By Ricaardoe Di Done
for the World Philosophical Forum“Best Philosophical Ideas Improve Humanity”
Athens, Greece, October 4th-8th, 2010
in support of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy “Philosophy as Inquiry and Way of Life”
If you knew that this was your last day on earth, would you wish you had done some things differently? Would you wish you had hugged your loved ones ever more tightly? Would you have any regrets about lost opportunities or having made seemingly less than ethical decisions? Would you deny the help needed by another?
I dare to hope that you would have no regrets for at least one thing by encouraging you to do something about the plight of our children around the world.
In 1983, after seeing how many children were suffering and after realizing that the law was one thing in theory and another in practice, I founded the Organization for the Protection of Children‟s Rights (OPCR). The main objective of our organization is to make sure that all children of the world have the tools that they so badly need in order to flourish in life. The flexibility of our professionals and the involvement of our international representatives make it so we continue to move forward in the fight for the well-being of ALL children. Let it be said that this is what we cherish the most. It is our main goal.
So it will become clear to you that the reason for my being here today is to talk about the well-being of children. A subject that has been talked about before, and that still needs to be talked about today.
I know that we can generate new ideas. We are starting to learn our four R‟s like children learning their ABC‟s: reduce, reuse, recycle and recover. However, no one has come up with a clever acronym to help prevent the waste of children. We know what needs to be done in developing countries to eliminate poverty. We know what needs to be done in industrialized countries to eliminate psychological impoverishment. Yet, it‟s not happening.
THE PLIGHT OF CHILDREN IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
Most people are anesthetized to the fact that close to 10 million children die every year around the world – that is a thousand (1000) children every hour – twenty four thousand (24 000) by the end of today and another twenty four thousand innocent lives will be lost tomorrow and the day after. It is important to attribute to these statistics the real meaning that they deserve. This means that close to the equivalent of the population of Cyprus disappears every monthi – so many lost chances to make a difference in the world. Where is our sense of moral responsibility when we allow such a tragedy to occur day in and day out? This is the biggest child rights violation of the modern age. What is even more disconcerting is that these deaths are preventable or treatable.
The deaths of children under five (5) years old are overwhelmingly caused by poverty. The loss of these precious little beings, as well as other injustices such as slavery, prostitution, mutilation and exploitation could be avoided if nations learned to collaborate and maintain their responsibilities regarding the agreements they made with the United-Nations. Poverty is a horrible form of violence and the most horrible form of poverty is certainly indifference.
Did you know that ninety nine percent (99%) of these child deaths occur in developing countries? And that sixty percent (60%) of the deaths are taking place in just six (6) countries – India, China, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo. ii
In 2008, forty three percent (43%) of all deaths in children under five were caused by four diseases – pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and AIDS. iii According to World Vision, five low cost prevention and treatment measures could save 6 million children a year. These include providing bed nets for protection against malaria, oral rehydration for diarrhea, exclusive breast-feeding, skilled medical attendants and immunization.iv
THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
The Millennium Development Goals that were agreed on by the world‟s governments in the year 2000, stressed the importance of education for everyone at a primary level, equality between genders, eradication of poverty and illnesses, in addition to the importance of developing a universal partnership for development. It is a pledge for justice and new balance. Every nation should be held accountable for the state of the world because, before we know it, we will all carry the burden put upon our neighbors.
The fourth Millennium Development Goal is aimed at reducing the under-five mortality rate by two thirds before 2015. While some advances have been made in some of the world‟s poorest countries such as Bangladesh, Bolivia, Mongolia, Nepal and a few others, only ten (10) of the sixty seven (67) countries with high child mortality rates are on track to meet the 2015 target.v
Why is this happening? Why are we letting these children down? Why aren‟t we doing what we should to save them? Because there is a lack of political will to put child health at the top of the agenda? Because children do not have a formal political voice? Because there is a financial gap between the funding that is needed and what is received?vi Or is it because of a misuse of those funds?
And I would add, with most respect, that politicians are often influenced by extreme outside pressures.
THE PLIGHT OF CHILDREN IN INDUSTRIALIZED COUNTRIES
And what about the psychological impoverishment of children in industrialized countries? We witness what it is causing in our society and how it is affecting our children: the number of families breaking down keeps increasing, street gangs are getting more and more violent and create havoc, the school drop-out rate is very high, the use of drugs keeps rising, and there is a lack of love and abandonment of children… Many children become runaways and find themselves involved with drugs, street gangs and prostitution, because they lack that sense of belonging at home and they lack an attentive ear.
It is most important to bring back values to solidify families and parents must be involved. Dysfunctional, abusive or negligent homes are what we call „„broken homes‟‟ where there is no adequate supervision and support; where efficient parental role models are inevitably missing.
It is important that parents provide their children with protective factors that safeguard them against becoming involved in situations that can harm them.
A parent’s role is to provide his offspring with “roots” and “wings”. Parents give their children a solid foundation upon which they can develop wings if there is safety and security in the home. A home that is a haven or a sanctuary for its occupants is one that provides a place of warmth, understanding and protection.
In some situations, parents themselves need help to create a stable home and therefore we must reach out to them and provide them with the tools so they can get on the right track and therefore take better care of their children. It is important to maximize the efficiency of parents so that they can equip our youth with everything that it takes in order for them to flourish and prosper.
Young people who are resilient because their parents have created a stable and nurturing home, tend not to be involved in risky behaviors such as underage drinking or drug use, teenage pregnancies and school failure. Unfortunately, so many people fail to recognize this simple fact.
A stable home is a protective factor that will help keep youths out of trouble. The family is one of the most important and solid building blocks that are needed to ensure that teenagers avoid being involved in activities that will only bring them harm.
AND WHAT ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE AND CHILDREN?
A few years ago, I decided to put my energy into creating a manifesto entitled GAIA 2031. GAIA 2031 is an important opinion piece that is to sensitize decision makers and government officials in addition to the different communities of the world to the urgency of developing human and environmental strategies that will preserve the evolution of future generations. It is in the spirit of this important link between children and the environment that I have written this Manifesto.
The objective of Gaia 2031 is to demonstrate the urgency and the necessity to protect our natural resources and to keep children, for today and for tomorrow, in an environment where they can evolve and be healthy.
It encourages a kind of collective awakening since it constitutes the basis of our survival. The different political, scientific and ideological communities must, now more than ever, be united in order to recreate this intergenerational link that we are cutting.
In its State of the World’s Children Report of 2010, UNICEF outlines the five reasons why children are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
First, their stage of physiological and cognitive development…leave them at a heightened risk of exposure to environmental hazards and the potential to be harmed by them. Children are, for instance, more susceptible than adults to the effects of intense ultraviolet radiation, inadequate shelter and indoor air pollution from biomass fuel.
Second, many of the main killers of young children – under nutrition, acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, malaria and other vector-borne diseases – are known to be highly sensitive to climatic conditions.
Third, there is increasing evidence that the world‟s least developed countries are likely to bear the brunt of climate change. These countries have large child populations. In 2008, under-eighteens (18) accounted for forty-seven per cent (47%) of the population in the world‟s forty-nine (49) least developed countries, compared with twenty-one per cent (21%) in the industrialized countries. Many developing countries suffer from poor physical infrastructure and lack systems to cope with such climatic events as drought and flooding.
Fourth, the growing correlation between civil strife and climate change is an area of particular concern for child rights. … (There is) a higher risk of violent conflict as climate change intersects with social, economic and political stresses. For children, this has consequences of psychosocial trauma, recruitment into armed forces, displacement and forced migration, which may in turn lead to family separation and exposure to trafficking and exploitation.
Lastly, the evidence strongly suggests that climate change will make achieving the Millennium Development Goals even more difficult. vii
So here we are, still asking ourselves, how to prevent the waste of children? You know, the great Greek Philosopher Sophocles once said that “It is the task of a good man to help those in misfortune.‟‟ He also asked the question “How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be when there‟s no help in the truth?‟‟.
- The answer resides in our will to act. To act now.
The answer resides in four letters: H-E-L-P
The letter „H‟ for Heart, Hope, Happiness and Humanity.
The letter „E‟ for Education, Equality, Eradication, Engagement, Evolution and most important, „E‟ for no Excuses.
The letter „L‟ for Love, Life and for no Limit.
The letter „P‟ for Peace, Prosperity and for Promise.
Remember, the children of today are the adults of tomorrow. We must do everything in our power to help them succeed in life and that is why we must reach ALL children by giving them what they need to make the right decisions for their future, therefore creating a much healthier society.
All of which leads us to ask: What are we not doing right? Or rather, what is it we are not doing? And what can we do? Obviously, all International Agencies and National Governments are well aware of the deteriorating situation of children worldwide. But even though there has been a SLIGHT improvement in the predicament of children, more must be done.
The problem of child poverty is not a question of insufficient resources, but a lack of political will. If governments of the world would simply respect their international and national pledges, then the most basic needs of children worldwide could be met.
Even though poverty begets ever more poverty in an endless cycle that ends up costing more than the preventive measures that could and should have been implemented. Governments pledge their support and either do not act or are replaced before appropriate measures and projects can be put into action.
WORDS ALONE WILL NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM.
If we want a world where ALL children live in peace and harmony, multinationals & governments must be held accountable for their actions or non-actions regarding promises made when they sign international treaties.
Following the 5th International Conference on the Child (2002) organized by O.P.C.R., we declared that all nations of the world must:
- 1. Focus public policy initiatives and legislation on concrete measures to ensure that parents can provide for the basic needs of their children, an approach which would substantially reduce child poverty.
2. Take all steps necessary to implement and maintain social services which reflect the commitments of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and ensure compliance;
3. Create and enforce social development and welfare standards for minimum levels of education, health, childcare, housing and income;
4. Insure that basic public social services including education, health and social services are not undermined by tax cuts at all levels of government;
5. Ensure that all nations respect their commitment to devote 0.7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) to development assistance.
My dear friends, with all of what has been said here today, again, I ask you this.
If you knew that this was your last day on earth, would you wish you had done some things differently? Would you deny the help needed by another?
Ricaardoe Di Done
Organization for the Protection of Children’s Rights
The World Thinker’s Forum