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Nobel laureate praises Taiwan's initiatives to empower young people

2018/10/11 15:24:54

Taipei, Oct. 11 (CNA) Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi of India on Thursday applauded Taiwan-led initiatives aimed at engaging and empowering younger generations to make positive change, saying that respecting their voice is an important way to find solutions to the many problems afflicting humanity.

"Today I would urge you to prioritize developing our children and young people in the world. No sustainable change, no sustainable peace, no sustainable prosperity is possible without respecting young people in the world," Satyarthi said in a keynote speech at the Yushan Forum held in Taipei.

The founder of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), or Save the Childhood Movement, an Indian-based movement that campaigns for the rights of children, shared the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai.

He arrived in Taiwan Wednesday on his second visit, after a first trip in 2015.

Satyarthi said that Taiwan is like his "second home" because he has hundreds of "children" who live here, a reference to the young Taiwanese volunteers who have worked with him over the past 10 years at Bal Ashram, his movement's rehabilitation and training center which caters to the special needs of victims of child labor.

Taiwan sends the largest number of volunteers for human services and support in Africa, Asia and other countries across the world in terms of the percentage of people, he said. "Though Taiwan is a small country, people have a big heart."

Satyarthi went on to applaud President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for her New Southbound policy initiative that seeks to deepen the ties between Taiwan and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, countries in South Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

"When everybody looks at the North and the West. You have that leadership that looks southbound. Thanks for that," Satyarthi said.

The Yushan Forum was inaugurated last October as a platform to promote cooperation among regional countries under the New Southbound policy. The forum this year focuses on engagement between young leaders in the region.

Speaking to the audience, which including President Tsai, government officials, academics, nongovernmental organization activists and entrepreneurs from about 20 countries, Satyarthi said that people sitting in this room have the power to solve such problems as conflicts, violence, poverty, and discrimination because they "have good hearts."

"That's why you come here. You are not here to sign an agreement or an MOU (memorandum of understanding) for business, but to make the Asia Pacific a better place."

Satyarthi said the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can only be achieved when four principles -- people, planet, prosperity, and peace -- are ensured.

What he called the four "Ps" emphasize the need to respect and secure life, dignity, and the voices of people, to save the planet, he said, adding that prosperity should be anchored with the very clear aim of maintaining peace in society.

"Young people are drivers of positive changes," Satyarthi said, encouraging the forum's participants to invest more in education for younger generations. "We cannot think of social justice, prosperity and sustainability without quality education."

For every single child to receive preliminary education, it would only take additional expenditure of US$22 billion, Satyarthi said. "That is just four and a half days of global military expenditure. They can educate every child," he said.

The many young groups and volunteers working to address issues arising in conflict areas in Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, India, Pakistan and many other countries have demonstrated that their voices have to be heard.

He called on all government stakeholders to create a space and listen to the voices of young people, to build trust with young people's organizations, and to cooperate with them to find solutions to the problems facing humanity.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)