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Global March Against Child Labour - A Prominent Voice at IV Global Conference on Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, Argentina

The Global March Against Child Labour (Global March) was represented by its members, Board representatives and the Secretariat at the recent IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, held in Buenos Aires from 14-16 November 2017, organised by the Government of Argentina with the support from ILO. The Conference, the fourth in a series of world-wide events focusing on child labour, brought together representatives of governments, employers and workers, as well as civil society, and regional and international organisations. 

This three day affair concluded with a call to action to redouble efforts to end child labour by 2025 and forced labour by 2030, and to promote decent work amongst the young people across the world, chalked out under the Buenos Aires Declaration.

With more than 3,000 participants, the Conference was structured into high level panel discussions, plenary sessions, side events and collaborative forums. The Global March contributed in essential ways to the topics of these panels, and as speakers, moderators and participants.

On Day 1 of the Conference, Global March as an international network of CSOs was invited by the Argentine civil society organisers to lead the CSO discussions with Mr. Timothy Ryan, Chairperson of Global March, playing a leading role both at the opening and closing of the 3 day discussions. In his opening remarks and presentation at the first of the three Civil Society Meetings, Mr. Ryan emphasised that we must keep focus on child labour which is a corner stone of all labour violations and social justice issues. Mr. Ryan also participated in the panel on “Supply Chains: Getting on Top of Complexity”, and discussed different approaches to human rights due diligence and the value of looking for strategic partnerships to explore the role of cross-border dialogue building partnerships between trade unions and NGOs to address child labour and forced labour in supply chains. Mr. Ryan also participated in the last CSO Meeting held during the Conference.

The Honorary President of Global March, Nobel Peace Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi in his address to the audience from more than 150 countries during the opening ceremony of the Conference, reminded the participants that “The recently released ILO Report says a large number of child labourers are between 5-11 years of age... and are engaged in agriculture. This shows a serious lack of coordination on child labour and education sectors, and that child labour in agriculture in not yet prohibited under law.” Reinstating this issue as a matter of urgency, Mr. Satyarthi called upon the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, to convene an urgent meeting with the heads of UN agencies and international organisations as well as key leaders to advance coordinated efforts for protection of children under the framework of SDGs. He also urged the Labour Ministers and Heads of State to ensure coordinated and integrated realisation of SDGs on children’s rights. In addition he made urgent calls to ILO, civil society groups, and trade unions to “do their bit” for assisting governments in achieving SDG 8.7 and other child-related SDGs. Following the opening ceremony, Mr. Satyarthi also shared his valuable insights at the High Level Panel on “From Work Without a Future to a Future of Decent Work-SDG 8.7 and Beyond” responding eloquently to strategic questions being posed to the panel on the future of work, education and our children. While answering one particular question on the next steps, Mr. Satyarthi pointedly remarked that “I hope that there will be no need to hold the 5th Global Conference on Child Labour and if at all then the Conference will be organised to celebrate the achievement of complete elimination of child labour”. Mr. Satyarthi was also the keynote speaker at the side event organised by the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture (IPCCLA) on ending child labour in agriculture.

Finally at the end of Day 1, given that the least progress in the eradication of child labour has been made amongst girls, the Global March also organised a side event on “Prioritising Girls for Zero Child Labour by 2025” to bring attention to the issue of girls in child labour and the need to mainstream gender concerns in child labour policies and strategies. The side event was structured in the form of a high level panel discussion moderated by Global March Chairperson, Timothy Ryan and saw participation from Nobel Peace Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi; Minister of Labour and Employment, Government of India, Santosh K Gangwar; IUF General-Secretary, Sue Longley, and Farmworker Advocate and Child Rights Activist, Norma Flores Lopez.

Ms. Lopez, a former child worker herself, shared her experience of working in agriculture in the USA and emphasised the need to invest in girls and raise them in leadership roles. Ms. Sue Longley insisted that we need to make clear programmes to address child labour in agriculture and gender is an integral part of it. She further highlighted that “access to education to girls in rural areas and zero tolerance for sexual violence is vital.”

Informing the audience about the commitment of Government of India to eliminate child labour, especially amongst girls, Hon. Santosh K Gangwar, said “Our approach is a moralistic approach that no child should be devoid of education. India has seen a reduction in child labour amongst girls vis-a -vis boys and have initiated campaigns such as save the girl, educate the girl as well as clean school campaign promoting separate toilet for girls that has helped increase enrolment amongst girls.” Mr. Satyarthi concluded the side event by highlighting the need of promoting economic empowerment of women and to reduce gender bias if we are to promote children’s rights.

On Day 2 of the Conference, Global March Board Member and representative from South-East Asia, Ms. Yuka Iwatsuki participated in the panel on “Social Protection: Successes, Challenges and Future Trends ” and discussed some of the best ways to reach the most vulnerable population that does not benefit from social protection systems. Ms. Iwatsuki gave valuable insights into the social protection policies and programmes that have been particularly successful in preventing and reducing child labour and forced labour across the world.

With their extensive experience working in the rural sector, Mr. Andrews Tagoe and Ms. Norma Flores Lopez, both Global March Board Members and representatives from Africa and North America respectively, deliberated on the main drivers of child labour and forced labour in the rural setting and the agriculture sector, during the panel discussion on “Rural Economy” and also participated at the side event organised by the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture (IPCCLA) on ending child labour in agriculture sector.

The Conference concluded with the adoption of the Buenos Aires Declaration which spells out principles and actions to be taken. During the meeting, delegates presented almost 100 pledges, including the Global March, for time bound and measurable concrete steps towards the eradication of child labour and forced labour, and the generation of quality employment for young people. Mr. Satyarthi in his address at the Closing Ceremony of the Conference, reiterated the need for a sense of urgency and strengthening partnerships to see the end of child labour in the coming years. In an emotional appeal to the audience he stated “Once this Conference is over, all of us will start preparing and waiting for the next Conference to be organised but the children who are working in child labour right now cannot wait. They need us to take action now.” Focussing on the resolve and power within each of the 3,000-plus participants, he called upon each individual and said “We all are born as part of the divine power and each one of us is a change maker. We all have infinite power and we must use this power to end child labour and forced labour.”

In the preparation towards the Conference, Global March Board Members from Latin America, Ms. Virginia Murillo and Ms. Ana Vasquez also participated at the “Forum Spain-Americas:  Role of Civil Society for the Sustained Elimination of Child Labour and Protecting Young People in Employment” meeting in Seville, Spain on 8-9 November 2017, that brought together over 40 organisations from Spain, the Caribbean, Central and South America to work together on strategies to eliminate child labour.

The IV Global Conference should be seen as a signpost to use the shared knowledge and accumulated experience not only to renew the world’s commitment to bring justice to the 152 million child labourers across the world, but to accelerate this struggle.  The Global March pledges to take this commitment forward and do everything in its capacity to promote and protect the rights of children around the globe and eradicate child labour in our lifetime.