JOINT STATEMENT

We, the Laureates and Leaders for Children, call upon the world’s Heads of Government

to demonstrate wise leadership and to urgently care for the impoverished and the

marginalised. Decisions made by our leaders, actions taken by us and the discourses

that ensue in the next few weeks will be crucial. They are going to shape the future of

polity, economy, culture and morality. Development priorities will be recalibrated,

individual freedom, privacy and human rights will be redefined. We must take this

opportunity to transform traditional diplomacy and politics into compassionate politics.

COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities in our world. While this

virus does not differentiate between nationalities, religions or cultures, it is most adversely

impacting those who are already marginalised – the poor, women and girls, daily wage

earners, migrant labourers, indigenous peoples, victims of trafficking and slavery, child

labourers, people on the move (refugees, internally displaced and others), the homeless,

differently abled people, among others. The virus, restrictions placed on the majority of

the world’s population, and the aftermath will have a devasting impact on the most

vulnerable amongst us.

The pandemic’s public health emergency is set to exacerbate the abuse and exploitation

of children. Trapped in homes to escape the virus, children are at greater risk of sexual

abuse (offline and online) and domestic violence. Online child pornography is already

growing, while traffickers are planning to exploit families once lockdowns are lifted.

Beyond the impact of the public health crisis on marginalised communities, the economic

impact is likely to trap more girls and boys in child labour. For example, school closures

during the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, contributed to

spikes in child labour, neglect, sexual abuse and teenage pregnancies.1 The 1997 Asian

financial crisis and the 2009 global economic crisis have shown that more children are

likely to be forced into child labour and trafficking, particularly in countries that have little

or no social protection. As restrictions are lifted in countries, children will be trafficked,

forced out of school and into labour, bearing the burden of sustaining their families. In

addition, the World Bank has found that, for every additional year of secondary school,

the likelihood of marrying before age 18 decreases by five percentage points or more.

With more than 90% of the world’s student population out of school due to school closures

(as of 22 April 2020), child marriage rates are also anticipated to increase.Currently, nearly one in every five children worldwide lives on under $2 a day. The World

Bank announced on April 20th that it estimates COVID-19 will push 40 to 60 million people

into extreme poverty in 2020 The International Labour Organization (ILO) has reported

that tens of millions of informal workers have already become unemployed, with

widespread problems with the food supply in poorer communities across the world.

Governments need to do more to prevent devastating nutrition and health consequence

for the 370 million children missing out on school meals amid school closures. These

compounding factors mean that marginalised children are already going hungry and could

starve.

Over the last several weeks, policy makers released more than US$5 trillion in emergency

support for the companies and people in the richest countries. That funding is needed

and is important, but we also need to see the governments of the world come together

and announce a rescue package for the most marginalised children. If, for once, our

world gave the most marginalised children and their families their fair share – 20% of the

COVID-19 response for the poorest 20% of humanity – the results would be

transformative. One trillion dollars would fund all outstanding UN and charity

COVID-19 appeals, cancel two years of all debt repayments from low-income

countries, and fund two years of the global gap to meet the SDGs on health, water

and sanitation, and education – a vital step, as quality education is the most

powerful way to end exclusion and change the future for marginalised children.

There would still be enough left to fund social protection safety nets which are

crucial in the fight against child labour. More than ten million lives would be saved;

a positive response by humanity to the tragedy of COVID-19. We urge that the

necessary resources be made available through national governments and international

and regional financial institutions.2

We anticipate that the numbers of the most marginalised will grow. We must prevent the

fallout of COVID-19 being borne by the world's children. Poverty and hunger, child labour,

child marriages, child slavery, child trafficking and children on the move will likely increase

during and after COVID-19. We need to ensure that the most marginalised do not fall off

the world's radar. Post-COVID-19, we must strengthen institutional responses to such

future catastrophes, and improve the existing child protection infrastructure. Cash

transfers and ensuring food security for the marginalised, improving hygiene and

sanitation, a robust healthcare system and promoting a free and equitable education

system with free school meals will be critical.

While we acknowledge initial measures taken by the G20, as Laureates and Leaders for

Children, fighting for the most vulnerable children in the world's poorest countries, we call

on leaders of the G20 to take additional action beyond their own borders for those who

urgently need coordinated international aid. We also call on all G20 leaders to honour

existing global health commitments, including quickly working together and with

stakeholders to close the financing gap in the WHO Strategic Preparedness and

Response Plan. The WHO has played a vital role in supporting basic healthcare in lessdeveloped regions of the world. Regional institutions, such as the Organization of

American States, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Economic

Community of West African States, the Arab League and others must also step up in this

space.

All nations must unite in this effort to protect the most vulnerable and globalise

compassion by taking this moment as an opportunity to innovate and develop new,

transformative and sustainable solutions to eradicate child labour, trafficking and slavery,

and ensure education for all. If we do not do this, we will lose a generation of children. If

children are not safeguarded everywhere, then our global response to this crisis and

beyond will have failed everywhere.

In solidarity for all our children,