|A boy sleeps on a pavement in South Africa. Poverty
has consigned millions of children globally to a life of suffering on the streets, in bonded labour, in
brothels, factories and fields.
Many gains have been made in the decade since
the World Summit for Children and the adoption of the Convention
on the Rights of the Child. To bring this progress to its full
fruition, the world must now force itself to confront and change
the miserable fates of those children who have gained the least,
or nothing at all. A crucial step is to make the time-bound
eradication of the worst forms of child labour and exploitation
a cause for all of us, not in words, but in action; not in speeches,
but in policies and resources. It is a global cause we all share
across regions, cultures, spiritual traditions and development
levels. A cause to which we all want to contribute in practical
During the last eight years, some 90 countries have made progress
on this important front, uniting behind the International Labour
Organizations (ILO) International Programme on the Elimination
of Child Labour (IPEC) to form a strong alliance that has turned
this issue into a global cause. From just one donor country
and six participating States in 1992, IPEC now has nearly 25
donors and more than 65 participating countries. In those countries,
projects are helping prevent children from becoming involved
in child labour, remove them from such situations through rehabilitation
and education and provide improved livelihoods for their families
through decent work.
In addition, the unanimous adoption in June 1999 of a new Convention (No.
182) on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by the International Labour
Conference of the ILO offers enormous leverage in ending the worst forms of child labour.
These include such practices as child slavery, the forced recruitment of child soldiers,
forced labour, trafficking, debt bondage, serfdom, prostitution, pornography and various
forms of hazardous and exploitative work.
Convention 182 requires ratifying nations to take immediate action to
protect children from abusive labour and to provide those removed from these horrors with
rehabilitation and education.
A dozen countries have already ratified this new human rights instrument
and many more report that they will do so in the next few months. Within IPEC, we are
intent on winning rapid ratification on a country-by-country basis through a wide range of
activities from private lobbying to public rallies, from on-line information to wall
But we are committed to going beyond universal ratification to ensure that
the principles of this Convention are integrated within national legal structures and
implemented in ways that give realistic hope of rapidly eradicating these worst forms of