For World Day against Child Labour on 12 June, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) jointly organised a conference followed by an interactive workshop: United to end child labour in agriculture.
The stimulating conference brought together key institutions and partners indispensable to the efforts to end child labour in agriculture, and meet international commitments. The conference was opened by Camilla Hagstrom of DEVCO, while a special video message was shown from Commissioner Mimica was shown, together with messages from the heads of the FAO and ILO.
Despite the United Nations’ goal of eliminating all forms of child labour by 2025, 152 million children are still working, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Of these, 71% work in agriculture – a sector in which child labour actually rose to 108 million in 2016, from 98 million in 2012.
The Brussels conference was focused on looking for solutions, bringing together the lead operational UN agencies, together with representatives from NGOs, partner countries, the private sector and fair-trade organisations.
‘As we savour a piece of chocolate, how many consider that a child might have had to harvest the cocoa for our chocolate for long hours instead of going to school?’ said Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. ‘It is a reality that robs children from getting an education. It is a reality that perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
DEVCO Director B “People and Peace”, Henriette Geiger, closed the conference and committed the European Commission to continuing its efforts to work towards the elimination of child labour. Ms Geiger proposed three recommendations:
- Stakeholders should treat the fight to eradicate child labour as a shared responsibility with common goals.
- Knowledge gained from monitoring, evaluations and analytical studies should be shared as far as possible.
- New partners at crucial links in the value chains should be involved, including farmers, producers and consumers.
She called for participants to meet again in 2020 to assess the results of the conference. ‘We cannot continue our work as usual,’ she said. ‘A joint effort is necessary by all if we want to eradicate child labour by 2025 together.’
Speaking with one voice
A joint-social media campaign was implemented by the co-organisers to raise awareness of the situation of child labour in agriculture. A short video, coproduced by DEVCO and FAO: Children should work on dreams was launched at the event and on social media, and has already reached hundreds of thousands.
Joining forces for solutions that work
The morning conference was followed by a participatory workshop, resulting in a number of conclusions:
- Better tackle child labour in agriculture as the situation is deteriorating: there are an additional 10 million child labourers in agriculture since 2012 and nearly three in every four of these are aged between 6 and 8.
- In addition to value chain interventions, increase livelihoods in rural areas and create child labour free zones that support decent wages, social protection, education and infrastructure.
- Empower small farmers and workers, in particular in the informal economy to get organised and improve their skills.
- Understand the links between child labour and gender equality, civil birth registration and access to education.
- Raise awareness of the harmful effects of child labour throughout all sectors.
- Improve the participation of families, teachers and trade unions, to better understand the root causes and be part of the solution, together with affected children.
- Share knowledge and data, set up networks and use new technologies, that support data collection for improved child labour statistics, in cooperation with companies.
- Promote an EU mandatory process of due diligence, taking inspiration from recently adopted laws in the Netherlands and France.
A report on the conference and workshop will be produced and disseminated soon.