Project launch

Clear Cotton project seeks halt to child labour in West Africa and Pakistan

Four-year project co-funded by the EU kicks off with workshop participants vowing to make cotton production sustainable.

News | 21 November 2018

ILO News (Brussels) - A workshop held on Universal Children’s Day marked the launch of the Clear Cotton project. The project aims to help eliminate child labour and forced labour in the cotton, textile and garment value chains and will focus on three big cotton-producing countries - Burkina Faso, Mali and Pakistan - along with awareness raising activities in Peru.

The four-year project is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“With this project, the EU is delivering on the pledge it made one year ago at the Buenos Aires conference on the sustained eradication of child labour,” said Beate Andrees, Chief of the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch.

“In order to ensure that the production of cotton becomes a source of economic growth and well-being, we will combine tools including the promotion of social dialogue, sustainable enterprises and social protection in the rural economy,” she continued.

Henriette Geiger, Director “People and Peace” in the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission, said: “Too many children are deprived of their childhood because instead of going to school, they are forced to work. We need to address the twin scourges of child labour and forced labour, and look at the entire value chain, from field to factory, from producer to consumer.”

The Ambassador of Mali in Brussels and the Economic Minister at the Embassy of Pakistan in Brussels emphasized their governments’ commitment to both eliminate child labour and develop the cotton sector in their countries.

Panel participants included various supply chain actors, including representatives of employers’ and workers’ organizations, producers, ginning and textile factories, traders, buyers and consumers.

Representatives from Burkina Faso and Mali presented some of the underlying causes of child labour in their countries, such as the long distance to school, school fees and labour shortages, as well as some parents’ belief that work can have a positive socializing effect on their children.

Participants highlighted the importance of fair prices, transparency, improving working conditions, strengthening social dialogue mechanisms in the sector and enhancing women’s representation across the value chain.

The Clear Cotton project seeks to strengthen national legislation and compliance mechanisms and enhance the capacity of employers’ and workers’ organizations to address the basic needs and rights of children engaged in, or at risk of child labour, and of victims of forced labour.

The project will map the cotton, textile and garment value chain, cooperate with governments, social partners, local farmers, communities, international buyers and retailers, and improve livelihoods for families as well as children’s access to education in cotton production areas.

The workshop brought together some 90 representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament, international organizations, governments, social partners, civil society, businesses, consumers, academia and media.