Athens, 14 September 2020

Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, participated in the two-day virtual Summit of the “Laureates and Leaders for Children” Organization, founded by Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, which was held on Thursday, September 10, 2020.

The aim of the Summit, which was attended by leaders, Nobel laureates, activists and leading international personalities, was to highlight in the most urgent way the rapidly emerging global crisis of children’s rights arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and to find appropriate solutions to confront it.

Among the speakers were: Kailash Satyarthi – 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and head of the initiative,  Stefan Löfven – Prime Minister of Sweden, Henrietta Fore – Executive Director of UNICEF, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – Director-General of the World Health Organization, Gordon Brown – UN Special Envoy for World Education and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (2007-2010), Kerry Kennedy – President of the “Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights”, the Nobel Peace Prize winners His Holiness Dalai Lama, Muhammad Yunus, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Jody Williams, and Graca Machel – wife of Nelson Mandela.

Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis spoke about the challenges that vulnerable children face, who are most affected by the pandemic, specifically poverty, lack of school, child labour and even child marriage. Challenges that are expected to intensify due to the pandemic.

Mrs. Vardinoyannis made a special reference on the need to support the families of children with cancer and children with disabilities:

“I would like to pay special attention on two additionally vulnerable groups: children suffering from serious diseases, like cancer, and children with disabilities. Their health condition is in great risk because of COVID-19. And they are completely dependent on their parents who face so many everyday problems together with the agony of their children’s life. These families must be supported with special care by the States”.

Mrs. Vardinoyannis also referred to the issue of Moria:

“We are all devastated by what we sadly see unfolding in Moria. The refugee camp in the Greek island of Lesvos sends a warning signal to all of us. The camp was burnt by fires caused by refugees, who were found positive in Covid-19 tests, and denied to stay in quarantine. No human being should live under such conditions. And on the other hand, no local community, like that of the island of Lesvos, should be so brutally affected. Neither Greece nor any State can lift this burden alone. Europe and the world community must seek sustainable solutions and pay special attention in the times of the pandemic”.

The Founder of the “Laureates and Leaders for Children” Organization and 2014 Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi said: “The moral commitment and compassion shown by the speakers in this two-day conference has strengthened the call for a fair share of children in pandemic crisis relief measures. The global response has been shamefully unequal, unjust and immoral: our report has revealed that only 0.13% of the $ 8 trillion has been distributed to the most vulnerable. We have no choice but to act, and act now. For our children, their rights, their freedom, their future – their fair share.”

The Summit brought up a comprehensive set of challenges that the children of the world are facing, arising from the devastating economic and social impact of the global pandemic. As mentioned in the Fair Share for Children report, distributed during the Summit, child poverty, out-of-school children, child marriage, child labour and slavery are expected to rise as a direct result of the pandemic. If the future of the most marginalized children is not a priority for governments, millions of lives will be in danger.

Below are some of the speakers’ quotes:

Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden: “I want to see an increase in our coordinated efforts so that we can ensure a fair, sustainable and democratic recovery from this pandemic. I welcome international initiatives and your commitment to protecting the world’s most marginalised and vulnerable children.”

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF: “We need urgent solutions to make this vision of a fair share for children a reality… we must stand behind communities that are struggling to build a better future.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of  the World Health Organization (WHO): “We cannot continue to fail our young global citizens. The post-COVID recovery must have our children as the central focus.”

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (2007-2010): “It is absolutely vital that we recognise that education is the best route out of child trafficking, child labour and child marriage”.

Jose Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): “We call on all countries to ensure that children get their fair share of the global response to the pandemic. You can count on the OECD to support countries to put children at the centre of their social policies.”

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2011: “Our world is in a dire situation. It is my hope and prayer that we can find actions to bring our world closer to end child labour and child slavery.”

Demonstrating the critical nature of the issues and the gravity and expertise of the speakers, over 9.500 people have watched the Summit over two days, including government representatives from over 40 countries.

This 3rd Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit was organised in response to the pandemic and the resulting economic impacts that are exacerbating systemic inequalities and creating an unprecedented child rights crisis.

The Summit concluded by providing a path forward for the world to ensure that an entire generation of children is not lost. A call to action was issued specifically demanding US$1 trillion to address the urgent needs of the world’s 20% most marginalised children and communities. The call to action includes an open call for signatories that will be collected and presented during the United Nations General Assembly later this month.