works, he is happy because he feels loved and enjoys working as a vendor. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Dubarly, a Haitian immigrant, lives alone, but he gets together with cousins and other Haitian friends to eat because “it’s hard to get home and have to do everything yourself.” At the food market in Santiago, Chile where he works, he is happy because he feels loved and enjoys working as a vendor. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Colchane is no longer Colchane

Colchane, a town with only 1,500 permanent residents, is the gateway for irregular migration from Bolivia, a preferred transit route after arrival through the airports was closed. The town’s mayor, Javier García Choque, fears that the culture of the Aymara indigenous people, the main native group in the area, will disappear due to the exodus of local inhabitants after the massive influx of foreigners.

“Migrants provide data on their identity, but there is no mechanism for verifying whether they are who they say they are,” the mayor said on a visit to Santiago.

According to García Choque “many migrants come with family members, with terminally ill people. They come in search of opportunities. But some people are violent and destroy public spaces or occupy private homes, which has led many to build fences around their yards, which are not typical of Aymara culture.”

“The Aymara people are disappearing, they are vulnerable and we cling to our cultural identity to preserve it. This migratory phenomenon has been disproportionate in quantity and violence,” he said, demanding greater security in his municipality.

“The government’s effort to respect the human rights of migrants is necessary, but it is also important to respect the rights of indigenous peoples,” said the mayor.

Patricia Rojas, of the Venezuelan Association in Chile, admits that migration management under the restrictive law imposed by Piñera “has had a negative impact on peaceful coexistence, especially in the cities and northern regions.

“We all have to make an effort to reverse this, so that the public perception of migration is not the negative one we are currently experiencing, because this will not benefit Chilean society in any way,” she said.

Jaime Tocornal, vicar of the Catholic Social Pastoral in Santiago, told IPS that in Colchane “these poor people arrive hungry and cold, completely disoriented. At an altitude of 3,600 meters they arrive with altitude sickness and hope to cross the border and get to Santiago, only to realize that they still have 1,500 kilometers to go.”

“The situation is dramatic. The landscape is wonderful, like in the rest of the highlands, full of volcanoes and running water up in the mountains. But the water, which might be very beautiful, creates mud that sticks to the shoes of people crossing the streams and they slip and fall when they try to drink the water,” he said.

Twenty-seven people died this year, seven of them between January and March 2022, in their attempt to enter Chile, according to figures from the Chilean office of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Archbishopric of Santiago.

The documentary “Hope Without Borders” says the dead could number in the hundreds in recent years, and “many bodies have been abandoned in different desert or wooded areas crossed by migrants coming from Venezuela to Chile,” often at least partially on foot.

García Choque said that despite the state of emergency decreed by Piñera to bring in the military to control the northern border zone, “the flow of migrants did not cease.”

“It changed the way they came in, but it forced the migrants into situations where it was more complex to rescue them: the coyotes (human traffickers) moved them to remote areas, which put their lives and health at risk,” he said.