Protecting children is the key to sustainability


The United Nations, heads of governments, and all concerned stakeholders must reinvigorate their commitment to the 2030 Agenda, and particularly those goals concerning children. That means embracing four priorities.

On September 24-25, world leaders will attend a United Nations summit in New York to review progress toward the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This will be the first UN summit on the SDGs since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in September 2015. Since then, we have collectively made progress toward a more peaceful, safer, healthier, and more prosperous world. Sadly, however, we are currently on track to miss most of the SDGs and targets related to children – without which the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda can remain only a distant dream.

Today, some 50 million children worldwide are without safe shelter because of the migrant and refugee crisis. Around 152 million children are laborers. Some 262 million children and youth do not attend school. Almost 428 million children under the age of ten live in poverty. These are not mere numbers. These are our children, and they are human beings.Simply continuing with current efforts will not improve these numbers significantly. To get the 2030 Agenda back on track, world leaders must be honest, bold, responsible, and compassionate, and their governments and organizations must invest adequately in our children. After often-lackluster global efforts to meet many of the UN’s earlier Millennium Development Goals, particularly those concerning children, poverty, and education, a lot of hopes are resting on the SDGs. Many campaigners, including me, worked hard to include SDG 8.7 (which aims to end child labor in all its forms by 2025) and other child-related goals in the 2030 Agenda.But if current trends hold, there will still be 121 million child laborers in 2025. In 2030, 225 million children and youth will not be going to school, and 6% of the world’s population will still be living in extreme poverty. That would mean the world fails to achieve SDG 8.7, SDG 1 (no poverty), and SDG 4 (quality education), leaving millions of children vulnerable to unimaginable violence and exploitation. And each lost childhood will represent a missed opportunity for humankind.

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