Celebration of the African child day
Declaration by Mr. Youssouf Oomar, Resident Representative
Abidjan, 11 June 2007
• Honourable Minister of Family, Women and Social Affairs,
UNICEF would like to express its sincere gratitude to the Honourable Minister of Family, Women and Social Affairs for the honour done to it by not only associating it with these events but also by offering it the opportunity to speak on this highly memorable day for children.
As the week of celebration of the African Child Day, which the Ministry of Family, Women and Social Affairs as well as the partners of the Rights of the Child offered us the opportunity to witness, draws to a close, I would like every one of us to think of all these children who, for various reasons, are unable to live their childhood because of the selfishness of adults.
This year, the commemoration of the African Child Day offers us the opportunity to reflect on the worrying issue of child trafficking.
Child trafficking is defined as any act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, accommodating or receiving a child for purposes of its exploitation. This phenomenon is observed in most countries of the region, particularly: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Togo, Niger – but also in our own country, Côte d’Ivoire.
It concerns both boys and girls, according to a certain sectoral distribution: trafficking of girls aims at their exploitation as maid servants, while boys are mainly exploited as farm labourers or helpers in the informal sector. Children of both sexes are also recruited for curb trading.
The analysis of factors of child trafficking in West and Central Africa shows that it concerns mainly those that favour child labour. Poverty, values and traditions notably of the movement of the child outside the biological family and the crisis of the educational system are the main forces that drive children into trafficking.
With the armed crisis shaking Côte d’Ivoire since September 2002, child-traffickers have found a more favourable environment for their reprehensible activity, since the conflict has contributed to increase poverty, and consequently, rendered children more vulnerable.
According to a study published in 2005 by ILO, 2,100 child-workers in the informal sector other than domestic work in Abidjan were victims of trafficking. From December 2006 – June 2007, more than 100 child-victims of trafficking were intercepted by the Ivorian security services and entrusted to the care of the Social Protection Department with the support of UNICEF.
UNICEF’s commitment to the search for solutions to this phenomenon is in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, notably in Article 32, which sets forth the right for the child, to be protected against all forms of economic exploitation. This commitment is also based on other international standards such as Convention 182 of the ILO on the worst forms of child labour and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
Some positive steps have been taken in the fight against child trafficking:
On 01 September 2000, for the first time in the region, a cooperation agreement on the fight against cross-border child trafficking was signed between Côte d’Ivoire and Mali.
In 2001, a National Committee on the Control of Child Trafficking and Exploitation in Côte d’Ivoire was set up by presidential decree.
In July 2006, during the Abuja Conference, all Governments of West and Central Africa pledged to collaborate closely to combat trafficking of women and children within and outside their borders. To that end, the initiative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC), a joint Action Plan and a multilateral Agreement against trafficking were validated and signed by twenty-six countries. This inter-regional collaboration seemed essential for the fight against this phenomenon, one of the major causes of which is poverty.
Despite these achievements, child trafficking remains a major problem. The presence in Abidjan of 7 Togolese and Ivorian children recently intercepted by the security services and who are waiting to be reunited with their families clearly testifies to this situation. Only combined and coordinated actions of all of us, the actors, will help to finally put an end to this revolting exploitation of children.
UNICEF’s mandate is to defend the Rights of the Child. For this reason, UNICEF will continue to provide political and technical support to all Governments and partners which will commit themselves to the fight against this phenomenon of child trafficking.
Of course, we are not the only partners of the Government. We shall collaborate with NGOs such as: ODAFEM, FMTV, PAHO, SFCG and the EPP Zélé, which are here with us; and many others on the entire territory. We also have partners in the private sector, including the Fondation Orange Côte d’Ivoire Télécom, which, for the occasion, sent the following SMS message to its subscribers: “The Future of this country depends on children! Together, let us fight against child trafficking – Let us help them, Let us protect them”.
On my own behalf and on behalf of my Organization, I would like to express the hope that this celebration of the African Child Day will not be just another day.
The challenge is enormous but I am convinced that we shall succeed in putting an end to child trafficking, and your presence here is an indication of our determination and commitment to eradicate this scourge.
UNICEF, through me, would like to assure you of its availability to support you in your actions.
Ladies, Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,
Let us all, here and now, pledge to work to ensure that a culture and an environment favourable for the protection of the rights of the child will prosper in Côte d’Ivoire.