International Cooperation and Development

Taking next steps: International conference on tackling child labour in global supply chains

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A conference hosted by the Dutch Government aimed at formulating urgent and practical solutions to tackle child labour in global supply chains as part of the accelerated actions to meet the SDG 8.7 target to eliminate child labour by 2025.

Around 500 participants attended the conference from governments, private sector, think tankers, civil society organisations and social partners. The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Ms Sigrid Kaag, the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, Mr Wouter Koolmees, the Director General of the ILO, Mr Guy Ryder and the Peace Nobel Prize and child protection activist Mr Kailash Satyarthi, opened the event.

Taking Next Steps
Henriette Geiger & Kailash Satyarthi
Henriette Geiger & Kailash Satyarthi

At the conference, Henriette Geiger, Director, People and Peace, representing the European Commission, called on youth to raise awareness in confronting the challenge of child labour and highlighted a digital campaign spearheaded by the EU, #ThinkTwice, that focused on the ethical issues around supply chains, including child labour. Ms Geiger drew reference to the EU’s commitment and actions on eliminating child labour, which includes the CLEAR Cotton project, implemented by the ILO and FAO, and the new Commission President’s commitment to zero tolerance policy on child labour in new trade agreements

The conference participants underlined their determination to push for a strong collective commitment to do more and faster to accelerate global progress towards ending child labour. Otherwise, there is a risk of failing the 2025 SDG target 8.7. An assessment of progress since the IV Global Conference in Buenos Aires 2017 on Sustained Eradication of Child Labour was undertaken.

Participants underlined their determination to push for a strong collective commitment

There was good participation from the private sector with big multinationals, including companies from the EU and partner countries. Participants, including industry, indicated an interest in a possible future EU regulatory framework on due diligence, similar to the recent Dutch and French due diligence laws.

The importance of free access to education, particularly for girls, as a key accelerator in the fight against child labour, was made clear. Measures such as incentivising parents through school feeding, conditional cash transfers, and other measures, were recognised for their potential to have an impact

Taking next steps

The conference concluded with the realisation that the SDG target 8.7 to eliminate child labour by 2025 is under big threat and it is urgent to take action now. In terms of “next steps” twelve international companies announced their plans to end child labour in their supply chains mainly in Africa and Asia in cocoa, granite and quarries and gold. The need to engage with small and medium enterprises in consuming countries was recognised. While calls for the due diligence laws in the Netherlands and France to widened to EU level were made, including a smart mix of voluntary and non-voluntary conducts, connecting producers, upscaling technical assistance, addressing informality and child labour in supply chains. There was also a call for improved national dialogues and ownership. The EU made clear of its continued commitments and its support particularly in the cocoa, cotton, fishery and mining sectors, not to mention the role of education.

Learn more about the conference here.