Children, the greatest reason to fight for our future

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), in the name of more than 180 million workers from 161 countries that constitute its membership, reaffirms its uncompromising defence of democracy and of social, labour and humanitarian rights in these dark times of retrogression brought on by the rising tide of neoliberalism in various parts of the world.

The numerous aggressions practiced by ultra-reactionary sectors against democratic processes look to reverse policies of inclusion that have represented milestones in the history of our societies. Therefore, we reject coups, such as those practiced in Brazil, Egypt, Honduras and Paraguay, and those attempted in Venezuela and Turkey.

In the same manner and with equal determination we raise our voice and condemn the terrorist actions that have killed so many innocent people. We reject these cowardly actions that should never be taken as an instrument of political struggle. We also identify the driving force of the bloody conflicts in state terrorism. This chaos that takes tens of thousands of lives each year is instigated by the superpowers acting out of their own economic and geopolitical interests, based on a logic of privileges that ensures the richest 1 per cent of the world population has more money than the rest of the planet put together.

The irrationality of this exclusionary logic makes it possible for a small caste of people to go unpunished, by hiding US$7.6 trillion in tax havens, whilst criminally sucking resources from nation states that are fundamental for investment, undermining the provision of public services such as health, education and basic sanitation. Contrary to the fabulous earnings of the top executives of corporations, the daily income of the ten per cent most affected by poverty increased less than a cent per year over 25 years. An “increase” of US$3 in a quarter of a century!


Children in the face of death

I want to focus this reflection on the children that suffer in the face of death every day in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Nigeria and Palestine. Children killed in crèches, schools and hospitals and even in Red Cross shelters.

Still growing, these small, extremely fragile beings find themselves before the harsh and cruel reality of a war that isn’t theirs, that is imposed on them by the voracity of capital. From aggressions on countries and people that translate into screams and tears, usurping the company of their loved ones with abandonment and dislocation, exchanging smiles from the games at playschool for the cruelty of refugee camps, love for pain, and freedom for slavery.

It is impossible not to be moved by the photos of a dead child drowned in the Mediterranean when their parents were seeking refuge from the horrors of the wars in the Middle East or in Africa, or of a small innocent child being removed from the rubble in Syria.

What are the prospects for those who survive? How do they face up to the great weight of the trauma that robbed them of their innocence? What is there to say about the rapes and the most barbarous abuse? About the sexual exploitation that they are subjected to? About the fear of being an orphan at such a tender age? About the complete abandonment that they are cast into, without crèches or schools? About their use as child soldiers or as boy or girl bombers? About the injuries and mutilations that they are exposed to in inhumane jobs?

More than just questioning, I accuse the worshippers of the supreme money God as those responsible for this horror. Those who sacrifice everything that is most beautiful and humane at the altar of the war industry, of the transnationals and of the financial system.

Whilst health resources are cut or subjected to privatisation, according to the official numbers, military spending on the planet has reached US$1.8 trillion, the equivalent of an absurd 2.3 per cent of the global GDP. According to the 2015 annual report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an institution dedicated to research on conflicts, the USA is leading the arms race, with their war industry exporting 33 per cent of the world total arms, followed by Russia, at 25 per cent. China (5.9 per cent), France (5.6 per cent), Germany (4.7 per cent) and the United Kingdom (4.5 per cent) in the death machine competition. Unfortunately, even Brazil has entered this macabre contest - today it is the fourth largest exporter of small arms in the world and the biggest in South America, with sales that exceed half a billion reais per year.


Multinationals, arsenal and social justice

It was this combination of factors that amplified the absurdity that ensured that in 2014 and 2015 more than 73 million people – half of them children – were displaced from their homes, having to face the horror of fences and ditches, the insecurity of seas and boats, the cold and the heat, with the aggression of war tanks, missiles, tear gas bombs, batons and legislation.

In light of such ardent humanitarian matters, the ITUC speaks up for controlling the power of multinationals, starting with operating rules for their global supply chains. It calls on superpowers to immediately lay down their arsenal, for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of massive destruction, and the application of the Arms Trade Treaty of the United Nations. It also mobilises itself in favour of migration with social protection, the right to work and other civil and political rights for all refugees and asylum seekers.

At the same time, we applaud the steps made to end the inhumane economic blockade on Cuba, the search for peace in Colombia and the recognition of the state of Palestine and of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, fundamental and pressing matters for social development and justice.

It is also the trade union movement’s responsibility to change this world. May the words of the Portuguese poet Sidónio Muralha give strength to our fight and flight to our dream of a cooperative construction of a new humanity, without walls or cages that imprison with the imposition of such an unjust and cruel order. “The goldfinch says: nothing consoles me/I am not happy in this cage/For the blue sky and vastness/I feel such a longing/I don’t want this loneliness/Every minute, every second/ May children break the bars/Of all the world’s cages.”


This article has been translated from Portuguese.

This article has been translated from Spanish.