Alliance 8.7

The Netherlands becomes an Alliance 8.7 pathfinder country

The Netherlands recently became a pathfinder country for Alliance 8.7. ILO-Brussels interviewed Wilm Geurts, Director International Affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment of the Netherlands, about this new status.

News | 15 February 2022
The Netherlands recently became a pathfinder country for Alliance 8.7, a global partnership which brings together states, international organizations, businesses and members of civil society under the aegis of the UN to achieve a double objective. This is to end child labour by 2025 and forced labour by 2030, and thus achieve Target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Pathfinder countries go further and faster to achieve Target 8.7. They commit to accelerate efforts, try new approaches and collaborate with others. The Netherlands is the second EU Member State to become a pathfinder country for Alliance 8.7.

We interviewed Wilm Geurts, Director International Affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment of the Netherlands, about this new status, and look ahead to the V Global Conference on Child Labour, which will be hosted by the Government of South Africa in May 2022.

Why did the Netherlands decide to become a pathfinder country, and what are the Government’s top priorities in this regard?

The Netherlands has been involved in the fight against child labour for a long time. The second International Conference on Child Labour took place in The Hague in 2010, for example. Last year, on the occasion of the International Year Against Child Labour, the Netherlands also organised a number of activities. The pathfinder status fits well with our commitment to eliminate child labour together with all parties.

Our plan contains three priorities:

1/ stimulate and activate the business community

We actively approach and support the business community with various instruments, such as awareness-raising campaigns, knowledge-sharing and offering technical and financial support. These tools are developed jointly by the government, social partners and NGOs. There are tools that can help companies directly, such as the Fund to Combat Child Labour, which awards grants to companies so that they can set up targeted projects against child labour in their supply chain.

Legislation that obliges companies in a general sense to apply due diligence in their chains will eventually be the final element. The new cabinet has decided on national legislation and is awaiting the announced proposal from the European Commission in this area. Together with other measures to stimulate and support the business community, this should help companies to do business in a sustainable way across the supply chain.

2/ expand and deepen the international dialogue

The Netherlands considers it important to continue to put this subject on the agenda. We try to move the agenda forward, at the international level, but also at the national level, and we involve all partners in this. Last year, for example, we contributed to various conferences and events to share best practices and underline the importance of education and a living wage. One example is a joint presentation by my colleague at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sustainability Director of Verstegen Spices & Sauces at the International Conference of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which highlighted the concrete projects that have been made possible thanks to the Fund to Combat Child Labour.

3/ monitoring impact and progress and achieving results

It is one thing to be committed and express ambitions, but it is quite another to follow them up and achieve results. Through our participation in the Alliance's Monitoring working group, the Netherlands is trying to actively contribute to this.

You mentioned the Netherlands’ commitment to combat child labour in global supply chains. What is the Government’s strategy on this going forward?

One pillar is dialogue with business. We see a great willingness, but businesses need help. A second pillar is cooperation with local partners through an area-specific approach. Solutions can only be sustainable if all parties are involved on the ground.

We do this through the programme Work: No Child's Business. This programme focuses on addressing all factors and causes of child labour, such as poverty and inadequate education. We also work closely with local governments in the production countries themselves. For example, the Netherlands supports the ACCEL project which aims to eliminate child labour in a number of countries in Africa.

It is estimated that between 5,000 and 7,500 children and adults are victims of human trafficking in the Netherlands each year. How does the Government tackle this issue?

These estimates come from the Progress Report of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and this is indeed a poignant number. We are faced with a persistent problem.

We have a National Programme 'Together against Human Trafficking' in which municipalities, the inspectorate, the judiciary and professionals in the field work together. Human trafficking brutally undermines people's dignity. Therefore, the new cabinet will continue this programme and take measures against exploitation. A new law will be introduced to better regulate sex work. Attention will also be paid to improving criminalisation, and (the accessibility of) assistance for victims.

Finally, looking forward, what are your hopes for the V Global Conference on Child Labour?

I hope for a broad presence, of all parties: the social partners, NGOs, representatives of business and governments. As I said, monitoring is very important: we have to analyse carefully where we stand now compared to the pledges made earlier (e.g. during the International Year in 2021). It will be important to fulfil the pledges made, because we are certainly not there yet.

On the basis of this analysis, we need to propose an action-oriented agenda and strengthen the dialogue between producer and consumer countries. No country can tackle the problem of child labour on its own: cooperation is the key. And of course we hope that we can inspire other countries to join the Alliance 8.7.