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‘We cannot rest’ until child labor is eliminated, ILO chief tells UN conference

May 16, 2022
A child carries bundles of sticks along the road in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. — courtesy UNICEF/Roger LeMoyne
A child carries bundles of sticks along the road in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. — courtesy UNICEF/Roger LeMoyne

DURBAN — Countries taking part in the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor this week in South Africa, are being urged to do more to end child labor by 2025.

The strong call for urgent action at the conference taking pace in Durban, aims to combat an uptick in the numbers of children being forced into work.

Latest figures indicate that 160 million children — almost one in ten worldwide — are still being affected. Furthermore, numbers are on the rise, with the pandemic threating to reverse years of progress, as child labor becomes a bigger scourge in particular among the vulnerable five to 11-year-old age group.

Make a difference

Speaking at the start of a week of hybrid format discussions, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called on delegates to commit to taking “far-reaching actions” to make a difference in the lives of children.

“We are here because we share a common conviction that child labor in all its facets is an enemy. Child labor is an enemy of our children’s development and an enemy of progress.

“No civilization, no country and no economy can consider itself to be at the forefront of progress if its success and riches have been built on the backs of children.”

Ramaphosa’s call was echoed by Guy Ryder, director-general of the International Labour Organization (ILO), who underlined that “child labor is a violation of a basic human right, and our goal must be that every child, everywhere is free from it. We cannot rest until that happens.”

According to the ILO, global progress against child labor has stalled for the first time in 2020, after two decades of moving in the right direction. In addition, the COVID-19 crisis is likely to have pushed millions more children into the workforce.

First in Africa

This is the first time the Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor is being held in Africa, a region where child labor numbers are highest, and progress has been slowest, ILO notes.

According to recent data, most child labor on the continent — some 70 percent —is in the agricultural sector, often in settings where children are working alongside other family members.

“No civilization, no country and no economy, can consider itself to be at the forefront of progress if its success and riches have been built on the backs of children,” Ramaphosa stressed

The conference builds on four previous Global Conferences, held in Buenos Aires (2017), Brasilia (2013), The Hague (2010), and Oslo (1997), which raised awareness of the issue, assessed progress, mobilized resources, and established a strategic direction for the global movement against child labor.

Call for action

With the 2025 UN Sustainable Development Goals deadline for the elimination of child labor looming, many speakers outlined the urgent need to recover the progress that had been made in many regions, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference is expected to conclude with a formal Call to Action that will outline concrete commitments to scale up action to eliminate child labor. — UN News


May 16, 2022
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