Episode 6: Children at the centre: looking overseas

‘Never again’ were words that echoed around the world in the wake of the Second World War. Organisations were formed with the explicit aim of respecting and promoting international cooperation, aid and development. Only a few decades later, we have seen the first increase in poverty for a generation. Why? And why does inequality, conflict, and the impact of natural disasters still have such a disproportionate impact on children, especially those forced to leave the countries they call home? 

Kevin Watkins has spent his career speaking up for marginalised people in some of the world’s poorest countries. As a former CEO of Save the Children UK, and now as a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, he gives a scathing assessment of global leadership and calls for a return to the ideals of mutual responsibility to deliver a better and more sustainable future. But there’s also cause for hope as young people find their voice, organise across borders, and speak truth to power in greater numbers.

In an excerpt from The Wait podcast, we also hear what it’s like for child refugees like Marzia Yosufi and Sara Rezaei. Now young women, they have spent years marking time in Indonesia, waiting for a chance to be resettled and to be able to continue their education, and their childhood. This excerpt contains references to suicide, so please listen with care.

With thanks to: Kevin Watkins, Marzia Yosufi, Sara Rezaei. 

Guest: Kevin Watkins: Visiting Professor, The London School of Economics

Kevin Watkins is visiting professor of practice at the Firiz Lalji Institute for Africa at the London School of Economics. Until recently, he was CEO at Save the Children UK. Before that, Kevin was the executive director of the Overseas Development Institute in London. 

Read more

Kevin worked in the UN for several years, as director and lead author first of the Human Development Report and then the UN’s flagship report on education. Before the UN he  spent 12 years at Oxfam, leading the organisation’s research and advocacy work on debt, education and trade. Apart from UN reports, Kevin has written a couple of books (for Oxfam on education and trade), and he writes regularly for UK and international media.

 

Guest: Marzia Yosufi, Hazara refugee

Marzia Yosufi is an 18 year old Hazara refugee who has been living in Indonesia since she was 10. She would love to study, work hard, and make her parents proud.

Episode 6 Transcript

Life’s Lottery series 2  Episode 6: International perspectives 

Jeni Whalan: Hello and welcome again to LL – a podcast from the Paul Ramsay Foundation, produced on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people. I’m Jeni Whalan. 

Glyn Davis: And I’m Glyn Davis. Today we’re looking beyond our borders to how children are faring internationally. Enormous improvements have been made to children’s lives in the last century. But despite progress through international cooperation and development, inequality, conflict, and natural disasters are still a constant in many children’s lives.

Jeni Whalan: In this episode, we’ll hear from Kevin Watkins, who has spent his career speaking up for some of the most vulnerable. Kevin is a former CEO of Save the Children UK, and is now a visiting professor at the London School of Economics.

Kevin Watkins: I think if you stand back, you can see different things going on. On some dimensions of progress, we’ve never had it so good. We’ve seen extraordinary reductions in extreme child poverty over the last 20 years. We’ve seen unprecedented gains in child survival. I mean, to give you one figure back in 2000, around 10 million children died every single year before their fifth birthday. Almost all of them from diseases, which could be relatively easily prevented through immunisation or treated through basic health care. That number has more than halved over the last 20 years. We’ve seen progress in nutrition. There are more children in school than ever before, and yet you just have to turn on the TV and to see the appalling things that are playing out in Ukraine. These attacks on children, you know, in the year 2022 the world is committing these appalling crimes, violating the Geneva Conventions with total impunity.  You can look at progress in two ways. You can either say things are moving in a positive direction – as I’ve already said, they are in so many areas – or you can think of progress as a reflection on the gap between where we are and where we could be.

You know, is it really acceptable that every single year we lose over 800,000 children through pneumonia, childhood pneumonia, a disease that could be prevented with medicines that cost 20 or 30 cents with a little bit of medical oxygen? We allow this to go on. It’s hardly even on the international health agenda. Because of COVID, we’re seeing child poverty increase, child malnutrition increase. We’ve had the biggest reversal in education in history. And let’s be honest, the political leaders of the rich world have sat on their hands. They’ve looked after their own backyard. They’ve torn up the rule books on fiscal policy and monetary policy. They’ve directed about a quarter of their GDP to protecting their citizens against recovery while turning their back on children in the poorest countries in the world. So that’s a pretty shameful record. And I think the great challenge that we face and let’s be honest – it’s children who are leading this challenge – is to call on political leaders to act on the principles that they pitch up three or four times a year at the UN to say they believe in about making the world a better place for children, about international cooperation and multilateralism. And instead of just talking the talk, children are calling on them to walk the walk. 

Glyn Davis: So there’s so much to explore in that. Can we pick up your point about COVID in particular? Can you say a bit about that response? And in a sense, what’s the gap? What’s the opportunity missed? What should we have done that wasn’t done?

Kevin Watkins: Well, Glyn, maybe let me start with a quick reflection on a response to a previous world crisis in 1944, while the war in Europe actually was still going on. It was about three weeks after the landings in Normandy on D-Day. Political leaders gathered in Bretton Woods in the United States to build the institutions to address what they saw as the great crisis of their day. And that crisis had emerged out of the Great Depression and mass unemployment and poverty. And they basically met in Bretton Woods, and the two words that were used over and over again by the delegates was never again. We will never allow this to happen again. We have a responsibility above all to future generations of children to stop this happening. And these were some of the great thinkers of the time. John Maynard Keynes, who led the British delegation, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was very heavily involved on the US side. And what followed was an extraordinary episode in international cooperation, out of which emerged not only the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and the instruments of financial and monetary cooperation, but what became the UN system with all of its agencies. And the principle that underpinned the agreement that came out of Bretton Woods was that prosperity and peace were actually indivisible. That either you gave everybody a stake or it would come back to bite you. And even the richest countries in the world would be unable to protect themselves from the impact of social and economic collapse and disruption. And that was actually the lesson that they took out of the interwar period. 

Now, if you look at the response to COVID-19, it’s a pretty shocking record. This is a crisis in which rich countries hoarded systematically the vaccines that could have prevented tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of deaths in Latin America, in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. That’s an extraordinary abuse of power. We have had pharmaceutical companies who are using their technology and their knowledge not to improve the human condition, not to protect vulnerable people in poor countries, but to make windfall profits at the public expense. We’ve had the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund doing their best with their available resources to make a difference, but actually being prevented from doing what they could have done by their major shareholders, the European governments and the United States, who essentially call the shots on what they do and what they don’t do.

You know, all of the things that these amazing institutions that were created out of Bretton Woods could have done, they could have done for poor countries what the Treasuries and the banking systems of rich countries did for the more prosperous part of the world. They could have written off large chunks of the debts which are actually unpayable and which could have been converted into investments in children, in nutrition and education.  

And as a consequence of the failure of institutions to respond to the crisis, we’ve seen the first increase in poverty for a generation. Most of that increase, by the way, will happen amongst children because it’s in countries where the children dominate the population. We’ve seen an historically unprecedented reversal in education. We’re seeing very distressing evidence of child mortality numbers starting to go up. This is not a crisis where you get it wrong today and you correct it tomorrow. You know, when children go back to school and they’re hungry and their families are in poverty. And the school systems are being hollowed out by budget cuts because governments having to repay foreign creditors, that affects the destiny of nations. You know, it means that tens of thousands of young girls face the risk, because of poverty, of being pulled out of school and pushed into early marriage. You know, it means that tens of millions of children could end up in labour markets rather than in classrooms. So I would say this is arguably the greatest systemic failure of our generation. All of us collectively need to get back to rekindling the spirit that gripped the world back in 1944.

Jeni Whalan: There’s such an interesting tension and an almost dichotomy in what you’re describing there between progress on the one hand and failure and the capacity of international cooperation to drive progress when it works and when it is fragmenting and fracturing the result of failure. Is there anything coming out of the response to COVID that looks new or gives us any sense of hope that there might be a different kind of vision?

Kevin Watkins: I think there is cause for hope, and a lot of that actually comes from civil society and from young people. When I was working at Save the Children, one of the organisations that I was involved with was called Every Breath Counts, and it’s an organisation that was actually created to bring together governments, private sector actors, the research community to tackle one of the great challenges that I mentioned earlier, which was childhood pneumonia. Now, as a result of COVID-19, I think everybody understands that medical oxygen actually matters in health systems, and large swathes of the world have absolutely no access to medical oxygen. And this is a vital, vital medicine for so many diseases and for so many treatments. And the Every Breath Counts coalition has been able to respond to the pandemic by getting that issue on the agenda. This is an issue which is a window on wider inequalities and wider injustices in health systems. 

There’s a very simple reason almost one million children die every year from pneumonia. And that reason is that the vast majority of them are poor. It’s a really good example actually of when you bring together, as we tried to do through that coalition, political leaders in countries where pneumonia is the biggest killer of children, with great researchers, with activists and with people in the corporate community who want to make a difference, change can happen. I think the great lesson from child activists, you know, whether it’s on climate change or public health issues or anti child marriage issues, or so many other issues is that you don’t give up. They don’t give up. We can’t give up and we have to act in solidarity. This is an age in history where solidarity really does matter.

Glyn Davis: During your many years, advising international leaders, including Gordon Brown, on these issues, you must have often reflected on why it is so difficult to forge a collective, unified vision for putting children at the centre of international aid and development. Where has your thinking landed about the challenges and the causes of those systemic difficulties?

Kevin Watkins: There’s always a temptation when you look at a problem to say, let’s create a new institution to deal with this problem. We have the institutions, we have the financial resources. And what is often lacking is political leadership. But political leadership itself is partly a function of public pressure. And I mean, maybe Glyn, to take one of the issues that I’ve worked on a lot over the years, which is education and what got me very engaged in education was actually a very early trip I did to Zambia. And this is way back in the 1990s, actually. And Zambia was in the grip of a famine. It was undergoing a World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programmes. And this was back in the day when those programmes provided a form of medicine that were very likely to kill the patient, which they did in many countries across the world. And I vividly remember going to villages and to slum areas thinking that I was going to be talking to families and children about the very serious food problems that they were facing the difficulties in agricultural markets. But everybody was so gripped by education. Mothers who couldn’t send their children to school, children who were going to work in the mornings in order to try and make a few pennies so that they could pay to go to school in the afternoon. And it’s honestly one of the most humbling, repeatedly humbling experiences that I’ve had to, you know, to speak to people at the sharp end of the education crisis about why education matters to them.

If there’s one really brief anecdote I could share with you. A few years ago, I was in Uganda when the crisis was happening in South Sudan, and many thousands of people were fleeing as refugees from the government in South Sudan, crossing the border into Uganda. And I visited one of our Save the Children schools there, just a tent with a few chairs and not not much else.

And I noticed in the back of the tent there was a young boy about 14 years old. His name was Simon, and he had a torn T-shirt, a pair of shorts and no shoes. But he had a science book and he was actually the only child in the classroom with a science book. And I asked him, How come he had the science book? And he told me this story, which almost brings tears to my eyes even now when I think about it, of how he’d fled his village and his parents had run into the bush. There were gunmen running around his village and he’d fled, but he’d fled via his school. To get that book, he then walked for three days with that book and nothing else, he had nothing else. He’d walked and he asked me when he was in this school, how can I? How can I continue my education? I’m going, I’m going to be a scientist. And to me, that just said it all. And you know, and then by contrast, if you look at the international response. The international agencies don’t treat education as a priority during humanitarian emergencies, it gets almost no funding. There’s no effective, coordinated response for the tens of thousands of refugees who need help to rebuild their lives through education.

There are great institutions like Education Can’t Wait, they’re not able to do what they need to do. And I’ve been incredibly lucky actually in my career that, you know, one of the political leaders I’ve been lucky enough to work with who shares the passion of the people of the parents and the children that you meet at the sharp end in trying to tackle the education crisis is Gordon Brown. And you know, he’s resolutely fought to get this issue on the agenda, to keep it on the agenda, to develop new approaches to financing through what he calls the International Financing Facility for Education. And the thing that stands out is political leadership makes a difference. It really makes a difference. People who use the power of their office or the power of their former office, not for personal aggrandisement, you know, not to make millions of pounds by going and doing speeches to war criminals in the Middle East, but by championing causes that really matter. And yet, Gordon is very much one of those people, and I do think it’s a living example of the role that political leadership can make in making institutions work for children.

Jeni Whalan: We’ll come back to Kevin Watkins in a moment. But now, let’s hear from Elina, who is running a refugee-led learning centre in Indonesia.

Elina: I will be honest, I worry about the children of refugees or the teenagers. Because we can consider them as a lost generation. They are not allowed to go to school here, and if they go to school, they don’t get the certificate. Either we will like it or not, without certificate you are not going anywhere. And they are staying here for long time, 5, 6, 7 years. Some of them will never ever get resettlement. And it’s not just in Indonesia, it’s refugees and asylum seekers all over the world. These are lost generations. 

Elina: Hi, Call me Elina, I’m 37 years old, I still look young, I have good genes. And one month after I came to Indonesia I was a teacher’s assistant. And after one month I became one of the managers. I’m originally from Sudan. And I’m actually a dentist. And I came here as a refugee.

Jeni Whalan: You’re listening to an excerpt from The Wait, a podcast that tells the stories of refugees caught in limbo in Indonesia.  It contains references to suicide, so please listen with care.

Omid: I want to introduce myself. I am Omid Ahmadi. I’m from Afghanistan and I want to talk about my life in Makassar.

Marzia Yosufi: I’m Marzia Yosufi and I’m 16 years old. When I was born, I was born as a child of refugee. I grew up as a refugee and I don’t think I have a country because I haven’t seen Afghanistan with my eyes, I haven’t even been there in one second, I just saw Afghanistan in Google.

Sara: I’m Sara, I’m 12 years old. I was born in Iran as an immigrant and I was born as an immigrant and I just grow as an immigrant.

Freydoon: I’m 11 years old and I’m here for 6 years, and Indonesian people kids they are calling me immigrant, immigrant. I don’t like them to call me- I just like them to call me my name, and my real name is Freydoon, so I’d like them to call me Freydoon. I just want them to be my friends.

Sara: People call us illegal. It’s hard for us to be illegal. Everyone wants to be legal and have their own rights, choose how to live.

Marzia: We come in Indonesia in December 2014.  We want to just come out of this kind of situation. 

Freydon: I don’t have any schools in here. 

Marzia: There are many other children who are not going to school, who are not studying, who are just staying in their room. They just eat, sleep, nothing much. 

Sara: I can’t communicate with my family, I mean relatives who are living in Afghanistan. I don’t know where are they now, if they are alive or not. That has so much pain for me. Because I really want to see how are they, how are they feeling now, if they are alive or not. 

Marzia: Families, especially children, who are suffering from depression, anxiety, our country mates have suicide themselves because of –

Sara: They were so worried, they didn’t know what to do, so they just suicide themselves. And it’s really hard for us to watch them like this.  

Marzia: I have spent all my childhood in here – I can’t- I don’t really know how I have changed. Like, I can’t imagine how I have changed. Refugee is a normal word for me right now because from the day that I was born they call me an Afghan refugee but it’s ok, it doesn’t matter. What matter is this that I should think about my future. 

Elina: It will be very difficult to start to educate them after another 5 years or another 10 years. So we need to solve the problem now. Because the more we postpone solving the problem, the more it will be complicated in the future. We don’t want to lose these generations, because we know if we lose this generation, what will happen in our future? That’s very – it’s very dangerous.

Jeni Whalan: Kevin, I wonder if I can ask you a bit about keeping kids at the centre when we’re in crisis response compared to long term need in the world of international aid? There’s this traditional divide between crisis response, the domain of humanitarian relief on the one hand and long term development and poverty reduction, and Covid’s just the latest fast moving crisis that’s blown up that distinction between short and long term, the underlying failures of health systems or digital infrastructure, for example, not to mention public finance, are long term issues that make it impossible for populations in poverty to cope with short term crisis. It makes me think about the much larger and so far slower moving crisis of climate change, with which today’s children will have to increasingly contend. What are you seeing in responses to the emerging climate crisis in developing countries and the distinction between crisis response and things like safety nets or putting in place the kinds of resilience measures that can help populations cope?

Kevin Watkins: If you speak to anybody working either in development or the humanitarian field, they’ll often say, we don’t believe in the humanitarian development divide. There is no divide. It’s a continuum. The reality, in my view, is that that divide is not only alive and well, it’s arguably growing bigger. By the day. And actually, Afghanistan is a stark example of that. What’s behind the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, let’s speak bluntly, is US and European sanctions and the withdrawal of financial support to institutions in Afghanistan. That’s the cause, the primary cause of the humanitarian crisis. So this is actually a crisis which is rooted in the collapse of development institutions and is somehow being presented to the world as a humanitarian problem. And I think if you look at one crisis after another around the world, you know these repeated appeals that you get every single year for the Horn of Africa, it’s totally predictable.

Short term financing to solve what are essentially long term development problems, the financing is unpredictable, so there’s going to be a huge amount of money now going into Ukraine. I absolutely guarantee you there’ll be a plummet in the resources going to the Central African Republic, to Somalia, to the DRC and the real problems that need to be addressed in those contexts are exactly what you described the best. The most effective prevention tool for the hunger aspects of humanitarian catastrophe are functioning safety nets. We know how to design safety net systems, and we know you don’t finance them through short term humanitarian appeals. The most effective response to the child nutrition threats and the child health threats that come with the humanitarian emergency happen through public health systems. They don’t happen through sort of ‘pass the hat’ after the event appeals. So. It’s such a deeply ingrained mindset, and of course, you can’t turn your back to humanitarian tragedy when it happens. But boy, does the international community learn the hard way that this is not the most effective way to respond. And you know, I do think if climate change teaches us anything, it’s surely that this is a systemic threat.

We know with cast-iron certainty that the average intensity of droughts that happen in the world, the average intensity of storms that happen in the world will be fuelled by climate change, and we have to prepare for this. The idea of waiting for tragedy to strike, waiting for the drought, waiting for the fire, waiting for the hurricane and then rebuilding. It’s absolutely the worst way of going about it. And tragically, that is what we’re locked into right now. And it’s precisely what children are demanding that the adult world, the adult political leaders, get their act together and stop treating the climate crisis in that way. We need to tackle it at source and we need to build the institutions and the responses that will prevent the destructive effects that we know for cast-iron certainty are coming.

Glyn Davis: Kevin, you just touched on the war in Ukraine, and of course, everybody’s thinking about the implications for the children in particular who are in the middle of a horrific situation. Again, this is an area you’ve worked in and you’ve thought about the long term implications for children of war. Can you say something about that experience and something about what we should be looking for as we live in this latest crisis?

Kevin Watkins: There are so many rights and protections that children ostensibly have to be protected during war. You know, we have the Geneva Conventions, we have the Rome Statutes, the International Criminal Court, which actually evolved out of the Second World War. We have international humanitarian law, which is very clear that you don’t target civilians and children, you don’t block humanitarian access. And actually, in the mid-1990s, Graça Machel, the former education minister of Mozambique, did an extraordinary report which was presented to the UN General Assembly on the protection of children in war. And she documented in, you know, horrible detail what was happening to children who were being deliberately targeted in these wars of the 1990s. There’s a harrowing phrase where she says that there are no further depths to which a civilised community can plumb. And I’m afraid what we’ve seen since she presented that report in 1996 is the plumbing of further depths. You know, we’ve seen it in Somalia, we’ve seen it in Afghanistan, we’ve seen it in South Sudan and in many, many cases. You know, these are, I think, self-evidently war crimes that are being committed.

The one thing that you can use to erode a culture of impunity against children is the rule of law, and we, you know, we have to make this rule of law count for something. Political leaders need to start initiating prosecutions of those responsible for these heinous crimes against children. And until that happens, we are going to see more of the sort of horror stories coming out of Ukraine that we’ve been seeing.

Jeni Whalan: Can you think of an example that you would point to where any of those international legal frameworks have on the ground restrained action in war for the protection of children?

Kevin Watkins: We’ve all seen the scenes from Aleppo. I visited Mosul after the bombardment and you know, this was like a scene from Stalingrad. So and what we’re seeing now, of course, in Ukraine is a repeat of the sort of Aleppo approach. I would say, however, and this is what I take hope from. I think when the former president of Chile, Pinochet, was arrested in the UK using universal jurisdiction and British law because of his record on torture in Chile. When we’ve recently seen a Syrian military figure imprisoned in Germany because of torture in Syria. People pick up these signals, you know, the people in the field who are ordering the bombardment of humanitarian corridors by Russian mortars now, you know, they are presumably acting on the basis of a calculation. They will never be held accountable for what is clearly a criminal act. Now it doesn’t take many court cases, potentially to change that equation. And of course, it’s difficult. It’s diplomatically challenging. But I think in the end, if you don’t underpin moral codes with justiciable action, they don’t really provide children with the armour they need to be provided with. And you know, and to say make one critical point on the UN system in this respect, I did a report several years ago for the UN on attacks on education. And what I was struck by was just the endless reports that are produced every single year, documenting who is responsible for attacks, where they’ve done the attacks, who orders them. You could fill a library with this stuff. And nobody acts on it. That, I would say, is a betrayal of the universalism and a betrayal of the principles that the UN was created to defend. And so we need to cut out the double standards. We need to act as though these moral codes count for something and we need to put in place the justiciable of all processes that hold those perpetrators of crimes against children accountable.

Marzia Yosufi: It’s the same as before.

Sara: It was the same. It has become more strict. You know, it hasn’t become better than 2019. It’s the same or even worse.

Marzia Yosufi: It’s been 3 years since we spoke to The Wait. We are still living in the same shelter and there are many other refugees who live in our shelter. I was ten years old that I’ve arrived in Indonesia, but now I’m 18. But if I see the other people who are on my age, they are living the best life, they are now studying in a high school. But I, I  have not lived the same life as them. I just feel like it is not the life that I have – I was about to live. That at the age of ten, now I become 18, I just eat, sleep in and staying in a one room and doing nothing. This really feels like a hopelessness. I feel like hopelessness. Like I lost all my hope.

Sara: From being a kid and like turning to an adult, it’s very hard. It’s overwhelming to think about it.

Marzia Yosufi: About schools, it is managed by the refugees themselves. The teachers are refugees. All we ask is that UNHCR and the resettlement countries to hear our voice and welcome us to their country, because it’s been very long time that we are waiting here.

Jeni Whalan: So Kevin, I want to invite you to imagine a different kind of future, a better future in which children and their well being is truly at the heart of international policy financing, international cooperation, perhaps political leadership, which has been a theme of our discussion today. What might that look like? How would we know it if it was making a difference on the ground?

Kevin Watkins: I do believe that a focus on children is so critical because it is our window on the future. And I think we have two responsibilities as adults, which is one to create the conditions for a better world for children.

Currently we’re not doing what we could and should do in areas like education and public health through international cooperation. We’re not doing what we could and should do through public spending and budgets that which are often skewed in a way that reinforces and magnifies inequalities between children rather than equalising opportunities between children. So I think putting children right at the heart of international cooperation can expand the horizon of what is possible. Secondly, we need to listen to children.  We’re learning to do that partly because they’re banging down the door on climate change, which, let’s face it, is the great injustice that our generation is passing on to future generations. And we have a responsibility, I believe, not just to listen to those children, but to act in solidarity with them. And, you know, I think organisations like Save the Children and Oxfam, the big civil society organisations increasingly need to create themselves as platforms for children to raise their voices and express their concerns.

Glyn Davis: Taking that global picture, that really important global picture in a nation state, Australia, the UK, what should we be doing at local level to put children at the centre of policy, politics, and a sense of national direction?

Kevin Watkins: I think two things, which is apply the same principles at home and abroad. You know, if you believe in the basic principles of equality and fairness and justice, you can’t look at either the UK and Australia and say these are countries that are doing a good job in building good and fair societies. And again, you know what the UK and Australia have been doing with their aid budgets is indefensible, and it’s not only morally indefensible and self-defeating because, you know, it makes the world a more dangerous place. It’s saving pennies in our national budgets in ways that really inflict great harm on children in many developing countries. And I think, you know, remember what the generation of political leaders who came together at Bretton Woods really understood, which is that universalism matters not as an abstract principle, but because, like it or not, we are all part of a single human community, and our actions all affect each other.

Jeni Whalan: You can read more about Kevin Watkins and the projects he’s passionate about at lifeslottery.com.au 

You also heard from The Wait podcast. Listen to the whole series in your podcast app, and find out more at thewaitpodcast.com.

And if this part of today’s episode raised any issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you back for next season,  and until then we’d love to hear your comments and feedback – so please do keep the conversation going. I’m Jeni Whalan.

Glyn Davis: And I’m Glyn Davis. That’s all from us in this series of Life’s Lottery: Backing Kids. But we’ll be back soon. So until then – bye for now

Jeni Whalan: And if you’re looking for another podcast while you wait, have a listen to Follow the Money from The Australia Institute. It’s a weekly podcast that explains Australia’s big economic and policy issues in plain English.

Discover more about the issues in this episode

War. Famine. Disease. When major crises hit, children are often among the first to suffer and bear the biggest impact, with lifelong consequences.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) is the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history, but many of the protections and rights for children remain unmet.

Currently, the war in Ukraine has pushed the plight of children to the fore again. The UN estimates that in 2019, 1.6 billion children (69%) were living in a conflict-affected country, and approximately 426 million children (over one in six) were living in a conflict zone. It is estimated that around half of the refugees in the world are children.

As our guest Kevin Watkins discusses in this episode, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the education of children across the world. While children in Australia felt the impact of remote learning, children overseas have often borne a far harsher impact. UNICEF estimates that in early 2022, 405 million school children worldwide were still being held back from a full return to the classroom. Pandemic-related learning delays stack up on top of existing learning inequities, and also increased inequality within systems. There is emerging evidence that many children did not return to school when their classrooms reopened, with children from disadvantaged backgrounds and girls particularly affected. Read more from Kevin Watkins hereabout the impact of the pandemic and other crises on children internationally – and the cost of cuts to foreign aid by countries like Australia.

As we wrap this season of Life’s Lottery, we thank our guests for helping us drive this important discussion about how we can better back kids and invest in their futures for the good of all humanity. Stay tuned for news about future episodes of Life’s Lottery.

Season 2 Overview

Backing Kids, the second season of Life’s Lottery, explores how Australian society values children and childhood. Kids are our future, but they’re rarely at the centre when it comes to the decisions that really matter. What would it take to truly put kids at the heart of policy, of budgets, and broader public work? 

We’ll hear the voices of advocates, experts, children and their parents and caregivers with bright and practical ideas about how we can improve kids’ health and wellbeing. We’ll dive deep into the Federal Budget and explore how it does, and doesn’t, reflect the realisation of children’s rights. We’ll hear about how young First Nations voices have informed policy development to improve the lives of First Nations kids. We’ll consider how place-based, universally accessible services could better reach vulnerable families and improve the wellbeing of all children. 

Two years of the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted children’s education as well as physical and mental health and exacerbated the challenges faced by the most vulnerable. There has never been a better time to talk about how we could better back our kids and improve their odds in Life’s Lottery.  

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas for future episodes.

Name(Required)

Life’s Lottery is produced in collaboration with UTS Impact Studios

Executive Producer: Olivia Rosenman

Audio Producer: Nicole Curby

Researcher/writer: Jackie May

Theme Music and Sound Design: James Milsom

Production Music: Blue Dot Sessions

Graphic Design: Celia Neilson