JAKARTA and BANGKOK (ILO News):- High-level policy makers including ministers and secretaries of labour and leaders of employers' federations and trade unions from 15 Asian States concerned by the rise in child labour in the region in the wake of the Asian financial crisis will meet in Jakarta from 8 to 10 March to determine what further urgent steps need to be taken to halt what the International Labour Organization describes as the worst forms of child labour, namely contemporary guises of slavery; prostitution and other illicit activities; recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; and hazardous work which damages the child's health, safety or morals.
Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid will open the meeting on Wednesday 8 March in the Presidential Palace. Indonesia became the first Asian country last June to ratify seven of the ILO's core Conventions, which call for the respect of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining and for an end to child labour, forced labour and discrimination in the workplace.
On Thursday 2 March the People's Consultative Assembly, Indonesia's parliament, unanimously passed a bill to ratify the ILO's eighth core Convention: the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), approved at the 1999 International Labour Conference in Geneva.
President Wahid is expected to sign the bill ratifying Convention 182 into law during the opening session of the meeting on 8 March. This will make Indonesia the first State in Asia and the Pacific to have ratified the eight core Conventions and only the sixth in the world to have done so alongside Botswana, Finland, Ireland, Slovakia and Tunisia.
ILO Executive Director Kari Tapiola, who will be addressing the Meeting, underscores Indonesia's precedent-setting ratification in the region of all the fundamental ILO Conventions. The process, he explains, began with a letter of intent the Government signed with the ILO in December 1998 pledging ratification of the core Conventions and moved swiftly ahead with extensive technical cooperation from the ILO and national tripartite employers, workers and Government support.
In her address to the Meeting, which opens on International Women's Day, ILO Regional Director Mitsuko Horiuchi will draw attention to the plight of young girl workers. Many girls are pressed into invidious forms of work shielded from the public eye such as domestic labour, which often involves long hours and physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
The ILO is concerned that girls, generally presumed more docile, are particularly vulnerable to harsh treatment.
In addition to country papers on the current child-labour situation from the 15 member States taking part in the Meeting, participants will discuss reports by ILO experts on trafficking in children and women; workplace monitoring; labour inspection; and programmes underway to put a stop to the worst forms of child labour in Asia.
Correspondents are invited to a pre-Meeting press conference on Tuesday, 7 March at 17.30 at the conference venue, the Jakarta Shangrila Hotel. The ILO's Executive Director for standards and fundamental principles and rights at work (Mr Tapiola), the Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific (Ms Horiuchi), the Director of the InFocus Programme on child labour (Mr Roselaers) and other ILO officials active in the region will be on hand to answer questions from the floor.