Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan

Let’s not only imagine a world without child labour but let’s act on it.

21/01/2021 - 00:00
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Despite tremendous improvements made in the past century, there are still 152 million children engaged in child labour. Moreover, COVID-19 could possibly reverse years of progress as the world is seeing a rise in child labour for the first time in 20 years. Today the International Year Against the Elimination of Child Labour was launched through an online event, giving stage to a number of 2021 Action Pledges by the European Commission, Argentina, South Africa, FAO, UN Global Compact, IOE, ITUC, IOM and many more.


Let’s set the tone and inspire each other. That was the aim of the launch event of the International Year Against the Elimination of Child Labour. With speakers from different parts of the world, from governments to civil society – everyone was invited to Act, Inspire and Scale up, following the three pillar approach underpinning the Action Pledges. ILO DG Guy Ryder reminded: "With a 152 million children in child labour, we still have a lot of work to do." He announced the upcoming new global estimates of child labour in collaboration with UNICEF, as well as the global estimates on modern slavery, forced labour and forced marriage that will be produced in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration. Despite the dire situation there is good news: the ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour reached universal ratification in 2020, making it the most rapidly ratified Convention in the history of the organization.


The impact of the COVID-19 could not be ignored during this conversation. Ms. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF said that the pandemic cracked open the vulnerabilities of children in child labour and translates into longer working hours and exacerbated gender inequalities. But there were also hopeful signs: many government employed social workers in communities, making use of digital tools to target the most vulnerable, there are grassroots initiatives and civil society launched the Fair Share campaign immediately after the launch event.


The EU reiterated its “zero tolerance” approached, voiced by President von der Leyen and announced the upcoming EU strategy to the rights of the child, that will renew the EU’s commitment to strengthen children’s rights in both EU internal and external action. A good example is the EU funded CLEAR Cotton project, focusing on child labour in the cotton sector in Mali, Pakistan, Peru and Burkina Faso. But also the Child Guarantee to tackle child poverty will play a vital role, as well as the action plan on Human Rights, and Democracy, launched in 2020. European Commissioner Schmit underlined that the EU promoted the ratification and effective implementation of the ILO Child Labour Conventions and said it is intensifying its capacity on enforcement of the trade commitments made by partner countries.


Finally, the chair of the Alliance 8.7 Ms Karvar announced the upcoming monitoring evaluation framework, that will keep track of the progress made. An initiative like this will be necessary because more than anything else, this event echoed a strong call to action. To say it with the words of former child labourer and lawer Amar Lal: “I call on everyone to not only imagine a world without child labour but to act on it so it becomes our reality.”

The conclusion of this launch event was clear: decisive action is to only way to forward to make sure the world eradicates child labour by 2025.