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FAO Director-General meets Nobel Laureate Satyarthi

“Conflict, hunger, slavery, denial of education, poverty and health are so intermingled, and that makes the lives of millions of people miserable”

Left to right: FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, with Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi accompanied by his wife.

10 February 2016, Rome – Stamping out child labour and assuring food security to mitigate or pre-empt conflict are critical steps needed in the pursuit of global sustainability goals FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi said in a personal meeting in Rome today set up to find ways to draw more attention to possible solutions.

We share many things. Children who are hungry, children who are poor, children who are denied education, who are forced to work as child labors and child slaves are the same children. So these problems are all interrelated”, Sayarthi said following the encounter.

Satyarthi heads the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation to create, implement and advocate child-friendly policies that ensure the holistic development and empowerment of children worldwide.

“Conflict, hunger, slavery, denial of education, poverty and health are so intermingled, and that makes the lives of millions of people miserable,” Satyarthi stressed, noting that the lack of food security compels many children, women and men to leave their homes and become refugees. “The world’s problems and challenges are not localized and not isolated,” he said. “FAO is one of the leading agencies in the UN system and the international community which will have to play a very important role in solving the problem of hungry children.”

The two discussed FAO’s efforts to underscore the reciprocal links between food security and peace in the context of the on-going crisis in Syria, South Sudan and elsewhere. FAO and other partner agencies are collaborating in mitigating the effects of the conflicts on agriculture and food security.

Graziano da Silva said he saw Satyarthi’s Nobel Prize as “more than recognition” of his efforts to combat child labour practices in his native India and beyond. “I consider it as a strong support to the work you do to have a world free from child labour” and a way to focus more attention on the issue.

Following a trip to Brazil, Satyarthi lauded Graziano da Silva for championing the global Zero Hunger challenge as well as for previous work on Brazil’s Bolsa Familia cash transfer program for poorer households. “It not only gave hope to the people but it allowed children to go back to school," he said. 

Joint work to end child labour in agriculture

Born in India in 1954, Satyarthi received the Noble Peace Prize in 2014 in recognition for his lifelong struggle to end child labour and promote children’s access to education and to honour his contributions to the global movement to do the same everywhere.

FAO has a long history of contrasting child labour, a prevalently rural phenomenon. Doing so is a core objective of its Strategic Programme on Rural Poverty Reduction, which seeks to assure the application of appropriate labour standards to rural areas as well as to promote decent employment opportunities in agriculture and rural communities.

FAO also has numerous projects aimed at addressing the root causes of child labour, including through social protection programmes along the lines of Bolsa Familia. It is a vocal champion of school-feeding programs, which provide an incentive for families to send their children to school and encourage them to remain in education.

Satyarthi noted that the nature of agriculture has changed over the past three or four decades and is far more hazardous for children today. “It has become dangerous because of the use of chemicals and other kinds of pesticides and insecticides,” he said.

Across its work areas, FAO is paying increasing attention to child labour issues and ensuring that these are considered in its global mechanisms. I2013, a revised International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management was approved at the 38th Session of the FAO Conference to encourage governments and the pesticide industry to adopt measures to reduce children’s s vulnerability to exposure.