The ITCILO was responsible for the communication and facilitation of the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in South Africa.
The 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour convened with only three years left to achieve the goal of the elimination of all child labour by 2025, and only eight years towards the goal of the elimination of forced labour by 2030, as established by Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7.
It also came at a time when the world was recovering and responding to the multiple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has negatively affected health, economic progress, equality and social development.
In this context, the 5th Global Conference represented an opportunity to assess progress made towards achieving the goals of Target 8.7, discuss good practices implemented by the different actors around the world and to identify gaps and urgent measures needed to accelerate the elimination of both child labour and forced labour.
Starting in January 2022, the Learning Innovation Programme of the ITCILO developed a communication ecosystem which included channels such as the official website, the social media #RaiseYourHandForKids challenge, an app for in-person Delegates, and a weekly newsletter.
In addition, the ITCILO organized the hybrid format of the event, from a multi-language livestream to facilitation.
And the ITCILO handled on-site branding as well as virtual reality components, including a holobox that showed both speakers and children, and Oculus headsets where Delegates could view the ILO Dreams of Gold virtual reality experience.
Coordination with stakeholders, including the ILO and the Government of South Africa, proved crucial to the success of the event.
Ministers and government officials from South Africa and beyond opened the conference. Cultural performances, including traditional dancing and a high school choir, were also part of the agenda.
During the opening plenary, Thato Mhlungu, an 18-year-old delegate from the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament, called on attendees to recognize the persistence of child labour around the world today.
"We, the children, will continue to fight for our rights," she said. "We look forward to the conference and showing the world our ability to articulate our views, which are indeed solutions centered."
Guy Ryder, ILO Director General, opened the first discussions of the day by highlighting the key priorities of the conference and noting the importance of sustaining global progress on the elimination of child labour.
An important announcement came from Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships: the EU will invest 10 million euros to target child labour in value chains.
"Child labour is a complex problem with many root causes," she said. "However, there are solutions and we are very committed to finding them."
We must be honest to the promises we make to our children. I thank my friend, the former PM of Sweden Stefan Lofven & my sister Nobel Laureate @LeymahRGbowee for their strong voices to #EndChildLabour in 'Laureates & Leaders for Children' panel. pic.twitter.com/2TSSy6XNaP
— Kailash Satyarthi (@k_satyarthi) May 16, 2022
Sessions throughout the day were rich and included lively discussions from a wide variety of respected spokespeople from government and private sectors. All speakers touched base on child labour deepening due to poverty.
“Those of you who have kids – imagine a 5-year-old working,” said Cornelius Williams, UNICEF Director of the Child Protection Programme Group, speaking in the education-themed panel and presenting the latest Global Estimates on child labour. Children of this age in child labour rose in the past few years. He pointed out the reality of children working in the agricultural sector often out of necessity.
Solutions and current infrastructure were also spoken about by all. Countries such as Niger, South Africa and Ethiopia have feeding schemes put into place so children are encouraged to come to school and don’t have to worry about their next meal.
“Climate change exacerbates the risks of instability and conflict, prompting an increase in vulnerabilities and inequalities.”
Virginia Gamba, SRSG for #children & armed conflict, speaks at the #Duban Call to #Action 5th Global Conference.#EndChildLabour#RaiseYourHandForKids pic.twitter.com/NqZfWn4FHS
— Children and Armed Conflict 📍 #CAAC25 (@childreninwar) May 17, 2022
Panelists came from various organizations from around the world and all say that we must eliminate child labour, starting from the root causes.
“Some people say child labour prepares children for the future,” said Emmerance Tuyishime, Acting CEO of the Pan Africa Farmers’ Organization. “However, it is harmful. Period. It interrupts children’s ability to learn due to heavy work, both mentally and physically.” The main cause of child labour is poverty, not culture, she said. Parents are left with no choice.
Later, a panel discussion on the central role of social protection in tackling child labour was held. Experts agreed: human rights have financial implications. Social protection is not about handouts, but about the creation of wealth and sustainable and inclusive growth, as summarized by panel moderator Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa of the ILO.
Child labor interrupts children’s growing ability due to heavy work which is not compatible with their mental and physical capacities; @EmmeranceT @pafo_africa acting CEO #RaiseYourHandForKids @Alliance8_7 @ilo_pretoria @ILOAfrica @deptoflabour @UNICEF_SA pic.twitter.com/bkNKkzrWlb
— Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO) (@pafo_africa) May 18, 2022
The day's thematic panels addressed issues such as child labour in agriculture and supply chains, overcoming vulnerabilities.
Child labour is partly driven by specific vulnerabilities, such as poverty, risks and shocks. Without proper access to finance, health services, and social protection, children are more likely to become involved in work and less likely to get an education.
“We have to take action, involve children, and take a rights-based approach”, stated Najat Maalla M’jid, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children.
“We are working for a better future in particular for our girls,” she said. “We are trying to improve social conditions in the country, so parents understand the importance of sending kids to school and not into mining.”
We need to give #YOUTH space in the leadership of our institutions to be able to influence decisions on policies and programs concerning them. This will also be a good way of preparing future leaders in #agriculture sector". @EmmeranceT #EndChildLabour #raiseyourhandforkids
— Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO) (@pafo_africa) May 19, 2022
The 5th Global Conference of the Elimination of Child Labour closed on 20 May 2022 with the adoption of the ‘Durban Call to Action’ to deal with the scourge of child labour.
“The Durban Call to Action commits social partners and other stakeholders to accelerate efforts to eliminate child labour and the worst forms of labour by promoting decent work; protecting survivors; universalising access to education and social protection; and increasing multi-stakeholder cooperation and financing for ending child labour and forced labour”, said Thulas Nxesi, Employment and Labour Minister of the Republic of South Africa.
Both in-person and online conference attendees adopted the document by affirming their commitment to preventing and eliminating child labour. These include representatives of governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, United Nations agencies, international and civil society organizations, businesses, children and academic institutions.
The conference may be over, but our work is just beginning.
According to the Durban Call to Action, we stand together in our commitment to prevent and eliminate child labour. Global leaders, UN staff, and people from countries spanning the globe are raising their hands to raise awareness about this important issue.
Will you raise your hand and your voice?