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Justice for Africa’s Children

We, the Laureates and Leaders for Children from across the world, have come together to demand that world leaders deliver justice for Africa's children. Freedom remains out of reach for millions of Africa’s children, even when the world is wealthier than it has ever been. Humanity is losing its moral compass.


In June 2021, the ILO and UNICEF announced the first shocking increase in the number of child labourers worldwide in two decades, during the first four years of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (2016-2019). Even before the start of the pandemic when the world grew $10 trillion richer, the number of child labourers in the world rose to an appalling 160 million children, over half of which (i.e. 86 million) are in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is the consequence of racial and systemic discrimination against Africa.


The historical and systemic exploitation of Africa is partly to blame but injustices and discrimination perpetrated by our generation are stealing the lives and the futures from millions more children. With the advent of COVID-19, these inequalities have taken on new dimensions and are increasing at a rapid pace, including through the blatant and shameful manifestation in the form of vaccine apartheid. The weight of these inequalities, unfortunately, is borne disproportionately by the poorest and most marginalised children. Moreover, underfunded, under-implemented or selectively enforced policies and programmes mean that already vulnerable groups such as ethnic and religious minorities, rural and agricultural communities, girls, and children on the move are much more likely to be in extreme poverty and child labour. All of this is compounded by corruption and conflict which has a devastating effect on children's rights.


The situation is aggravated by the fact that Africa has the lowest social protection coverage in the world, and functions that were the least covered include access to education, sickness benefits, benefits for children and family, unemployment protection, and pensions benefits.


African countries are among the most resource rich in the world, yet they don’t receive the profits they are due because of a discriminatory global tax system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the world had a common enemy like never before, but instead of uniting humanity with our response, we disproportionately helped businesses and people in richer countries and left the most vulnerable to fend for themselves. We know that only 0.13% of the $12 trillion released as COVID relief globally was allocated to multilateral funding to low-income countries. The rest was largely used to bail out large corporations. The emergency IMF Special Drawing Rights gave $2,000 per European child and $60 per African child. The international community’s continued and institutionalized subjugation of Africa is appalling and must end.


Africa is heading towards its first economic recession in 25 years, as a result of the pandemic. This, along with the lack of access to vaccines, means that adults lose employment and families are pushed into even more severe poverty, forcing children to fill in as exploited and enslaved workers. The immeasurable suffering of our children is set to magnify even further, and we can no longer afford to look the other way.


The good news is that there is a powerful and proven solution, direct social protection for children. We know it works as seen through the examples of Bolsa Familia in Brazil, mid-day meals in India,


and cash transfers in Ghana and Uganda. Universal social protection systems, such as pension programmes in Kenya and Tanzania, and social protection floors can support and strengthen families. Emergency social protection measures to help the poorest families during the COVID-19 pandemic worked where they were put in place. Social protection eliminates extreme poverty and inequality which drives millions into child labour. It has been used for decades and in richer countries is the largest item of government expenditure. Just a tiny fraction, i.e. less than $53 billion, spent in poorer countries annually would extend social protection to all children and pregnant women in low income countries and substantially reduce extreme poverty. The globalisation of social protection is a historic idea whose time has come.


Africa’s children are our children. It is our individual and collective moral obligation to protect them. To end child labour in Africa, we call on the courage, compassion and humanity of all world leaders to:


  1. Ensure direct child benefits to every child in Africa by prioritising domestic budgets and targeted programmes while the international community meets its aid responsibilities through child-focused funding of the UN Secretary General's Global Accelerator on jobs and social protection

  2. Achieve just representation of African countries in global decision making, end discrimination in Special Drawing Rights, and establish fair tax and trade rules with African countries as equal partners

  3. Cancel all debt for low and lower-middle income countries in Africa, hold corrupt leadership or businesses to account, and eliminate vaccine apartheid by temporary waivers of intellectual property rights and access to raw material to counter COVID-induced vulnerabilities in Africa and around the world


We also call on African leaders to empower young people to come forward and claim their voice. They are the most powerful voices for change and the architects of Africa’s future. Together with a strong civil society and a supportive government, youth can be the masters of Africa’s destiny.


Agenda 2030 is heading toward imminent failure if we do not end child labour in Africa. We are, yet again, breaking our promises to our children. As long as Africa’s children are working in fields, mines, shops and homes, they are not in schools. They are forced to work in place of millions of adult jobs thus prolonging intergenerational cycles of poverty and inequality. Africa is a mirror to the world. The realisation of the rights of a girl in a Sub-Saharan African country, who is exploited and abused and denied her right to dream, will be the true assessment of our efforts to achieve the promise to leave no one behind. She is our child. Until every child in Africa is free, none of us are free.


We, Laureates and Leaders for Children, stand with the children, youth, citizens and leaders of Africa to fight for our shared vision and responsibility to give every child in Africa a free, safe, healthy and educated childhood. It is time for justice for all of Africa’s children. It is time to stand with Africa.

Signatories (by alpha order)


Nobel Laureates or Nobel Prize winning organisations

Mr. Houcine Abassi
2015 Nobel Peace Laureate

Dr. Peter Agre
2003 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

Dr. Harvey Alter
2020 Nobel Laureate in Medicine

Prof. Hiroshi Amano
2014 Nobel Laureate in Physics

Amnesty International
1977 Nobel Peace Laureate

HE Óscar Arias Sánchez
1987 Nobel Peace Laureate
Dr. Barry Barish
2017 Nobel Laureate in Physics

Mr. Abdessattar Ben Moussa
2015 Nobel Peace Laureate

Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn
2009 Nobel Laureate in Medicine

Dr. Martin Chalfie
2008 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Mr. Michael Christ
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
1985 Nobel Peace Laureate
Prof. Aaron Ciechanover
2004 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Mdm. Lisa Clark and Philip Jennings
International Peace Bureau
1910 Nobel Peace Laureate
Prof. Mario R. Capecchi
2007 Nobel Laureate in Medicine
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
1989 Nobel Peace Laureate

Dr. Johann Deisenhofer
1988 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

Prof. Peter C. Doherty
1996 Nobel Laureate in Medicine
Mdm. Shirin Ebadi
2003 Nobel Peace Laureate
Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei
2005 Nobel Peace Laureate
Mdm. Beatrice Fihn
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
2017 Nobel Peace Laureate
Prof. Andrew Fire
2006 Nobel Laureate in Medicine

Prof. Joachim Frank
2017 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

Prof. Jerome Friedman
1990 Nobel Laureate in Physics

Mdm. Leymah Gbowee
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate

Prof. Avrem Hershko
2004 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

Prof. Roald Hoffmann
1981 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Prof. Gerard 't Hooft
1999 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Prof. Takaaki Kajita
2015 Nobel Laureate in Physics

Mdm. Tawakkol Karman
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate

Prof. Finn Kydland
2004 Nobel Laureate in Economics

Mdm. Mairead Maguire
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate
Mr. Mohamed Fadhel Mahfoudh 
2015 Nobel Peace Laureate 

Prof. Eric Maskin
2007 Nobel Laureate in Economics

Prof. Edvard Moser
2014 Nobel Laureate in Medicine
Prof. May-Britt Moser
2014 Nobel Laureate in Medicine
Dr. Denis Mukwege
2018 Nobel Peace Laureate
Prof. Yoshinori Ohsumi
2016 Nobel Laureate in Medicine
Prof. Giorgio Parisi
2021 Nobel Laureate in Physics

Prof. Edmund S. Phelps
2006 Nobel Laureate in Economics

Dr. William Phillips
1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Mr. Abdur Rahim Khan
Grameen Bank
2006 Nobel Peace Laureate

HE José Ramos Horta
President of Timor Leste (2007-2012)
1996 Nobel Peace Laureate
Sir Peter Ratcliffe
2019 Nobel Laureate in Medicine
Sir Richard J. Roberts 
1993 Nobel Laureate in Medicine
Mr. Kailash Satyarthi
2014 Nobel Peace Laureate

Prof. Jean-Pierre Sauvage
2016 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

Prof. Susumu Tonegawa
1987 Nobel Laureate in Medicine



HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

HRH Princess Rym Al Ali
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Mdm. Farida Allaghi
former Libyan Ambassador to the EU

HE Salim AlMalik
Director-General, Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

Mr. Abdulaziz Altwaijri
former Director-General, Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

Mata Amritanandamayi 
Spiritual Leader
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
United Nations (2007-2016)
Mdm. Irina Bokova
Director-General, UNESCO (2009-2017)

Mdm. Sharan Burrow
General Secretary, ITUC
Mdm. Lorena Castillo Garcia
First Lady of Panama (2014-2019)

Mr. Hikmet Cetin
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey (1991-1994)
Speaker of the Parliament (1997-1999)

Mr. Martin Chungong
Secretary-General, Inter-Parliamentary Union

Rt. Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008)

HE Emil Constantinescu
President of Romania (1996-2000)

Mr. Richard Curtis
UN SDG Advocate

Mr. David Edwards
General Secretary, Education International

HE Chiril Gaburici
Prime Minister of Moldova (2015)

HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
President of Mauritius (2015-2018)

Mr. Mo Ibrahim
Founder, Mo Ibrahim Foundation

Mr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu
Secretary-General OIC (2004-2014)

HE Dalia Itzik
Interim President of Israel (2007), Speaker of Knesset (2006-2009)

HE Mladen Ivanic
President of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014-2018)

HE Ivo Josipovic
President of Croatia (2010-2015)

Mr. Mats Karlsson
Vice-President of the World Bank (1999-2002)

Mdm. Kerry Kennedy
President, RFK Human Rights

HE Jakaya Kikwete
President of Tanzania (2005-2015)

Mr. Peter Kodjie
General Secretary, All Africa Student Union

HE Jadranka Kosor
Prime Minister of Croatia (2009-2011)

HE Aleksandr Kwasniewski
President of Poland (1995-2005)

HE Zlatko Lagumdzija
Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2001-2002)

Deputy Prime Minister (2012-2015)

HE Stefan Löfven
Prime Minister of Sweden (2014-2021)

HE Moussa Mara
Prime Minister of Mali (2014-2015)

HE Rexhep Meidani
President of Albania (1997-2002)
Mr. Amre Moussa
Secretary-General, Arab League (2001-2011)

Mr. Rovshan Muradov
Secretary-General Nizami Ganjavi International Center

Mr. Narayan Murthy
Founder, Infosys

HE Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister of Malta (2013-2018)

Mr. Francis M. O’Donnell
Former UN Resident Coordinator, Ukraine

HE Djoomart Otorbayev
Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan (2014-2015)

HE Rosen Plevneliev
President of Bulgaria (2012-2017)

Mdm. Hedva Ser
UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador

Mr. Ismail Serageldin
Vice-President, World Bank (1992-2000)
Co-Chair, Nizami Ganjavi International Center

Mr. Gurjit Singh
Former Ambassador to Germany, Indonesia, Ethiopia, ASEAN, and the African Union

HE Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India (2004-2014)

HE Petar Stoyanov
President of Bulgaria (1997-2002)

HE Eka Tkeshelashvili
Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia (2010-2012)

Mdm. Marianna Vardinoyannis
UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador

HE Vaira Vike-Freiberga
President of Latvia (1999-2007)
Co-Chair Nizami Ganjavi International Center

Mdm. Kateryna Yushchenko
First Lady of Ukraine (2005-2010)

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