Press Release


The Secretary General’s Opening Speech at the G20 Interfaith Summit, Japan 2019


7th June 2019

FORUM THEME: People: Major Priorities for Human Development


Distinguished participants at the G20 Interfaith Summit

It gives me great pleasure to stand before a distinguished assembly of the faith, community and political leaders from around the world, during the G20 Interfaith Summit.

Special thanks and appreciation to the organizers of this important gathering.

This morning, I will share with you on the important theme, and topic for this Summit: – PEOPLE: MAJOR PRIORITIES FOR HUMAN DEVELOPMENT. Certainly not the only ones, but important parts that begs for prioritization, I will focus on Children and Climate as the missing links in human development. Today, the challenges that children and climate face, call us to act. Children and climate call us to provide the prophetic voice for action.

Faith communities, faith inspired organizations, faith-based development actors, normally, and for most part, look at development from a holistic perspective.

You rarely compartmentalize development for good and obvious reasons.

You rarely use compelling statistics to describe your work, or the challenges the human community face with regard to development and underdevelopment.

That is how you work. You build relations, and focus on the poorest, most neglected and uncounted. In you focusing on the holistic development – you pay attention to the balance between human, nature and the Divine, the Spiritual, the connection with Almighty God. But more importantly, you, the faith actors, focus on providing the prophetic voice.

You focus on warning on the impending disasters. You focus on a different kind of a simple, yet enduring equation, the sum-total. If X is not done, then, Y is going to be the result.

Today, let me share with you two pieces of obscure statistics and a far too often ignored fact:

Obscure Statistics because it applies to a section of the human population that is often ignored, and not seen as productive in the real sense of producing goods and services: Children. This year alone, 2019: the world will lose 7 Trillion USD worth of development, because of Violence Against Children. 7 Trillion. This is according to the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children: Statistics confirmed by the United Nations various entities responsible for Children.

And, secondly, an ignored fact because it appears to be slow in coming; and because if we acted today, we will have to do away with certain comforts that we are used to. Climate. This year, 2019: the world will lose 4.2 Trillion USD worth of development because of changes in climate. This is according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Distinguished Participants,

Children and climate are two critical facets of human development that if ignored today, then, this fragile earth may not hold for long. If ignored, children and climate will cost us, a combined 11.2 Trillion worth of development, every year. This is a huge price we will pay for ignoring what we really should be paying attention to, and making early interventions. But how much have we put in place to reduce violence against children? How much have we invested to check climate change? Where do we invest most? Are we investing in addressing the most challenging issues that are affecting the well-being of this extremely fragile earth? Are we investing in addressing the most fragile inhabitants of this earth aged between 0 and 18 years, numbering 2 Billion?


The Investments are elsewhere. Some other place than these two. In places that will continue to damage this fragile earth. In places that will continue to damage the fragile inhabitants of this earth. Very little is invested to bring down, or eradicate various forms of violence that is affecting 1 billion children every year. Very little is invested in stopping or reducing the number of children trafficked into forced labor, sexual exploitation or to serve as child fighters – 120 million every year. Very little is invested to reverse the damage caused by humans to this earth.

Can we recover this loss to human development?

The short answer to this question is, unfortunately, NOT IN THE SHORT TERM.

The Second question then is; What should we do to change course?

This is the question that I hope the G20 Interfaith Summit; with your collective genius and wisdom; will find answers to, and present to the G20 Summit for action, as well as implementing in your own ways. For if we do not find the prophetic voice, we will be failing in our duties. We are compelled to act. We must act because we are not the owners, but the custodians of this earth for our children, their children and the future generations.

Every child born comes with a message that God has not yet despaired of humanity and earth. Let us not violate these two important issues: childhood [humanity] and the earth. And let us not violate the children, whose birth, bring the glad tidings to the human race and this earth – coming with a special message that God the Divine is not despaired of us and the earth.

Lastly, I end where I started: you can bring your prophetic voice(s) to bear on this agenda. The agenda of increased care for Children and Earth for a truly, and fully flourishing human race.

Thank you.

Mustafa Yusuf Ali, Ph.D.
Secretary General, Global Network of Religions for Children
Director, Arigatou International, Nairobi.


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