A new four-year project supported by the EU kicked-off in Brussels, bringing together key stakeholders, vowing to make cotton production sustainable, free from child and forced labour.
The workshop held on 20 November, coincided with Universal Children’s Day, marked the launch of the project. Approximately 90 representatives gathered from industry, governmental and non-governmental sectors, and committed to work towards the goals of the project.
Clear Cotton aims to help eliminate child labour from the cotton, textile and garment value chains, and focuses on three big cotton-producing countries, Burkina Faso, Mali and Pakistan, along with awareness raising activities in Peru.
The four-year project is co-funded by the European Union and implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
EU committed to eradicating child labour
The project is a clear demonstration of the EU’s commitment to supporting the eradication of child labour in all its forms through an integrated approach in line with the 2030 Agenda.
Henriette Geiger, Director ‘People and Peace’ in the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission, opened the workshop saying, “the project is a result of the European Commission’s commitment to promote responsible and sustainable garment production”.
Ms Geiger continued saying, “too many children are deprived of their childhood because instead of going to school, they are forced to work. We need to address the twin scourges of child labour and forced labour, and look at the entire value chain, from field to factory, from producer to consumer.”
Beate Andrees, Chief of the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch, said that, “with this project, the EU is delivering on its commitments and specifically the pledge made one year ago at the Buenos Aires conference on the sustained eradication of child labour”.
An integrated and multi-stakeholder approach
The Ambassador of Mali in Brussels and the Economic Minister at the Embassy of Pakistan in Brussels emphasized their governments’ commitment to both eliminate child labour and develop the cotton sector in their countries.
Two Members of the European Parliament, Ms Lola Sanchez MEP and Mr Arne Lietz MEP, both underlined the Parliament’s grave concerns regarding child and forced labour in supply chains and voiced their support for the actions set out by Clear Cotton.
Panel participants included various supply chain actors, including representatives of employers’ and workers’ organisations, producers, ginning and textile factories, traders, buyers and consumers.
Representatives from Burkina Faso and Mali presented some of the underlying causes of child labour in their countries, such as the long distance to school, school fees and labour shortages, as well as some parents’ belief that work can have a positive socializing effect on their children.
Participants highlighted the importance of fair prices, transparency, improving working conditions, strengthening social dialogue mechanisms in the sector and enhancing women’s representation across the value chain.
Clearing the cotton supply chain of the scourge of child labour
The Clear Cotton project seeks to strengthen national legislation and compliance mechanisms and enhance the capacity of employers’ and workers’ organisations to address the basic needs and rights of children engaged in, or at risk of child labour, and of victims of forced labour.
The project will map the cotton, textile and garment value chain, cooperate with governments, social partners, local farmers, communities, international buyers and retailers, and improve livelihoods for families as well as children’s access to education in cotton production areas.
More information can be found about the project on the ILO’s website here.
Watch a video on the Clear Cotton project here.
At the European Commission the project is managed by the Sector Employment and Social Inclusion, Unit DEVCO B3 Migration, Employment at the DG International Cooperation and Development (email contact: europeaid-B3@ec.europa.eu)