World Day Against Child Labour

A Call to Action in West & Central Africa

12 June 2020
A young boy exposed to dust in a local mine
UNICEF/UN827001/QUARMYNE

DAKAR, 12 June 2020 – As we mark the 2020 World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL), the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are calling all partners to action.

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on family incomes. Combined with the vast number of children out of school, the risks are all too apparent: a new brief from the ILO and UNICEF shows that we might see an increase in child labour for the first time in 20 years. COVID-19 is threatening to reverse years of progress.  

Across the world, about 152 million children between 5 and 17 years are in child labour, including 73 million involved in hazardous child labour. In absolute terms, almost half of child labour (72 million) is found in Africa. Children have been forced to give up schooling, sport, play and sometimes even their families and homes, to work under dangerous, harmful and abusive conditions.

While 11 per cent of the world’s children live in West and Central Africa (WCA), they are bearing a disproportionate share of the global burden of child right deprivations. 

Agriculture accounts for by far the largest share of child labour in Africa, about 85 per cent of all those in child labour. This is a particular concern in light of the fact that agriculture is one of the three most dangerous sectors in which to work at any age, along with construction and mining. In Western and Central Africa, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) provides a direct or indirect livelihood for millions of households, and many children are working in ASM in dangerous conditions, with no access to basic necessities, schools or health and protection services.

ILO and UNICEF are supporting governments’ efforts to eliminate child labour and achieve target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals[1] in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the ILO’s Conventions on Minimum Age (No. 138) and on Worst Forms of Child Labour (No. 182). Below are some examples of both organizations’ interventions in West and Central Africa.

In Burkina Faso, in line with the revised Mining Code that mandates additional financial contributions from the mining industry to municipal governments, UNICEF advocates for the inclusion of the protection of children working in ASM in the municipalities’ development plans. Children working in artisanal gold mines are identified through an SMS-based real-time monitoring system, followed by a referral to appropriate services for their social and educational re-integration. UNICEF and ILO’s role in facilitating Public-private partnerships is fundamental to ensure scale and sustainability of such interventions, together with communication for development to bring positive social changes against child labour.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an ILO project supports government efforts to eradicate child labour in the mining sector, specifically in the cobalt supply chain. It also supports the Federation of Congolese Enterprises and the Chambers of Mines to promote dialogue between the industry and artisanal miners for the identification of sustainable solutions to eradicate child labour from the cobalt supply chains.

In Ghana, UNICEF and ILO undertake joint efforts to support the Government of Ghana and  partners to accelerate implementation of its National Action Plan to end child labour with a transformative vision whereby the most vulnerable children, such as those working in cocoa growing areas can grow up free from all forms of child labour and their rights are protected.

In Mali, the ILO works closely with its constituents to address child labour in agriculture, including through a public-private partnership with the garment sector. Child labour has for instance been mainstreamed in the training curricula of the agricultural extension services. In the cotton sector specifically, the ILO provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Labour, social partners, cotton companies and cooperatives in view of strengthening enforcement mechanisms and sensitizing cotton producers about the negative consequences of child labour. The ILO also supports community-based child labour monitoring and provides educational support to children and livelihood support to their parents.

As the world responds to the COVID-19 crisis which, in addition to health impacts, could also bring devastating socio-economic impacts, ILO and UNICEF urge the governments and all stakeholders – workers and employers’ organizations, civil society, private sector and other development actors - to accelerate ongoing efforts to end child labour.

The world can learn from COVID-19 to create the ‘next normal’, to re-invent and re-imagine a world better fit for children.

Today, UNICEF and ILO – together with other members of the UN country teams- join forces to strengthen efforts to support government-led actions to end child labour, for the best interests of children.

Ending child labour can only be achieved through a systemic approach that will tackle the root causes at scale. This requires connecting the dots to ensure children get a positive early start to life through having their births registered and receiving good nutrition, quality education, vocational training and skills building that will give them the opportunities they deserve for future employment and responsible citizenship. Coherent action is also required, to ensure healthcare and social protection for all, the rule of law and decent work for parents.

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The International Labour Organization is a United Nations agency whose mandate is to promote social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace

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