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A World Health Organization (WHO)-United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)-The Lancet Commission report said: Rising inequalities and environmental crises threaten political stability and risk international conflict over access to resources. By 2030, 2·3 billion people are projected to live in fragile or conflict ­affected contexts.

The commission’s report – A future for the world’s children? (www.thelancet.com, published online on February 18, 2020 https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736 (19)32540-1) – has warned: “Climate change, ecological degradation, migrating populations, conflict, pervasive inequalities, and predatory commercial practices threaten the health and future of children in every country,” a new report warned.

Not a single country working to ensure children’s future

The WHO-UNICEF-The Lancet Commission report has found: Not a single country on the planet is properly working to ensure safety, wellbeing, health and suitable environment for their children.

The commission’s report was released on Wednesday.

“Despite dramatic improvements in survival, nutrition, and education over recent decades, today’s children face an uncertain future,” said the report.

The report recalled that successful societies invest in their children’s futures and protect their rights. However, many politicians and governments in the world still do not consider such an investment as a priority.

It said: Even in rich countries, many children, especially in marginalized groups including indigenous people and ethnic minorities still suffer from hunger or live in conditions of total poverty.

The experts based their work on the observation of and recommendations for four key areas: the investment in children’s health and education, greenhouse gases, the issue of “commercial harm” done to children, and the role decision-makers ought to play to protect children.

The report said: “Our children […] stand on the precipice of a climate crisis.”

The report said: Wealthy countries are threatening the future of all the children in the world through carbon pollution.

Unhealthy commodities

The report observed the largely negative impact the commercial sector on the well-being of children in all countries, with companies promoting “addictive or unhealthy commodities,” such as fast food, sugar-­sweetened beverages, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and social media. Companies make huge profits from marketing products directly to children and promoting addictive or unhealthy commodities, all of which are major causes of non-­communicable diseases.

Profit motive

The commission’s report said:

The commercial sector’s profit motive poses many threats to child health and wellbeing, not least the environmental damage unleashed by unregulated industry. Children around the world are enormously exposed to advertising from business, whose marketing techniques exploit their developmental vulnerability and whose products can harm their health and wellbeing. Children’s large and growing online exposure, while bringing benefits in terms of information access and social support, also exposes them to exploitation, as well as to bullying, gambling, and grooming by criminals and sexual abusers.

Industry self-­regulation does not work

The report said:

Industry self-­regulation does not work, and the existing global frameworks are not sufficient.

The commission suggested:

A far stronger and more comprehensive approach to regulation is required.

The commission called for the development of an Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (i.e., an additional component to the treaty that must be independently ratified), to protect children from the marketing of tobacco, alcohol, formula milk, sugar­-sweetened beverages, gambling, and potentially damaging social media, and the inappropriate use of their personal data.

It said:

Countries who have led the way in protecting children from the harms of commercial marketing, supported by civil society, can support a protocol for adoption by the UN General Assembly, providing impetus for further legal and constitutional protections for children at national level.

Many hungry children in rich countries

The report said:

Even in rich countries, many children go hungry or live in conditions of absolute poverty, especially those belong­ing to marginalized social groups — including indigenous populations and ethnic minorities. Too often, the potential of children with developmental disabilities is neglected, restricting their contributions to society. Additionally, many millions of children grow up scarred by war or insecurity, excluded from receiving the most basic health, educational, and developmental services.

Wealthy countries’ GHG emission

It said:

Wealthy countries generally have better child health and development outcomes, but their historic and current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions threaten the lives of all children. The ecological damage unleashed today endan­gers the future of children’s lives on our planet, their only home. As a result, our understanding of progress on child health and wellbeing must give priority to measures of ecological sustainability and equity to ensure we protect all children, including the most vulnerable.

The commission said:

The poorest countries have a long way to go towards supporting their children’s ability to live healthy lives, but wealthier countries threaten the future of all children through carbon pollution, on course to cause runaway climate change and environmental disaster. Not a single country performed well on all three measures of child flourishing, sustainability, and equity.

Except the USA

The report said:

The rights and entitlements of children are enshrined within the CRC ratified by all countries, except the USA.

The report recommended that the CRC adopt a new protocol to protect children from commercial harm.

The report said: The world’s countries agreed in 2015 on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to leave future generations with a cleaner and healthier world. Yet the SDG agenda is so far still paralyzed.

The report’s authors are: Helen Clark, Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Anshu Banerjee, Stefan Peterson, Sarah L Dalglish, Shanthi Ameratunga, Dina Balabanova, Maharaj Kishan Bhan, Zulfiqar A Bhutta, John Borrazzo, Mariam Claeson, Tanya Doherty, Fadi El-Jardali, Asha S George, Angela Gichaga, Lu Gram, David B Hipgrave, Aku Kwamie, Qingyue Meng, Raúl Mercer, Sunita Narain, Jesca Nsungwa-Sabiiti, Adesola O Olumide, David Osrin, Timothy Powell-Jackson, Kumanan Rasanathan, Imran Rasul, Papaarangi Reid, Jennifer Requejo, Sarah S Rohde, Nigel Rollins, Magali Romedenne, Harshpal Singh Sachdev, Rana Saleh, Yusra R Shawar, Jeremy Shiffman, Jonathon Simon, Peter D Sly, Karin Stenberg, Mark Tomlinson, Rajani R Ved and Anthony Costello.

Children at the heart of SDG

The report said:

This Commission presents the case for placing children, aged 0–18 years, at the centre of the SDGs: at the heart of the concept of sustainability and our shared human endeavor. Governments must harness coalitions across sectors to overcome ecological and commercial pressures to ensure children receive their rights and entitlements now and a livable planet in the years to come.

Invest in children’s health

The report said:

“Early investments in children’s health, education, and development have benefits that compound throughout the child’s lifetime, for their future children, and society as a whole. Successful societies invest in their children and protect their rights, as is evident from countries that have done well on health and economic measures over the past few decades.

Long-term vision

The report said:

Decision makers need a long-­term vision. Just as good health and nutrition in the prenatal period and early years lay the foundation for a healthy life course, the learning and social skills we acquire at a young age provide the basis for later development and support a strong national polity and economy. High ­quality services with universal health­care coverage must be a top priority.

It said:

The benefits of investing in children would be enormous, and the costs are not prohibitive: an analysis of the SDGs suggests a financing gap of US$195 per person. To ensure stronger economic and human development, each government must assess how to mobilize funding using instruments that help the poorest pro portion of the population to meet this gap for children, and frame these as the most powerful investments a society can make.

Not just monetary

The report said:

Investments are not just monetary: citizen participation and com­munity action, including the voices of children them­selves, are powerful forces for change that must be mobilized to reach the SDGs. Social movements must play a transformational role in demanding the rights that communities need to care for children and provide for families.

Government’s duty

The report said:

Government has a duty of care and protection across all sectors. Countries that support future generations put a high priority on ensuring all children’s needs are met, by delivering entitlements, such as paid parental leave, free primary health care at the point of delivery, access to healthy — and sufficient amounts of — food, state ­funded or subsidized education, and other social protection measures. These countries make sure children grow up in safe and healthy environments, with clean water and air and safe spaces to play. They respect the equal rights of girls, boys, and those with non­conforming gender identities.

Policy makers in these countries are concerned with the effect of all policies on all children, but especially those in poorer families and marginalized populations, starting by ensuring birth registration so that the govern­ment can provide for children across the life course, and help them to become engaged and productive adult citizens.

It said:

Countries might provide these entitlements in different ways, but their realization is the only pathway for countries to achieve the SDGs for children’s health and wellbeing, and requires decisive and strong public action.

Since threats to child health and wellbeing originate in all sectors, a deliberately multisectoral approach is needed to ensure children and adolescents survive and thrive from the ages of 0–18 years, today and in the future.

Investment in sectors beyond health and education — such as housing, agriculture, energy, and transport — are needed to address the greatest threats to child health and wellbeing.

Political commitment

The report said:

Political commitment at executive level is needed to coordinate across sectors and leverage synergies across the life course, ensuring universal health coverage; good nutrition and food security for all; thoughtful urban planning; safe and affordable housing and transport; clean energy for all; and equitable social welfare policies.

Multisectoral governance might take different forms in each country, but it will require strategic partnerships, cabinet­ level coordination across ministries, and management of diverse partners, with clear roles for each, including for non­-state actors and the private sector.

Heads of state and PMs

The report said:

Heads of state or prime ministers must designate a cross­cutting government ministry or equivalent to ensure joined­ up action and budgeting for pro­-child policies and to demand harmonized assistance from global stakeholders, whose support is currently fragmented and inefficient.

The report suggested to measure: How countries’ GHG emissions are destroying their future.

The commission assessed the feasibility of monitoring countries’ progress through a new child flourishing and futures profile, developed on the basis of survive and thrive SDG indicators reported by 180 countries, territories, and areas, and future threats to children’s wellbeing using the proxy of GHG emissions by country. It complemented the profile with existing measures of economic equity.

Children, hope for the future

It said:

Children and young people are full of energy, ideas, and hope for the future.

Children are angry

It added:

Children are angry at the state of the world. Worldwide, school­children and young people are protesting about environmental threats from fossil fuel economies.

Amplify children’s voices

The commission said:

We must find better ways to amplify their voices and skills for the planet’s sustainable and healthy future. The SDGs require governments to place children at the very centre of their plans to address this crisis.

No time to lose

This Commission said:

We have no time to lose, and no excuses if we fail. A new global movement for child and adolescent health is today an urgent necessity.

It should be mentioned that Dr Bhan of the commission died in January 2020.


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