World Day on Child Labour

The world comes together on June 12 to rally efforts in the fight against child labour, and to bring to an end the plight of the more than 215 million children worldwide who are victims of this serious violation of their rights.

The exploitation of children through labour, in particular its worst forms, is a major obstacle to realizing the dream of a world where violence against children has no place. The United Nations Study on Violence against Children underlined the high incidence of violence in the workplace, including ill-treatment by employers and sexual violence of child domestic workers. Violence is used to coerce children to work, to keep them in exploitation and servitude, and also to punish and control them – including in situations where older children are legally working.

In the last decades, the international community has established a strong international normative framework to prohibit child labour in all its forms. The ILO’s Conventions 138 and 182, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Protocols leave no space for tolerating the exploitation of children; and they provide strong guidance for national implementation efforts. Significant progress has been made in this area, including better laws and better mechanisms to enforce these treaties, and better policies to address the root causes of child labour; and public attitudes have also clearly changed. Yet, despite these achievements, child labour continues to compromise the fundamental rights of countless numbers of children. Some 115 million of them are trapped in hazardous forms of child labour, often enduring heavy work and also suffering the traumatic impact of violence.

On this occasion, we ask the world to join our common efforts to eliminate child labour and ensure the effective protection of all children who remain trapped in hazardous work. It is urgent to outlaw the worst forms of child labour!

In my work as Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children, I have been a strong advocate of the Roadmap for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, adopted in 2010 in The Hague, which calls for their elimination by the year 2016.

In line with the priorities that I have set for my mandate, I call upon governments, international organizations, civil society and social partners to work hand in hand and redouble efforts to eradicate hazardous work as a matter of urgency. We must have better data and research on child labour and its impact on children’s rights, to inform well targeted policies and mobilize resources for prevention and response. We must include a clear prohibition in legislation and promote effective enforcement. And we must invest in prevention and in meaningful alternatives for children in hazardous work, including the availability of safe schools and quality education; and when the child is old enough to work, safe working conditions.

Marta Santos Pais
New York, 12 June 2011