The historic summit of world leaders in September 2015 finally culminated in the UN declaration of the 17 SDGs on 1st January 2016. Without any discrimination, these SDGs apply to all the countries of the world. It is envisaged that by 2030, with the collective and individual efforts of all countries, we shall be able to wipe out poverty, do away with inequalities and preserve our environment (1).
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 10) is about reducing inequality between the countries and within the country (2).
Presently the wealthiest 10% of the human population owns 40% of the wealth, and the poorest 10% owns just 5 -7% of the wealth (3). And this gap is widening with every passing day. The financial inequality is maximum in the Middle East and the least in Europe.
SDG #10 is an attempt to address this disparity. Too much wealth concentrated with few people does not make great sense when fellow human beings die of hunger and poverty.
The financial inequality and poverty lead to very inhuman and deplorable consequences. Some of them are a shame for humanity and goes as;
The World Tourism Organisation, which is a specialised tourism agency of the UN, defines sex tourism as “trips organised from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination” (5).
We have been living with this menace for quite some time now, but of late it is pitiful to see it developed into a booming trade involving multibillion dollars. Poverty and lack of alternative livelihood have forced a few countries to be labelled as sex tourism destinations. Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, from Southeast Asia, have a significant share of their GDP from sex tourism and associated trades.
To quote an example, around 500,000 tourists visit Thailand for sex, and the sex trade in Thailand is worth a whopping $ 25 billion. It contributes 12% to the GDP of Thailand. The data and findings are a result of research conducted by one of the universities in Thailand. Some 700,000 prostitutes are known to serve the sex industry there (6). And it may be kindly noted that prostitution is illegal in Thailand.
It is not difficult to guess the reasons for prevalence and the thriving sex trade in Thailand. Lack of livelihood, skill development, extreme poverty is the driving force behind this trade. A similar situation prevails in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
And SDG 10 looks at resolving such situations throughout the world.
United Nations defines trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs (7).”
It is such a huge menace that the UN has declared 30th July as the day against human trafficking, to highlight the issue and garner international support against it.
According to the US state department, sex trafficking, forced labour, and debt bondage are the three most common types of human trafficking (8). Apart from sex trafficking, debt bondage is widespread among the more deprived communities and financially challenged countries.
According to a September 2017 report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation, an estimated 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery. Of these, 16 million (64%) were exploited for labour, 4.8 million (19%) were sexually exploited, and 4.1 million (17%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labour (9).
Vietnam is a primary source for the trafficking of women and children for forced labour and sexual exploitation. Laos is one of the least developed and most impoverished countries in its zone. Lack of livelihood, poor education, income uncertainties have caused human trade to flourish. Somewhere between 200,000 to 450,000, people are trafficked from Vietnam (10). The situation is equally deplorable in Cambodia.
Worldwide, there is a huge demand for human organs like kidney, cornea, liver, heart, and lungs, as lots of patients need transplantation of these organs.
In 1991, the World Health Assembly (decision making body of WHO) issued guidelines on human organ transplantation. It clearly states, “organs should be removed preferably from the bodies of deceased persons,” and in case of live donors, they should be genetically related to the patient (12).
With a blatant disregard for this norm, illegal human organ trade is on the rise. According to one estimate, the unlawful trades amount to $840 million to $1.7 billion worldwide (11).
The organ trafficking is rampant and increasing in poverty struck countries of South East Asia like Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam (13). People in these countries voluntarily sell their body organs for monetary considerations. The pain, agony and the risk that the donor suffers is because of poverty, and lack of livelihood opportunities, and skills.
Quite often, organ trafficking is not voluntary but forced by the unscrupulous elements of society. The weak and the helpless are exploited beyond imagination, and all this should stop. The mere passage of regulations and directive will not do much, but some little work on the ground can go a long way.
Violence against minorities is prevalent in almost all continents for various reasons. Sometimes it is because of racial discrimination. Or at times it has its basis in religious fanaticism. At times it is the fear of being overtaken by the minorities or losing a livelihood.One underlying cause in all these apparent causes is a lack of humanity. Lack of proper education, grooming, right ethics and fear instigates these barbaric acts.
Ignorance of real human values and gross disregard of humanity drives people to this extreme act. Somehow, these acts of violence are more prevalent in financially challenged communities and countries.
The biggest challenge in the implementation of SDG 10 is lack of livelihood or employment.
If we carefully analyse all the four situations above, a stable income and livelihood would have avoided the consequences of the above situation.
To find a stable livelihood opportunity in today’s world, one needs to be educated and skilled. Contemporary society offers lots of opportunities to earn a livelihood in diverse domains. But one needs to be trained for that.
UN, with their SDG 4 goal, drives this initiative of quality education. If we really want SDG 10 to be achieved in the next ten years, equal stress needs to be on the execution of SDG4 as well. “Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility and is a key to escaping poverty”- This is how the UN explains SDG4 in its opening lines.
In the current situation, it is for the leaders and government of these countries to take note of the situation and invest efforts for implementation of SDG 4.
In the year 2018, some 260 million children were not in school. And most of these children were from poor and marginalised countries. If this trend continues, sex tourism, human trafficking and allied problems will not only continue but increase.
We, as a human community, must take cognizance of the situation and lay due stress on quality education.
Instead of rote learning, United Nation stresses on quality education which will impart literacy skills and basic mathematical abilities. These two can act as the basic building block to develop vocational skills or any other job-oriented skills.
It may not be necessary to have a college education. Still, basic and robust schooling will equip future citizens with confidence and basic mental framework to take up skilled jobs and earn a livelihood.
Even if one family member has a stable income, the whole family can benefit. In the coming years, the community will become strong to resists the consequences mentioned above of poverty.
When the economically weak section educates and starts earning, gradually the financial inequality within the society, country and the world will narrow down and may eventually be wiped off completely.
Athena Wisdom Institute AG is entirely devoted to the humanitarian cause of uplifting the society by providing specialised leadership programs. Founded by Ms Simone Junod, Athena Wisdom Institute AG has organised and implemented several management and leadership programs.
Currently, Athena Wisdom Institute AG, offers Athena OWL leadership program, which would help the community leaders, self help organisations and administrative professionals implement the SDG 10 and SDG 4 programs with greater confidence and enthusiasm. This program offers an unmatched blend of contemporary knowledge and ancient traditional wisdom, to unlock the ultimate human potential to engage in challenging and path-breaking ventures.