“We have 168 million reasons to be present at this conference in Brasilia” said Guy Ryder, Director General of International Labour Organisation (ILO), while officially inaugurating the III Global Conference on Child Labour 2013 (III GCCL) on October 08, 2013 in Brasilia, Brazil. Referring to ILO’s recently published report that explicitly compares the global child labour estimates and trends between 2000 and 2012 and further acknowledging the fact that the number of child labourers worldwide has gone down by over one third during the 12 year period, he expressed serious concern that with the current pace of child labour elimination interventions, the world would not be able to accomplish the task of eliminating worst forms of child labour by 2016.
Dilma Rousseff, President of Federative Republic of Brazil highlighted that even in the most arduous time while tiding over the global recession of 2008-2008, Government of Brazil was mindful of the impact of decent wages on the well-being of economy and therefore the wages of the workers was not compromised with.
Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson, Global March speaking in the opening plenary said, “We must wage a war on the 6 Emergencies or the 6E’s – Educational Emergency, Enforcement Emergency, Employment Emergency, Economical Emergency, Environmental Emergency and Ethical Emergency with a sense of utmost emergency”. He cautioned that 57 million out of school children are at an unprecedented risk of exclusion and that the journey hereafter entails reaching out to hardest-to-reach children which will be fraught with many challenges. He further emphasised that investments in education as well as towards sustained interventions to eliminate child labour are strong methods of mitigating the economic crisis in the long run.
Satyarthi stressed that despite progressive international legislations like ILO conventions, 138 and 182 the legal and judicial mechanisms at the country level remain grossly underutilised resulting in disappointing numbers of prosecutions and far lesser number of actual convictions. The law enforcement machinery worldwide needs a compulsory overhaul in terms of capacity, robust accountability framework, fast track trial/ speedy justice delivery for the victims, composite and comprehensive rehabilitation of child labourers and their families into mainstream society’’, asserted Satyarthi.
Other speakers in the opening plenary were Brazilian Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger, Tereza Campello; Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Liliane Ploumen; representative of the International Organization of Employers (IOE), Octavio Carvajal Bustamante and representative of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Jeroen Beirnaert.
On day 1 there were parallel semi-plenaries after the opening session on: violation of the rights of children and adolescents, child labour and migration, child labour in domestic work and gender issues, and child labour in agriculture.
Kailash Satyarthi as a specialist on the semi-plenary discussion on child labour in agriculture emphasised that, “We need bold initiatives, and not business-as-usual approach in tackling the issue of child labour in agriculture in various countries. This can be done by identifying gaps, amending or making laws and increasing national budgets and official development assistance substantially. We must demonstrate the courage to set yearly benchmarks to that effect at both national and international levels”. He further said that we cannot achieve the goals of Universal Primary Education without elimination of child labour in agriculture. Sue Longley, International Union of Food Workers’ (IUF) International Officer for agriculture and plantations emphasised that policy and programmatic interventions at national and regional level are required to mitigate risks confronting the migrant agricultural workers especially in terms of lack of freedom of association, collective bargaining and precarious working conditions.
On day 2, the high level plenary session saw representatives from over 50 countries speak on the progress against child labour that has been made, and the efforts still needed to eradicate child labour.
Further, during day 2 Kailash Satyarthi interacted with over 40 adolescents and young people from 23 Brazilian states. The teens discussed how they can support the fight against child and what they think are their priorities in ending child labour.
Day 2 also saw semi-plenaries on education models and schools, production of statistics, urban child labour, child labour in supply chains and the role of justice systems in the elimination of child labour.
Speaking as an expert on the semi-plenary on child labour in supply chains, Tim Ryan, Regional Director-Asia, Solidarity Center and North American Representative of Global March asserted that trade unions and workers were on the frontline of the fight against child labour. Situating ‘corporate social accountability’ he emphasised that the social auditing mechanisms cannot take place of the state labour inspectorate mechanism. He also called upon the multinational companies to work in tandem with the civil society organisations at the grassroots level to ensure sustainable elimination of child labour from their supply chains. Simon Steyne, Head of Social Dialogues and Partnership ILO-IPEC moderating the semi plenary on child labour in supply chains emphasised that the law of the land must be upheld and respected by the trans-national organisations in true letter and spirit. He also stressed upon the role the corporations can play by respecting labour rights and instituting decent working conditions across the supply chains which can gradually help in formalising the informal sector.
Moderating the session on child domestic labour, Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch said that children especially girls are at a grave risk of exploitation behind closed doors in the domestic set up, much beyond any surveillance by law enforcement agencies. She called upon the Governments to ratify ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers laying special emphasis on withdrawing child domestic labourers from exploitation and mainstreaming them into education. She also underpinned upon the importance of social protection for domestic workers as a sustainable solution for elimination child domestic labour.
On day 3 (final day), 10 October 2013, all the stakeholders acknowledging the progress on ratification of ILO Conventions 138 and 182 and further reiterating the importance of universal ratification and effective implementation of United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and its optional protocols; expeditious ratification of convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, convention 129 on Labour Inspection in Agriculture and convention 184 on safety and health in agriculture and further underscoring the relevance of UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, endorsed the Brasilia Declaration on Child Labour. http://childlabour2013.org/the-brasilia-declaration-on-child-labour/
At the official closing of the conference former President of Brazil Luis Inacio Lula da Silva said that the international community has the duty to give child labourers; especially those trapped in its worst forms, the hope of a better future and in particular applauded the work done by the civil society towards child labour elimination. He also called upon all the stakeholders to act with a sense of urgency more so with the 2016 deadline of elimination of worst forms of child labour being round the corner to exemplify the political courage to adopt the required measures to attain the objective.
Addressing the delegates at the closing Kailash Satyarthi said that business at usual cannot be an excuse anymore and all stakeholders must do whatever it takes to live up to the commitments made towards eliminating worst forms of child labour by 2016.
Guy Ryder in his closing address at III GCCL called upon the stakeholders to turn all the plans that were discussed during the conference into widespread, systemic and sustainable action for child labour elimination.
The III GCCL witnessed the participation of 1300 participants from over 150 countries from various governments, employers’ organisations, workers’ organisations, regional/international organisations and civil society organisations.