Protecting African Children from Child Labor

International Labor Organization (ILO) Regional Director for Africa, Ms. Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, on the universal ratification of the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.

When children are trapped in slavery, forced labor and trafficking; forced to take part in armed conflict; used for prostitution, pornography or in illegal activities; or in dangerous work, we must act urgently to protect their rights and restore their childhood.

Ms Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, International Labor Organization

The International Labor Organization’s Convention no. 182 on the worst forms of child labor became the first international labor standard ever to achieve universal ratification.

This historic achievement reflects a worldwide consensus that the worst forms of child labor are unacceptable and an insult to our common values.

Although the universal ratification of ILO Convention 182 is a major pressure to eradicate the issue by establishing a clear legal framework, countries must continue to implement and ensure effective implementation through labor inspections and other means and provide decent work to adults. and young people with legal jobs. age.

In Africa, Convention 182 is of great importance. The Republic of the Seychelles was the first country to formally ratify the convention, only a few months after the ILO’s 174 member states unanimously adopted it in June 1999.

Confirmed in Africa

With massive ratification by countries in Africa, progress has been made as the issue has been brought to the agendas of policymakers and social partners. National surveys and studies were conducted to better understand the issue and its implications.

We have seen remarkable progress in many countries in Africa, for example with the creation of national units for combating child labor, harmonization of national legal frameworks with child labor conventions, the adoption of national action plans for the elimination of child labor, and the establishment of local vigilance committees responsible for monitoring and reporting on child labor issues.

However, 72.1 million Afrikaans children are still involved in child labor, including 31.5 million children doing dangerous work. According to the ILO’s global estimates of child labor published in 2017, sub-Saharan Africa saw an increase in child labor from 2012 to 2016, in contrast to other regions where child labor continued to decline.

To achieve Goal 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to eliminate all forms of child labor by 2025, we must accelerate actions against child labor in Africa.

African countries need to address informality, extend social protection to all, improve law enforcement mechanisms, increase access to free, basic quality education and strengthen social dialogue.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis increased economic uncertainty, disrupted supply chains, and severely slowed production. With about 85 per cent of jobs in Africa in the informal economy, there is an expected increase in child labor due to school closures, the significant loss of parental income during the pandemic, the absence of basic social protection and rising poverty .

The International Labor Organization’s Convention no. 182 on the worst form of child labor was officially universally ratified on 4 August 2020.

The Convention recognizes a child as all persons under the age of 18.

According to the convention, the worst forms of child labor consist of:

all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, slavery and enslavement and forced labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

the use, acquisition or presentation of a child for prostitution, production of pornography or pornographic performances;

the use, acquisition or presentation of a child for illegal activities, in particular for the production and trade of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;

work which, by the nature of the case or under the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to prejudice the health, safety or morals of children.

Accelerate action

The ILO is accelerating action to strengthen the capacity of governments in labor inspection and law enforcement, as well as workers ‘and employers’ organizations in the fight against child labor in the worst form.

The ILO also supports more resilient post-pandemic economies with a commitment to ‘build better’.

Now, more than ever before, we need to build stronger partnerships and step up action against child labor. In this regard, the adoption of the ten-year continental action plan for African labor by African leaders in February 2020 is the first step towards an implementation phase characterized by a challenging context.

It is pleasing to note that out of 22 countries, 11 countries in Africa – Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia and Uganda – Alliance 8.7 has been identified.

Alliance 8.7 is an inclusive global partnership committed to achieving Goal 8.7 of the SDGs. It shows not only the determined determination of countries in Africa, but also the firm commitment of the international community to accelerate actions for the elimination of child labor, forced labor, human trafficking and modern slavery on the continent.

The ILO regional project “Accelerating Action for the Elimination of Child Labor in Supply Chains in Africa (the ACCEL Africa Project)”, funded by the Government of the Netherlands, is one of the prominent examples of collective commitment and partnership in Africa.

To provide sustainable solutions to the root causes of child labor in supply chains that require comprehensive responses, the ACCEL Africa project works closely with the ILO components (governments, workers ‘and employers’ organizations), the Commission of the African Union, actors in the supply chain, civic organizations and sister agencies of the UN such as UNICEF.

Much work remains to be done, but the universal ratification of Convention 182, on the eve of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor in 2021, is very timely. We must not lose momentum. We must work together to win this battle for our children and to ensure a better future for all.

In the words of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a child at risk is a child who cannot wait.

Convention 182 was adopted to take immediate action against the worst forms of child labor. It requires countries to be empowered to accelerate effective and time-bound measures to urgently eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

We must act now to ensure that no child is left behind.

Me. Samuel-Olonjuwon is the Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, the international labor organization.


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