Speech of ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific at the Alliance SDG 8.7 – South Asia Launch

By Ms Tomoko Nishimoto, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific at Alliance SDG 8.7 – South Asia Launch, Thimphu, Bhutan, 19 – 20 July 2016. The event is hosted by the Royal Government of Bhutan, Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, the National Commission for Women and Children and the NACG Bhutan (SAIEVAC National Mechanisms) in collaboration with South Asia Coordinating Group on Action against Violence against Children (SACG), (Supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Statement | Thimphu, Bhutan | 19 July 2016
Your excellences, senior Government Officials, representatives of the civil society, brothers and sisters, distinguished guests, children present here, participants and friends. Kuzu Zangpo La! (basic greeting, or “Hello” regardless of time of day. “La” denotes respect and is extra polite)

It gives me great pleasure to be with you in this beautiful capital city, Thimphu. This is my first visit to Bhutan, but not the first time that the ILO has enjoyed the generosity and hospitality of the Government of Bhutan.

I often heard about this country’s natural and historical charm as well as the warm-hearted people of the land of happiness. I am very pleased to have an opportunity to witness it all first hand.

Ladies, gentlemen and children,

Sustainable Development Goal 8, better known as SDG 8, places social justice and decent work for all at the heart of Agenda 2030 which sets an ambitious trajectory towards sustainable and inclusive growth and development.

SDG 8 has several targets. Target 8.7 is particularly challenging. It calls on us to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking; and eliminate the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers. In addition, by 2025 we must end child labour in all its forms.

Achieving such an ambitious goal requires an unprecedented level of mobilization of partnership, which harnesses energy, resources and strategic and political acumen to a maximum degree. Ending child labour and modern slavery will require integrated thinking, coordinated actions, effective policy making and efficient use of resources in a manner we have never seen before. SDG Alliance 8.7 is intended to realize extraordinary and ground-breaking ways of bringing multiple actors together for concerted and focused actions to help countries to achieve the goal and targets set forth in SDG 8 and other related SDGs.

Ladies, gentlemen and children,

In a way, together we are making a history today. This is the first regional Consultation to be organized before the SDG Alliance 8.7 gets its high-level global launch, in September this year, preceding to the United Nations General Assembly Session. Thank you for being the first. I thank most sincerely each one of you gathered here for the leadership and courage to take this bold step.

I am almost overwhelmed by the enthusiasm with which SAARC’s Apex Body on Children, the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children, or SAIEVAC, has embraced this partnership opportunity. SAIEVAC has worked hard to bring different stakeholders together for this Consultation and into this Alliance.

One of the factors that gives SAIEVAC’s partnership its energy, is its diversity and inclusivity. It brings together governments, civil society, children, the UN agencies, NGO’s and other stakeholders. This time, as a SAIEVAC-organized event, we are witnessing the first engagement of representatives from employers’ and workers’ organizations. I am particularly pleased with their presence because when it comes to issues of social justice and fundamental principles and rights at work, such as those covered under SDG 8.7, it is critical to have these social partners on board.

I congratulate the SAIEVAC Regional Secretariat for taking this bold step and reaching out to them. I trust that their contribution will accelerate our progress.

Ladies, gentlemen and children,

Asia Pacific is the most dynamic, fastest-growing economic region in the world. Yet too many children, women and men in our region live in a world of violence, exploitation and abuse. Let me remind ourselves of a few statistics that show the scale of the challenge and why we need the broadest and the most dynamic of partnerships to respond.

Asia Pacific still has the most child labourers in the world. Almost one-in-10, or 78 million children are child labourers; 48 million of these children are in hazardous work.

In the South Asian countries it is conservatively estimated that some 17 million children are in child labour, mainly in hazardous forms. Of these, more than 10 million are aged between 5 and 14.

We should also be concerned about the 28 million South Asian children, mostly girls, who are reported as inactive. This means they are not in school or working. Rather they are likely to be trapped in child domestic labour, child marriage, or even trafficking.

More than 150,000 people in South Asia become victims of human trafficking every year. This region also has the highest number of child trafficking victims.

Twenty-one million people are in forced labour worldwide, including more than 11 million women and girls. The largest number of forced labourers in the world – 11.7 million (56 per cent) – are in the Asia-Pacific region.

Forced labour takes many forms, including debt bondage, trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. We find forced labour in domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment, among other sectors. Migrant workers and indigenous people are particularly vulnerable.

I can go on and on. It is worthy to note that women and girls are particularly vulnerable. These figures are shocking, but as you all know, the problems are not new.

What is new is the very strong call for us to work together, with a clear vision and a coordinated strategy. Although we may be able to make progress on some problems and challenges by ourselves, we will surely do it more effectively, and more quickly, when we work together.

For the ILO, this means working in close cooperation with partners like SAIEVAC and the South Asia Coordinating Group on Action against Violence against Children, or SACG. We need to strengthen national systems and policies for social protection, decent jobs, opportunities for skills training, social dialogue and the eradication of child labour, forced labour and discrimination.

Let me express my gratitude and commendation towards SAIEVAC for pulling together a timely, comprehensive, Regional Action Plan on the Eradication and Prevention of Child Labour. I look forward to supporting its implementation in ways that will help transform the lives of children in South Asia.

May I conclude by expressing my sincere appreciation for the generous support given to this event by Bhutan - the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, the National Commission for Women and Children, and the National Coordinating Groups on Violence against Children, or NACG. Thank you. We are truly grateful.

On behalf of the ILO I wish you a successful meeting. Thank you and Kadinchey (Thank you)!