Strasbourg, 13 February 2020
Delivered by Commissioner Helena Dalli on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Borrell
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In recent months, we have seen some serious and disturbing revelations about the exploitation of children involved in mica extraction in Madagascar. We cannot tolerate a situation where children are forced, to work in horrendous conditions and are deprived of an education. Prompt action is needed but we also need to address root causes.
Of the nearly 46, 000 tons of mica which Madagascar exported in 2018, more than 91 percent were shipped to China, according to the International Trade Centre. The principal question to address is therefore one of due diligence in the supply chain. However, boosting the capacity and accountability of state institutions in Madagascar, including through our development co-operation, will also be key.
As many members will be aware, the EU has already taken positive action to address supply chain risks in relation to the so called “conflict minerals” such as Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum and Gold, and the EU Regulation covering due diligence for these will come into force next year. But we cannot stand-by while child labour, an oxymoron as Robert Biedron [Member of the European Parliament] rightly put it, child labour in the extractive industries continues. There is an urgent need for international companies sourcing mica and mica-based products, as well as the Malagasy government, to take responsibility for addressing the problematic conditions and for contributing to improving the fulfilment of children´s rights.
The European Union has a longstanding and clear position on due diligence. Not only governments, but also private actors, have a role to play. The European Parliament hosted an important event in November 2019 in which the urgency of addressing child labour in mica mining was prominently raised. Commission President [Ursula] von der Leyen made it clear that the EU has zero tolerance for child labour. The EU led the tabling of a resolution on the rights of the child adopted in the UN General Assembly Third Committee last year, where 2021 was declared the International Year for the Elimination of Child labour.
The Commission will shortly publish a study on due diligence requirements through the supply chain. It examines existing regulation and proposals as well as options for regulating due diligence in companies’ own operations and through the supply chain for adverse human rights and environmental impacts, including relating to climate change.
In a single market, it is not practical to have different national treatments and the benefits of an EU-wide framework are obvious, in terms of levelling the playing field and creating legal certainty for companies, as well as reaping opportunities stemming from the sustainability transition.
The EU is of course also fully behind multi-stakeholder initiatives to address supply chains risk and in particular child labour. We will continue to work spanning trade agreements, development projects and other international cooperation – in Madagascar and elsewhere - to tackle root causes such as the social and economic vulnerability of individuals, workers and their families that push children to work.
Link to video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-184278