Geneva, June 1999
Report of the Committee on Child Labour
Submission, discussion and adoption
The PRESIDENT -- After that historic special sitting, the first item on our agenda this morning is the report of the Committee on Child Labour, which is contained in Provisional Record No. 19.
I call on Ms. Niven, Government delegate, United Kingdom, Reporter of the Committee, to submit the report.
Ms. NIVEN (Government delegate, United Kingdom; Reporter of the Committee on Child Labour) -- It is an honour and a very great pleasure for me to present the successful conclusions of the work of the Committee on Child Labour. The President of the United States has made my job much easier by giving such a ringing endorsement of our work. The Committee took forward from last year the task of developing new international labour standards aimed at the immediate elimination of the worst forms of child labour -- the task of drafting a new Convention and Recommendation on those forms of child labour which cannot be tolerated anywhere for any reason. We have succeeded in doing so and the Committee has worked with such a positive spirit of cooperation and consensus that I was reminded of a question that a school child here, visiting during the first week of the Conference, asked me: "Why has it taken you so long?" Why indeed. Well, we finally got there and if I can echo the opening remarks of Mr. Trotman, the Workers Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, I believe we have succeeded in drafting instruments which can be presented before the continents of the world and which can bring about real change.
Before I go any further I would like to thank our Chairperson, Mr. Atsain, the Vice-Chairpersons, Mr. Botha and Mr. Trotman, who guided our discussions so wisely, and the ILO staff members Mr. Bequele, Ms. Michèle Jankanish, Ms. Christine Smith and all the other support staff who helped us so tirelessly and efficiently.
The Committee's objective was to achieve a clear, concise, focused and realistic text which would be universally ratifiable and which would indeed bring about real change. The Convention requires countries to take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency. This reflects the consensus in the Committee, that whatever the cause of the problem may be, its elimination is urgent. We believe we have achieved the objective of a strong Convention aimed at the worst forms of child labour. We have defined these as follows: all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties; and, finally, work which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children. The Convention requires implementation through monitoring systems and programmes of action. It also requires measures designed not only to prevent the abuse of children but also measures to rehabilitate and socially integrate those children who are removed from the worst forms of child labour.
The main issues for the Committee were how it should address the use of child soldiers, the importance of education and whether any form of work which systematically denied a child access to education should be included in the definition of the worst forms of child labour; the role of other concerned groups beyond governments, employers' and workers' organizations; how hazardous work should be determined and the importance of international cooperation and assistance in helping countries to implement this Convention. There was a range of views and how best to deal with the issue of child soldiers, and our text is the result of a compromise. We agreed that the Convention should confine itself to the forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in military activities. The Committee encouraged the United Nations Working Group to continue its work on a draft optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
To avoid extending the scope of the Convention beyond what the Committee considered to be the worst forms of child labour, the Committee decided not to include the denial of access to education in the definition. Instead, the Committee decided to strengthen the Convention by emphasizing the importance of access to free basic education and vocational training for all children removed from the worst forms of child labour.
The Convention also recognizes the importance of taking into account the views of other concerned groups, that is to say, groups in addition to the governments and workers' and employers' organizations, in designing and implementing programmes of action. To provide additional guidance on determining hazardous work, we inserted a reference to the types of work set out in the Recommendation. On implementation and enforcement we have also taken account of the special situation of girls.
Finally, we have recognized that to help achieve the objectives of this Convention there must be enhanced international cooperation and our assistance, including support for social and economic development, poverty eradication programmes and universal education. The Recommendation provides further guidance on the design and implementation of programmes of action and in determining what should be regarded as hazardous work, as well as recommending that the first three categories of child labour defined as worst forms should be classified as criminal offences with suitable penalties, including criminal penalties.
I hope that I have accurately summarized the report of the Committee and the content of the proposed Convention and Recommendation. I would once again applaud the work of the Committee under the leadership of our Chairperson Mr. Atsain. It was carried out with a deep sense of responsibility and in a very positive and constructive spirit. We believe we have achieved our objective in drafting this Convention and Recommendation. We urge all Members now to turn these words into action and work for the full implementation of this Convention, so that we will be judged to have done well by the children whom we seek to help.
Mr. BOTHA (Employers' delegate, South Africa; Employer Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on Child Labour) -- This Convention and Recommendation do not mark the beginning nor the end of the process of eliminating the worst forms of child labour. But this is the most profound and definitive, the most focused range of action so far taken by the international tripartite community and its social partners. The workers, governments and employers of the world are expressing their determination to totally prohibit the worst forms of child labour and have proposed, no, agreed to the actions which must be taken to eliminate these utterly unacceptable practices.
This is a massive challenge. Millions of children are working today, as we sit here, in extremely hazardous occupations and conditions. Their health severely affected, their physical growth stunted, their morals subverted, their psyches damaged, their view of the world that made them clouded by reality and their prospects of a full life often cut short.
We, the representatives, were entrusted by our governments, trade unions and business and employer organizations to examine the issues. We were exposed to many images of children being exploited and warding off poverty in many locations across the globe, developed and developing, first and third world, urban and rural. The global marchers had an unforgettable impact on us. Non-governmental organizations with a depth of experience, knowledge and empathy presented statistics and proposed possible solutions.
More than any fact, we knew that the outcomes here needed to have impact, needed to be realistic, needed, in the final analysis, to be taken seriously, need to be felt by the weak, the used, the victims of the worst forms of child labour.
The Convention and Recommendation represent a practical call to action. They go beyond symbols, they go beyond pious words, they are more than text in a booklet, they are not merely poster material. Their potential impact can only materialize if there is significant, in fact universal ratification by the member States of the International Labour Organization.
We worked together to achieve a truly practical, truly realistic instrument. Many representatives sacrificed their ideal solutions to achieve a genuinely consensual document. No votes were taken, no representatives were intimidated, all views were heard in the interest of finding solutions to enable ratification by all member States.
In the Employers' view, non-ratification by a country will represent a desire to continue perpetrating pain and abuse upon the children of that country. We appeal to and call upon all members of the ILO to adopt the report and Convention and then to ratify the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999.
The Convention and the Recommendation outline actions which we know will be effective in the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. Many do not require legislative change to be implemented. We would urge member States to take practice actions even before final ratification, and in particular to promote and publicize the instrument itself. Many Members have already established IPEC programmes, signed memoranda of understanding and have tripartite structures in place. We urge the Members to begin their programmes of action now if they have not already done so.
I would like to comment on the processes used in the Committee on Child Labour to achieve consensus on this new human rights Convention.
The search for total consensus, as opposed to the use of simple majorities to "indicate the views of the house" was and is of course a prerequisite for the widest possible ratification. The ILO is not new to deal-making in the corridors and coffee shops, but these deals are often precursors to a vote or are part of developing a majority view. Some parties to the coalition win and those not part of the deal may lose. The formal procedures enable positions to be taken and are publicly supported, defended and/or attacked. In our view this approach promotes adversarialism and conflict and produces winners and losers and sometimes a sense of betrayal and often a sense of gratitude.
In contrast, the expansion of deals to be inclusive of all the many interests requires holding back on positions until a genuine attempt has been made to reach consensus first. This can only take place off the record, as in the case of corridor and coffee-shop deals. It enables the parties to engage, unthreatened by public debate and exposure, and to test possible solutions away from public attack.
While this process, which was used to produce deals on packages on two occasions during the tripartite meetings, has disadvantages -- these were overcome during tripartite committee deliberations by returning to the formal processes once consensus was reached. These processes created some uneasiness, but the palpable goodwill exhibited when deals were made eventually outweighed the conflicts which developed when formalities were reintroduced to deal with aspects not fully covered in the off-the-record discussions.
Imperfect though the processes were on occasion, they are worthy of further study. The ILO, as it changes into the new ILO, must develop faster, more effective processes in its efforts to gain even greater credibility and legitimacy. The proceedings of this Committee are a worthy beginning for further study and the development of innovation.
It has been a privilege to participate in this historic Convention debate for all the members of the Employers' group. Although we have already done so in the tripartite Committee meetings, I would like to again thank Mr. Bequele, Ms. Jankanish and the Office for the highest quality work, documentation and advice which they gave throughout the two years that we spent together. I know that this work came from the heart in addition to the head.
The governments were formidable and worked to a great extent in effective regional teams. We salute you and thank you, we learned much from you.
Our Reporter, Ms. Niven, worked tremendously hard to achieve an agreed text and your efforts and articulateness -- if there is such a word, and I look to you -- are greatly appreciated by the Employers' group.
Mr. Trotman, I learned, as you know, a great deal from you who are inexhaustible and indefatigable. It was always a great compliment when the Chair called you Mr. Botha and me Mr. Trotman. You can definitely take up asylum in South Africa if you ever have to leave Barbados.
To our Chair, Mr. Atsain, you never gave up, you achieved what we all wanted, a consensual, realistic, ratifiable set of instruments, and we respect you, Sir.
Mr. TROTMAN (Workers' delegate, Barbados; Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on Child Labour) -- I cannot begin to express my gratitude at receiving an offer of asylum from yet another country, and I promise you that when in April next year I go to South Africa to take up the asylum offer extended by Mr. Botha in the name of his Government, you will know how much we are able to force the workers' arms to reach agreement.
I was so harassed by Mr. Botha and his team during this exercise, and I had so often to plead with my colleagues, that they were threatening to make me leave my country of Barbados, and not even to go towards our small neighbours to the north, whose leader was just here a few moments ago, but rather leave the Atlantic region entirely. I am pleased that India and South Africa have both offered to shelter me. This is a mark of the relationship that has existed for the last two years between the employers and ourselves. It demonstrates the level of respect that the Government, the Employers' and the Workers' representatives have been able to bear one another, even though we were dealing with very sensitive issues, sometimes very difficult issues. It therefore is a source of very great satisfaction for us in the Workers' group to be able to report to you and to this very august body that the task which you set us some two years ago of preparing a convention with an appropriate recommendation is now complete, and that we are able to present to you a finished product which in our view is eminently ratifiable and which deserves to result in urgent action by all member governments for its ratification.
When I speak of urgent action, I should add that I am drawing on the language we have been using over the last two weeks.
Many words of appreciation have been used in the various fora -- I suppose that is the right word, though I prefer "forums" -- regarding those people who deserve our thanks. It is really terribly difficult to repeat all those and in fact it is dangerous to try, because it is likely that we should forget some of the names of very prominent persons, but I wish on behalf of the Workers' group to express our very great appreciation to the entire staff of the ILO, some experts who were behind the scenes and others who were present with us during the exercises, who bore with us in our moments of misery. We wish to thank them all. We wish to let governments know that we maintained the highest levels of respect and regard for them as they endeavoured faithfully to represent the interests of their governments. We particularly congratulate the Chairperson of the Committee, who did an extraordinarily fine job in bringing disparate groups with sometimes conflicting ideas together into the finished product which we now have. And in the same way that you heard Mr. Botha compliment the workers' side, we would wish to compliment all members of his team, but particularly himself.
Mr. Botha has been able to show the Caribbean and the Workers' group the tremendous value which exists in being willing and ready to adopt new paradigms.
We were willing, and I am glad to say that there was on all sides a consciousness that we do not necessarily have to do business now in the same way that we used to. What matters is that we remain focused and committed to the task before us, and I am very pleased to say that the shifts in paradigms have been to the advantage of this particular exercise, especially, I hope, to the advantage of the children who will benefit from our efforts.
We wish, then, to offer our thanks to all who have participated in the task. It should be said that when our work ended on Monday afternoon, this led to a euphoria, which I am very glad to share with you all. What was remarkable about all this was the sense of partnership that characterized the entire two weeks. There was a willingness to cooperate, a sense that we all shared in the formulation of this exercise and that we should share in the results. And if there is one thing that I believe we ought to be able to make use of in the future, it is a certain sense in which the tripartite relationship might be able to move forward from an adversarial relationship to a partnership arrangement in which we recognize the various roles we have to play and in which we can function within those roles to the better development of peoples everywhere, not only for our own constituents but for constituents across the world at large.
We are however very anxious to ensure that the euphoria experienced last Monday is not taken to be an end in itself. We have a document which may be opposed only by those who choose to misunderstand it or who continue to cherish the misguided notion that poverty is a noble state and that children in selected areas may still be subjected to the worst forms of child labour.
I am speaking of financial and social pirates; who may salve their consciences from time to time by occasional acts of generosity.
Since my colleagues and I have encountered certain statements of misunderstanding, we feel that, even having completed this task, we should re-emphasize some of the important aspects of this Convention, which we are recommending to you and to the house. Notably, the Convention has not imposed any new demands on any government or employers' organizations and does not seek to protect the privileged worker who has a job at the expense of the unemployed. Indeed, the opposite is true: while the Convention does not deny the significance of poverty and the effect that this may have had and indeed still has today on some forms of child labour, it focuses, however, on the worst forms of child labour, identifies the types of child labour which may be classed among the worst forms, and makes it clear that no excuses may be proffered anywhere for any such forms of child labour.
Allow me to repeat that there are no new conditions on age. We have used as the basic starting point Convention No. 138, which addresses the question of age. It is likewise clear that that Convention permits children under the age of 18 to work under certain agreed conditions.
Our Convention has, very prudently, kept faith with that governing Convention, and it has clearly acknowledged that, in those areas where persons under the stipulated ages, work, the fact that they are working under the age of 18 does not, by itself, constitute a "worst" form of child labour. Those forms in question have been clearly spelled out, and are easily understood within the document itself.
Let us therefore urge all persons everywhere not to seek to find excuses for the scourge of child labour in its worst forms. Let us instead start remedial action now, as the Convention demands. Let us show the world that, contrary to the views being propounded elsewhere, standard setting is still a very critical part of the functions of the ILO.
Our group wishes to emphasize that what we have done here, over the last two weeks, is to prepare the ground. What our Committee cannot do is to translate our work into the time-bound programmes required for the full elimination of child labour, and particularly for the immediate and urgent elimination of its worst forms in the societies of the world.
What we would like though, is to make it clear that those worst forms of child labour are such that we hope to see children freed from them as a matter of urgency so that they may be integrated into their societies and offered the requisite eight years of basic education or its equivalent, depending on the age at which they are freed from this inappropriate work.
This is a task not for us as a Committee, but for individual countries, working with the social partners, i.e. the employers and the workers' representatives.
We wish to emphasize again that governments cannot, by themselves, achieve this objective, so that employers' organizations, workers' organizations, and indeed non-governmental organizations, must accept that they also have global and national responsibilities and must work together to improve conditions for our children.
So, we have a Convention -- and what now? What will we do beyond this point? How will we ensure, having said all of the correct words from this podium, and indeed having voted for ratification in our various countries, that there is a proper monitoring system? How do we go about setting up proper reporting systems? What role will the Governing Body of the ILO play? What role will employers' organizations and workers' organizations play in helping cleanse the earth of the scourge of the worst forms of child labour?
We believe that the task before us is multidisciplinary, but it is also urgent. Immediate efforts must be made by the social partners to proceed to the next stage. In this connection, I would like to make just two observations.
One relates to the need for global solidarity in this exercise. We are of the view that many countries will wish to work quickly to remove this scourge, but there has to be a recognition of the need for international support and/or assistance in order to realize the efforts to remove the worst forms of child labour.
Secondly, we believe that speedier measures need to be adopted by all of those responsible for decision-making in order to reach effective conclusions. The efforts made by our Committee may not be matched everywhere, which suggests that we can work much more speedily and much more effectively if we set ourselves the task of reaching conclusions.
One possible method, in a two-year discussion cycle, might be to have the ILO officials assigned to the task draw up a glossary of words and phrases, after the first year's discussions in order to set out the ILO's interpretation of their meaning.
We devoted considerable time throughout this exercise, especially across languages, trying to divine exactly what was the meaning of certain words. If persons were able to come to the conventions knowing in advance what exactly the ILO takes certain words or phrases to mean, it might be extremely helpful.
We are very pleased with what has been achieved; we regret very much that we have not been able to satisfy all of the requirements of all of the groups, but that would have been totally impossible. We are, though, satisfied that the work we have done is a reflection of the honesty and the integrity of all the parties present, and we are glad that we were able to accomplish this exercise without having to resort to a vote at any time in the two years of work.
We wish to commend the product of our work, this report, its accompanying convention and recommendation, for your kind attention and support.
Original French: Mr. ATSAIN (Government delegate, Côte d'Ivoire; Chairperson of the Committee on Child Labour) -- The Reporter and the two Vice-Chairpersons have spoken to us this morning, and we were very interested to hear also the statement made by the President of the United States.
Please allow me to say that I myself feel particularly honoured by this opportunity today to address the International Labour Conference, for the second time, in my capacity as Chairman of the Committee on Child Labour. It is for me personally, and for my country, Côte d'Ivoire, and for the whole of Africa, a great privilege to have been chosen to chair this committee and to ensure that the discussion, which was particularly constructive last year, should lead this year to the drafting of a new Convention and a new Recommendation concerning the prohibition of the worst forms of child labour, and immediate action for the elimination thereof.
I am also very moved at having been associated with this event, which will be an important stage in the history of the ILO. These new instruments can be seen within the context of the constitutional mandate of this Organization, whose mission is, inter alia, to protect our children at work. It is a question which is so important for their future, that the worst kinds of labour, to which they are still subjected, should be prohibited and eliminated as a matter of urgency.
The Vice-Chairpersons and I, when we started this second discussion, were resolved to preserve the spirit of consensus which had prevailed throughout the discussions last year. Our task was to forge instruments which would meet the expectations of all parties and, above all, to keep our promises which we had already made to the children of the world, in particular the children from the Global March who came especially to Geneva to express their hopes to us. We could not disappoint them, we could not betray the trust which they had placed in us.
In order to make sure that the instruments we were to adopt would actually be ratified universally it was necessary for all governments from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas to be in a position to announce with pride, "We have prepared a Convention for our children". In order to do this we had to reach an agreement on a certain number of questions which were particularly difficult to solve.
All parties concerned, whether we talk about governments, employers or workers, wished to adopt an instrument in which they could see their own ideas reflected. In order to do this they worked for many long hours with determination and perseverance, not only in the Committee itself, but also within their respective groups, and in the context of the tripartite meetings.
I am, today, very proud to be able to state that the results are better than our expectations. The text that we have drafted in the Committee, without ever having had to hold a vote, as has already been emphasized on several occasions, is a strong text. It very clearly sets out the moral obligation of all countries to immediately take steps to eliminate and prohibit the most unacceptable forms of child labour.
In this connection I would like to dwell on three points which seem to me to be particularly important ones. First and above all, the obligatory recruitment of children for their participation in armed conflicts has now been defined as one of the worst forms of child labour. This has been recognized explicitly for the first time in an international Convention. The very fact that you tear children away from their homes and their families to send them to the front is a form of exploitation.
Second, the importance of education which must be offered to children in order to rescue them from the worst forms of labour has also been very clearly emphasized. The Convention provides for measures to be taken as soon as possible in order to ensure their access to basic free education and vocational training adapted to their needs.
Third, poverty can no longer be cited as an excuse for the toleration of the scourge of the worst forms of child labour which are still in existence on the eve of the twenty-first century. This is why the Convention places particular emphasis on the need to strengthen cooperation and international assistance, in particular, by support measures for economic and social development to the programmes for the eradication of poverty and universal education.
I have no doubt that you have the will to adopt this Convention and this Recommendation, I am also certain that each of you will find it very important to make sure that this Convention is ratified and implemented as a matter of urgency.
Before concluding, I would like to address my warmest thanks to all those who have contributed to writing this historic page in the history of the ILO. I would like, first of all, to express all my gratitude to Mr. Botha and Mr. Trotman, the Vice-Chairpersons of the Employers' and Workers' groups, as well as to the spokesmen of the regional groups of the countries of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, IMEC, Latin America and the Caribbean. I would like to pay particular tribute to the devotion which they have manifested throughout this second discussion. Thanks to their exceptional contribution and to the confidence which they have placed in us, we are now in a position to put before you two instruments which, I would remind you once again, were adopted unanimously by the Committee on Child Labour.
In my capacity as Chairperson, I would finally like to express my gratitude and thanks to Ms. Niven, the Reporter of our Committee, as well as to Mr. Bequele and the members of the Secretariat, and in particular also to the translators and the interpreters for the exceptional work that they have done.
This is a new page in the history of the ILO which we have just written together, we are very happy to have participated in this, to have worked on it, and perhaps contributed to making sure that our children tomorrow will live in a better world.
This is the message that I wanted to put before the Conference and I hope you will adopt this Convention and this Recommendation in order to provide a better future for our children tomorrow, better than the one we have today and the one our parents had yesterday.
Mr. MISHRA (Government delegate, India) -- Since I am taking the floor in this plenary for the first time let me congratulate the President on his election and his very able leadership in steering the proceedings of this Conference.
A moment comes in the life of an institution when accomplishment of its mandate provides a source of universal inspiration, satisfaction and excitement. That moment in the life of the ILO, the oldest international organization, has arrived today. With the adoption of the new international instrument on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour by the Committee, the global community has reinforced its pledge and renewed its commitment towards the eradication of a scourge which has been haunting the collective conscience of humanity for generations. This, in the words of the President of the United States of America this morning, is a major breakthrough, "a gift to our children worthy of the millennium".
My delegation would like to transmit the finest tribute to the ethos, culture and illustrious tradition of tripartism which also has been the bedrock of the ILO itself. For this the ingratiating Chairperson of the Committee, the ever-accommodating, distinguished Vice-Chairpersons, the Reporter, the distinguished members of the Government group, the officers and staff of the ILO, including the entire support staff, deserve our wholehearted congratulations.
My delegation is immensely happy and deeply appreciative of the fact that the document which is before us and which is a product of consensus has tried to reflect most of our concerns which are also the concerns of developing countries. The draft document before us for adoption is not a sudden improvization but the logical and befitting culmination of a series of bold and imaginative initiatives at both national and international levels in which the Indian delegation has actively participated throughout in a positive and constructive manner.
What is the central theme behind these initiatives? This is an appropriate question to ask on this occasion. It is the human child whom Wordsworth described as the "Father of Man". Childhood is undoubtedly the most tender, most formative and most impressionable stage of human development. A child of today cannot develop to be a responsible, responsive and productive member of tomorrow's society unless an environment which is conducive to his social and physical health is assured to him. If children are neglected and deprived of their childhood and the excitement and joy associated therewith, the nation as a whole is deprived of the potential human resources for social progress, economic development, peace and order, social stability and good citizenry.
The worst forms of child labour reflected in article 3(a), 3(b) and 3(c) such as child slavery, child sex abuse and pornography and trafficking in drugs and 3(d) employment of children in hazardous work are undoubtedly outrageous crimes against humanity. They represent perverse and immoral practices, are abhorrent to civilized human conscience, anathema to orderly social progress and deserve to be universally condemned. Do we have any moral right and authority to subject our children to such a depraved and degradable existence? Do we have any moral right and authority to carry our successor generation to the brink of near destruction? The answer is decidedly "no". The petals of childhood cannot be allowed to wither away in the wilderness before blossoming into the flower of youth and manhood. No individual, no institution, no member State, far less the collective conscience of the international community, would be justified in doing so.
This is the burden of the song behind the new international instrument. It does not aim at the elimination of all forms of child labour but the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms only. In doing so, it complements the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), which remains the fundamental instrument for the abolition of child labour. In adopting this instrument the international community may have been selective but such selectivity, which was inevitable under the circumstances, should not be construed as an aversion, far less an opposition, to the prohibition and elimination of the other forms of child labour.
My Government has all along adopted a positive, proactive and constructive policy and approach towards the prohibition and elimination of child labour in all its forms, including the worst ones. This approach is clearly reflected in the Constitution of India in a series of legislation which has been enacted over a period of 40 years to prescribe and enforce a minimum age of entry to employment. A series of schemes and planned activities have been initiated to relieve children from hazardous work and to ensure their rehabilitation through education, nutrition, health check-ups and vocational skills training. Recognizing that poverty, educational deprivation and child labour go together, a series of progressive initiatives have been taken under multiple schemes to provide a strong infrastructure for free, functional and universal education to ensure universal access, universal retention, universal participation and achievement of the minimum levels of learning and to make the learning process itself interesting, relevant, enjoyable and worthwhile. A series of planned, coordinated and concerted efforts are being made to deal with the problem of parental poverty, parental unemployment and parental illiteracy. The enormity and complexity of the problem is such that, compounded with the resource crunch it has been difficult for the national Government to lay down a definite time limit for the total elimination of child labour.
We have never used problems of poverty, unemployment, underemployment, migration and social exclusion, nor do we ever intend to use them, as alibis to justify the continuance of the problem of child labour. We have always believed in their progressive eradication and multi-pronged strategies are being implemented in that direction. There is also no question of going back on the constitutional, legal and political commitment to the total prohibition and elimination of child labour.
We would like to reiterate that the prohibition and elimination of child labour cannot be the concern of one member country, one government, one ministry or department of government it has to be a global concern. Burden sharing in an international economic order resting on increasing economic inequalities amongst and within the countries therefore becomes extremely important. International cooperation and assistance must in this context be seen as important tools in such burden sharing.
I am happy to emphasize, in tune with what Mr. Trotman said this morning, that this instrument has set the stage, it has set the tune and the pace of a series of planned, coordinated and collective national and international action.
On this happy occasion we would like to pledge our total solidarity and commitment to the international community and would like to say we are with you. We say so not as a cliché or a gimmick but with a sense of conviction and a genuine desire to associate ourselves with all of you in this gigantic but noble endeavour. I am reminded in this context of a very forceful statement contained two years ago in the annual report of UNICEF. "The day will come when nations will be judged not by their military or economic strength, nor by the splendour of their capital cities and their public buildings but by the well-being of their people, by the levels of health, nutrition and education, by the opportunities to earn a fair reward for their labour, by their ability to participate in the decisions which affect their lives, by the respect which is shown for their civil and political liberties, by the provision which is made for those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged and by the protection which is afforded to the growing minds and bodies of their children." When that day comes, our children will enter a new realm of critical consciousness which Rabindranath Tagore described as one where the mind is without fear, where the head is held high, where knowledge is free. They will mobilize and organize themselves and demand their liberation from the shackles and fetters which have chained them for generations and robbed them of their basic rights. That day is not far away.
With these words, my delegation unanimously commends the draft instrument for its unanimous adoption.
Original Spanish: Mr. PRETI JORQUIN (Employers' delegate, Guatemala) -- I wish to congratulate each and every member of our Committee and most especially the Chairperson and the two Vice-Chairpersons on the skilled manner in which they were able to obtain the adoption of this proposed Convention by consensus.
Today is certainly one of the most salient moments in the history of the ILO, for the adoption of a Convention on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour marks this day as one of equal importance as those on which the core Conventions of the ILO were adopted.
Some years ago, I had occasion to participate in the preparatory meetings held in different parts of the world and I can still hardly believe that such a happy result has been achieved so rapidly.
The adoption of this Convention entails obligations for employers, workers and governments that go beyond the Convention itself. It is not adoption alone that will result in a decent life for those children who are presently working in conditions that are unworthy of a human being, rather it is the further and accompanying measures that are necessary for its implementation.
The commitments on the part of governments with regard to education, and the necessary investment by employers in adequate working conditions as the main parameter for job creation, are vital in order that the measures taken by our countries may remain effective over time.
The urgency of implementing such measures is perhaps only rivalled by the need for long-term planning in the areas of economic and human development, failing which it will be impossible to counteract the situation of marginalization that prevails in some countries and which is the main cause of these worst forms of child labour.
It is therefore necessary for the ILO and other bilateral and multilateral institutions to work together to prepare a path for development that will enable our children to enjoy the fruits of social, economic and human development that have been missing from their lives.
The consensus achieved in the Committee on Child Labour convinces us that the ratification of this Convention will be universal, thereby converting it into a fundamental Convention for the benefit of children, and indeed for humanity as a whole, as children represent the future of humanity and to safeguard and invest in them will make this world a better one than that which we have now.
I therefore call upon and urge the governments of all member States of the ILO to proceed immediately to the ratification of this exemplary Convention which reflects the true interests of workers, employers and governments in eliminating the worst forms of child labour.
Ms. LAURENT (Employers' delegate, Sweden) -- The choice of subjects for standard setting has often met with criticism from those of us on the Employers' bench over the last decade. This is certainly not the case in this issue, the prohibition and the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. On the contrary, we share the view that this is an important question. The ILO has definitely been the right forum for these discussions.
The focus of the work within the ILO has been to find ways of ensuring a brighter horizon for those children whose working life began far too early.
As a group, we have formed and agreed on a Convention and a Recommendation and we have done this without voting. All our decisions have been reached by consensus.
Together we have tried to create instruments that are concise, simple, focused and realistic. Now that these discussions are over, it is important to get to work and start ratifying the Convention without delay. We must get children out of these workplaces.
I really hope these new instruments prove meaningful and that they are universally ratified and implemented. The Convention, when implemented, will hopefully give many children the better future we have worked towards.
Mr. AHMED (Workers' delegate, Pakistan) -- On behalf of the Workers' delegation of Pakistan, I feel it is a great privilege and honour to speak on this historic occasion on an important Convention concerned with the elimination of child labour in its worst forms.
As we all know, the founders of this great Organization talked in 1919 about dangers for workers. They also mentioned the elimination of child labour in the preamble of the Constitution. The Director General's Report rightly points out in its own preamble that child labour is, to a great extent, caused by poverty. That is why the Declaration of Philadelphia describes poverty anywhere as a danger to prosperity.
We believe that children are the future; for us they represent posterity. Their physical, social, mental and spiritual well-being is not only a good thing for them but also for the family, the nation, and mankind as a whole. Therefore, their care, nourishment, education and training, and the provision of a proper environment are the responsibility of family, State and the international community. This is why the Social Summit declaration reiterated that human capital is essential for development and children are the best asset in that context. The Director-General, Mr. Juan Somavia, has specifically mentioned the plight of children in his Report: 250 million children work all over the world. In this context, the Report outlined in Provisional Record No. 19 specifically points out the main priorities for national and international action: basic education and vocational training, removal of children from the world of work, their social reintegration and rehabilitation, and addressing the needs of the family. This last is very important, because if the family continues to be destitute, it is compelled to send the children to work. Therefore it is the responsibility of society and the State to look after such destitute families and provide their children with a meaningful education and training.
Article 3 specifically refers to safety of children and to illicit activities, namely slavery and bonded labour, which should be immediately eliminated. Similarly, certain types of work are hazardous. National laws and regulations must be established by the competent authority through tripartite consultation, and through setting up appropriate mechanisms. Likewise, the State should act in consultation with the partners in implementing the Articles of the proposed Convention.
Article 6 specifies the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, the formulation of the action programmes and the design and implementation to be carried out in consultation with the social partners. Article 7 is concerned with penal sanctions and also requires time-bound measures to provide direct assistance for the removal of children from the worst forms of child labour and their rehabilitation and social reintegration. Article 8 stresses the need for enhanced international cooperation including the social and economic development, poverty eradication programmes and universal education, propounded by the Recommendation. Therefore we welcome the proposed Convention and Recommendation on this historic occasion.
In this context of international action, we believe that the State has a responsibility to provide education and to free these children, who represent our future, from the worst forms of child labour, to rehabilitate and reintegrate them. They must not be left to the mercy of circumstances. In this context, we appreciate the work of the ILO and its international action, in particular the IPEC programme.
In my own country, the ILO's work has contributed to the well-being of the children engaged in the football manufacturing industry, and agreement has now been reached in the surgical and copper industries. I believe the cooperation of the ILO with the social partners will be conducive to rehabilitating those children and to freeing them from employment in order to reintegrate and educate them.
We also welcome the statement of President Clinton today in this plenary and his continuous commitment to workers' rights and abolition of child labour. We emphasize the need for continuous cooperation at international level so that the countries of the Third World can allocate more resources to the development of primary education and provide children with a better future.
In the context of international action, we would welcome the easing of foreign debts to the developing Third World countries and also the giving of a human face to the global economy, particularly when the IMF and World Bank, instead of raising employment, are imposing a policy which increases adult unemployment.
We hope that through ILO collaboration with the Bretton Woods institutions, this suffering will be eased. We welcome the consensus which led to the formulation of the proposed Convention and Recommendation and salute the work done by the distinguished tripartite members of this Committee and by Mr. Atsain, the Chairperson; Mr. Botha, the Employer Vice-Chairperson; Mr. Trotman, the Worker Vice-Chairperson; Mr. Steyne, the Worker member in the Drafting Committee; Mrs. Niven, the Reporter; and the ILO team working with the delegates, who violated the ILO standards by working during the weekend and even late into the night for the well-being of children.
We therefore appeal to all delegates to adopt this report, which has been adopted unanimously by the Committee in order to demonstrate solidarity for a better future for mankind.
I would like to use this opportunity to submit that the children of the poor are the property of the nations and of mankind and deserve to be looked after. Nature has endowed all children with intelligence, be they rich or poor, because nature does not discriminate. It is society which causes inequality by denying equal opportunity. Therefore it is the duty of the State, society and the international community to provide the children of the poor with equal opportunities for nourishment and development. The children of the poor are like flowers which blossom in a forest where nobody sees them, because they have no opportunities. I believe it is our duty and a moral and legal responsibility to provide them with opportunities to flourish and contribute to the well-being of society. In this context we were glad to hear the message sent by Mrs. Mary Robinson, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, to the effect that she welcomed the new Convention's direct references to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which will be ten years old this year.
We therefore fully endorse the conclusion and the proposed Recommendation and Convention and urge all member States not only to ratify the Convention but to take measures to implement it in order to provide a better future for our children and bring about a better era for society and for the international community and all of mankind.
Mr. DOSHI (Employers' adviser, India) -- At the outset I would like to take this opportunity to warmly congratulate the President on his election to preside over this session of the Conference, and the excellent manner in which he has conducted the proceedings.
This session is being held to adopt the report of the Committee on Child Labour. In this context, it is my belief that one of the most enduring memories of this, the 87th Session of the International Labour Conference, will be the historical adoption tomorrow of the Convention and Recommendation on the worst forms of child labour. I hope that the member States represented here will express their firm commitment to remove this blot on our societies by unanimously adopting these instruments.
Having said that, adoption is but the first step, though an important one, in the process that I hope will lead to the elimination of the worst forms of child labour as soon as possible. We have to be equally committed and determined to secure the universal ratification and implementation of the Convention and Recommendation that have been formulated with so much dedication -- firstly the draft texts prepared by the Office, which served as an excellent basis for the discussion in the Committee, and secondly the text of the standards that are now before you, which are the outcome of the discussions amongst the tripartite constituents over the last two weeks. In this regard, I would like to add my voice to those of my Employer colleagues who have consistently stated since the first discussion that we were looking for a set of instruments that would not only be short, concise and capable of universal ratification, but fully implemented in letter and in spirit. While the negotiations have sometimes been difficult, I believe that we have accomplished that objective.
We now have to move from fine words to action, and immediate action at that. While we have acknowledged that these forms of child labour are to a large extent the cause and consequence of poverty, as well as the lack of access to education, this cannot be an excuse for inaction. It will be an unforgivable dereliction of our duty to the children working under what we have defined as the "worst forms" if we do not put into place, at the earliest, programmes of action that will enable them to be removed from such forms and give them a chance for a new and better future. The hopes of these children rest with us and we cannot afford to fail them. Let us therefore solemnly declare here and now that we will translate these words into immediate action by speedy and universal ratification of this Convention, accompanied by urgent action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour from our society, for these children are an integral part of our future. While the task will not be an easy one, especially for the developing countries where the problem is particularly acute, it is not an impossible one if we apply our minds to it as well as focus our efforts and resources effectively.
For my part, and coming from a developing country, I can assure you that the Indian employers will be working with our Government, the workers' organizations and civil society to ensure that the objectives of this Convention and Recommendation are translated into reality.
With these few words, I would like to commend this report for adoption by the Conference.
Mr. SEMRAU (Employers' adviser, United States) -- Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity to address the plenary. Before I begin my prepared remarks, I will make the following statement on behalf of the Employers' group of the Committee on Child Labour. Paragraph 218 of the report should reflect an exchange between the employers and the workers on the meaning of the term "basic education" as it appears in the Convention and the Recommendation, including Article 7 of the Convention. It was the clear understanding of the Employers that basic education means primary education plus one year, in other words eight or nine years of schooling, and that such schooling is curriculum-based, not age-based. That understanding should be reflected in the report of the Committee.
Since 1997, I have devoted some of my time to this issue of child labour, working with several hundred other members of this Committee in addressing the concept of child labour. Two years -- a small part of my life. But unfortunately, for those same two years several hundred million young people have experienced not the concept of child labour but its cold, hard reality, day in and day out, the joy of their young lives never to be realized. Young people thrust way too soon into the burden of providing for themselves and for their immediate and extended families. The knowledge of these child labourers drove this Committee in the making of this beginning, this important step towards releasing children from these burdens. It is a good first step. We can look with pride on what we have created. This Convention to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour addresses a small number of situations where children are exploited. Small in number but most abhorrent in kind. In these few minutes, I shall try not to repeat what others have said about this Convention. We all realize that what has been produced is an eminently ratifiable treaty, one that will make a difference. What I would like to do is call attention to what I believe are some of the important reasons why the creation of this Convention will undoubtedly be regarded as one of the most successful initiatives of the International Labour Organization, a process that can be followed to duplicate this success in future efforts.
First, there was universal agreement that this issue needed to be addressed. Governments, employers, workers and society in general agreed on the definition and the urgent need for action to resolve it. A sense of realism accompanied the creation of this Convention. From concept to completion, everyone accepted the fact that idealism must defer to pragmatism, function must prevail over form. Thorough research and information gathering provided the drafting partners with sufficient knowledge to complete the task. Just as important was the fact that it also prepared the general public to receive the completed work.
The drafting partners approached their task in several unique ways. First, confrontation and "win-lose" gave way to consensus on every single issue, resulting in a product that virtually all participants endorsed. Further, the drafters agreed to work on the content and language through representative construction. The trust which resulted contributed to the quality of the final product. And now, this final product can be ratified by every single Member.
Speaking as an American employer, this product is helpful. It properly directs the dialogue on child labour towards definable law and regulation. As a social partner, I believe that this product is a clear plan of work, providing direction as well as destination. And as a member of society, I know that this product is our first important step towards the elimination of undesirable child labour. I think we can all agree that children can, even should, be exposed to desirable forms of work, opportunities to learn and develop skills that will serve them well throughout their lives, and we know the difference between what is desirable and what is not. This Convention focuses not merely on undesirable forms of child labour but on abhorrent forms, and we have begun the process of eliminating these worst forms of child labour. What we learn from this effort and the programmes and institutions that we put in place to give effect to this Convention will contribute to our continuing effort to eliminate all forms of undesirable child labour.
In conclusion, I would like to acknowledge the fine leadership of Mr. Atsain, Committee Chairperson, Mr. Botha, Employer Vice-Chairperson, and Mr. Trotman, Worker Vice-Chairperson, and the outstanding support of the International Labour Organization, the International Organization of Employers and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this effort.
Mr. MAKEKA (Employers' delegate, Lesotho) -- Mr. President, let me at the very outset associate myself with the presentations and good wishes that have been extended to you and the Officers of the Conference. I would also like to congratulate Ambassador Somavia on becoming Director-General of the ILO and wish him well.
As we end the present century and usher in the new millennium, we are proud to be part of this momentous occasion when the world community, through the International Labour Organization, adopts the historic Convention and Recommendation on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. I shall refrain from going into details of the Convention and Recommendation, since my Chairperson, Mr. Botha of South Africa, has done that very capably. I would, however, like to express my delegation's satisfaction with the work of the Committee on Child Labour. We therefore have no hesitation in commending the Convention and the Recommendation, not only for adoption by unanimous vote of this Conference, but for ratification by all member States of the ILO. These instruments, in the words of the Director-General, seek to eradicate from the world those forms of work that are abhorrent to us all, in that none of us would like to see our children engaged in them. I am glad to say that all African employers abhor these forms of work for children. Common decency, which knows no culture, no geographical distribution, dictates that we should all push and encourage our governments, not only to ratify these instruments, but to ensure that their provisions become a living reality throughout the world.
The Chairperson and Officers of the Committee on Child Labour sought from the very outset to proceed in such a way that these instruments would be adopted by consensus, as opposed to our traditional voting process. We would like to congratulate them because, although the procedure was a gamble and very unorthodox, it met our concerns in that in the past, Conventions were forced on us by the tyranny of the majority. Needless to say, many governments voted for these instruments but later refused or failed to ratify them. It is therefore our submission that, contrary to the scepticism and fears of those who objected to this consensus-building procedure, we should consider whether this is not the best procedure for adopting standard-setting instruments in the future.
There was a serious attempt to equate failure to guarantee basic education for children with the worst forms of child labour. We are grateful to all members of the Committee for adopting a formulation to which all of us can subscribe. My country is among those which do not have compulsory and free basic education, although not long ago we had one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. All political parties in Lesotho aspire to introduce free and compulsory basic education, but realities dictate otherwise. The bottom line is simply that we cannot afford it. The present Government of Lesotho has decided to start with the first graders to introduce compulsory free education next year. We in Lesotho must also face the fact that there are villages scattered throughout the mountain areas and many of these can only be reached on horseback. There is therefore no way in which the Government can enforce school attendance by all those children for whom free compulsory education is intended. Most importantly, even if children do not work, they will not necessarily attend school. There is more to this issue than meets the eye.
In conclusion, I would point out that there is no child labour in the formal sector of Lesotho's economy. What we have is family-based traditional work activities done by children of parents who are hard hit by poverty. It is our hope that the provisions of Article 8 of the proposed Convention will be translated into reality to give real assistance to this vulnerable group.
Mr. POISSON (Government delegate, Canada) -- Canada is pleased to deliver the following statement on behalf of the governments of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Uruguay.
We are pleased to support the adoption of this new Convention concerning the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour which we believe will be an important instrument for the protection of children.
All children, as the most vulnerable members of our society, require special protection. Those involved in the worst forms of child labour require our urgent attention. Their removal from such work, their rehabilitation and social integration are of crucial importance.
By referring to the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts, this Convention sends an important message. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child sets at 15 the minimum age for the recruitment of children for use in armed conflicts. This new Convention will increase the minimum age to 18 in one area, while also recognizing it as one of the worst forms of child labour.
We look forward to building on the momentum developed here at the ILO. In particular, we see this Convention as the first step towards setting the age of 18 as the universal standard for the recruitment and all forms of participation of children in armed conflicts. We urge States to use this momentum and ensure that this higher standard is set in the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts.
In closing, we express the hope that this Convention will be adopted unanimously by this Conference and ratified by all ILO member States.
Original German: Mr. FENDRICH (Government delegate, Germany) -- On behalf of the governments of Austria, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain, as well as that of my own Government, I welcome the fact that, after lengthy and delicate negotiations, the Committee has succeeded in achieving consensus on the proposed Convention and accompanying Recommendation concerning the prohibition and immediate elimination of the worst forms of child labour.
We proceed from the assumption that the content of this new Convention constitutes a part of the fundamental rights at work addressed by the Declaration adopted in 1998. We should, therefore, like to join those who have cordially thanked the Chairperson of the Committee, the spokespersons of the groups, the Clerk and the members of the secretariat.
We hope that the Convention and Recommendation will be adopted by the Conference tomorrow and that the Convention will be rapidly ratified by as large a number of the ILO member States as possible.
Children have a right to education in conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Child labour is a threat to the exercise of that right. The promotion of education and vocational training, therefore, constitutes a core strategy for the prevention of child labour.
The Convention and the Recommendation represent an initial step towards stricter standards in the problem of child soldiers. We hope that the explicit reference to children in armed conflicts in article 3(a) of the proposed Convention will help to reinforce the rights of children.
Given that article 3(a) only speaks of "forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict" in the context of forced or compulsory labour within the context of the ILO's mandate, we should like to reiterate the urgent need to raise the age for child soldiers as specified by article 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the objective of putting an end to the sending of children into military action in armed conflicts.
There is also an urgent necessity to conclude the work of the Working Party responsible for the additional Protocol on children and armed conflicts. This should be completed as rapidly as possible, in particular with a view to the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
May we recall that the form of words used in the proposed Convention should not prejudice the negotiations on a draft additional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
We welcome the continued endeavours, including those by governments, regional organizations, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations, directed against the use of children in armed conflicts, and trust that these efforts will help bring about a consensus on the issue of improving the standards contained in Article 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Mr. VAN DER HEIJDEN (Government delegate, Netherlands) -- On behalf of the Government of the Netherlands, I would like to express our full commitment to working towards the aims of the Convention and Recommendation on the worst forms of child labour. These forms of child labour are grave violations of human rights, and therefore need to be stopped immediately. We recognize that child labour is a cause as well as a consequence of poverty, but poverty, however, can under no circumstances be an excuse for condoning the worst forms of child labour.
The Government of the Netherlands is satisfied with the compromise text of the Convention and the Recommendation. The work carried out in the Committee on Child Labour and the spirit of consensus prevailing therein reflect the commitment of Members to the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. The new instruments complement the ILO Minimum Age Convention and Recommendation, which remain the fundamental instruments on child labour.
On the involvement of children in armed conflicts, we are pleased that we have been able to take an important step forwards towards higher international standards. The Convention on the worst forms of child labour should inspire the United Nations Working Group on the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child to further progress. We call on the United Nations Working Group to continue with efforts to work towards a solution on this important matter.
We underscore the emphasis in the Convention on the worst forms of child labour on the crucial role of education in the elimination of child labour, both as a preventive and a curative measure. Access to free basic education is essential in the elimination of child labour.
We support the involvement of civil society in the design and implementation of programmes of action. We are pleased with the acknowledgement of the Committee on Child Labour that issues related to hidden forms of child labour are to be addressed as a matter of urgency. In particular, the problems of the masses of child domestic workers, 90 per cent of which are girls, are of great concern to us.
We would hope that the Convention on the worst forms of child labour will be ratified by an unprecedented number of ILO Members. The Government of the Netherlands will proceed immediately with the consideration with a view to ratification of the Convention. Also, we are ready and willing to cooperate with Members in giving effect to the provisions of the Convention including through the provision of technical cooperation under the umbrella of IPEC.
The Government of the Netherlands considers this Convention to be among the ILO's fundamental labour standards to be discussed in the Governing Body of the ILO under the Director-General's campaign to promote the ratification of fundamental labour standards. The Convention on the worst forms of child labour also falls within the scope of the follow-up mechanism to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work which was adopted last June. The adoption of the Convention and Recommendation on the worst forms of child labour is not the end of a lengthy process of negotiations. We consider this to be the start of a new era of intensified efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.
I will conclude by saying and stressing that we simply have to listen to the message from the global march against child labour. Stop child labour, starting with its worst forms.
Mr. UEMURA (Government adviser, Japan) -- First, I would like to congratulate the President on his election to the Chair. I would like to briefly stress the views of the Government of Japan on the proposed Convention and Recommendation.
The Government of Japan is deeply concerned about the situation of child labour around the world and places great importance on the elimination of child labour, in particular the immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. We see the proposed Convention as the best possible one, and we are satisfied with the text.
The Government of Japan will seriously study the possibility of our ratification of this Convention. Japan has been working actively to address the problem of child labour in the world. It is my pleasure to inform the Conference that in May 1999, legislation on punishment for child prostitution and child pornography and on protection of children was passed by the Japanese Parliament. This legislation is intended to protect the rights of children by punishing the exploitation of children and by providing measures to protect children who have suffered psychologically or physically.
The Government of Japan will continue to do its utmost to assist other countries in their efforts to eliminate effectively the worst forms of child labour through international cooperation and/or assistance.
Original French: Mr. VANDAMME (Government delegate, Belgium) -- On behalf of Belgium I am very happy to join those speakers who have expressed their satisfaction at our success in adopting the new instruments on the worst forms of child labour. We are aware of participating in a historic moment, in terms of the significance of these instruments in the fight against this worldwide scourge and with regard to the future activities of the ILO.
The texts that we have dealt with are satisfactory in our view because they deal with essential questions that must be tackled immediately in order to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. These are very broadly defined, with the emphasis given to establishing national machinery, ensuring access to education and facilitating international assistance.
The use of children in armed conflicts is a very important aspect of this problem. It was dealt with in a manner that does not prevent us from continuing negotiations on an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We endorse the analysis of Germany and other countries, including Canada. Belgium will continue its efforts to ensure that the age-limit be set at 18 years, both for participation in hostilities and for recruitment into armed forces or non-governmental armed groups. In the light of these facts we are convinced that a large number of countries will be able to accept the Convention tomorrow and ratify it and that the IPEC programme will be an important accompanying programme. I would like to express thanks on behalf of my delegation to the secretariat and all those who have worked in favour of our adoption of this instrument which is realistic, effective and significant.
Mr. AKRAM (Government delegate, Pakistan) -- On behalf of the Pakistan delegation I would like to congratulate the Committee on Child Labour for presenting the Conference with a proposed Convention and Recommendation on the worst forms of child labour. We have all worked very hard to achieve consensus. Compromises have been made on all sides. The proposed Convention before us is not perfect, but it is the best that we could achieve collectively. We would like, in this context, to place on record our appreciation for the particular efforts made by Mr. Trotman, the Worker Vice-Chairperson, Mr. Botha, the Employer Vice-Chairperson, as well as Mr. Atsain, the Chairperson of the Committee on Child Labour.
We are convinced that, in the words of President Clinton this morning "we must wipe from the earth the most vicious forms of abusive child labour". This is a goal to which all of us are committed through the adoption of this instrument. As in the negotiating process, flexibility will also be critical in the implementation phase of the Convention. In this context, we would like to note once again the comment of the United States delegation in its written submission to the Office that any work proposed to be banned in addition to bonded labour and work in the sex and drug industries must be of the same severity as these, eminently harmful and readily identifiable. It is also clear to us that the definition of hazardous work, as included in the Recommendation being adopted with the Convention, must not be interpreted loosely. It is important that each country, in consultation with social partners, should determine the specific instances and areas of such hazardous work, bearing in mind its economic and developmental levels.
The Preamble of the Convention recognizes the link between poverty and the worst forms of child labour. We fully endorse the comments made by President Clinton in this context today when he said that "we must address root causes, the tangled pathology of poverty and hopelessness that leads to abusive child labour. Where that still exists it is simply not enough to close the factories where the worst child labour practices occur. We must also ensure that children then have access to schools and their parents have jobs. Otherwise, we must find children in even more abusive circumstances".
This must remain an important concern for all of us. Throwing children out of work is not the answer in dealing with the worst forms of child labour. The primary effort therefore should be to attack the socio-economic conditions that lead to the appearance of child labour, including its worst forms. This would necessitate a well-considered package of measures to alleviate poverty. There is need for a specific increase in assistance to countries faced with the problem to provide social safety nets for economically distressed families and educational facilities for all children.
Socio-economic measures can and should be implemented with legal and regulatory measures to curb child labour, especially its abusive forms. At the national level, all countries have such laws and they should be helped to implement these. At the international level, measures should be formulated to assist countries in their efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.
However, what we should guard against is the temptation to resort to measures that adversely affect the economy of a country, its well-being and its ability to participate and benefit from global commerce. This would merely accentuate the underlying socio-economic problems which give rise to the problems of child labour and would not in any way assist in the elimination of its worst forms. We have seen that such measures are open to abuse by protectionist lobbies that seek to advance their interests under the cover of concern for the conditions of children.
Difficulties with the definition of child labour, and the tendency for unilateral application of these measures, lead to indiscriminate targeting of legitimate economic activities.
The ILO should take a clear unequivocal stand against the linking of protectionist measures with the issue of child labour.
This morning President Clinton referred specifically to IPEC. It is positive messages such as these that can help countries take positive steps.
It is for the ILO to take up the role of an advocate in propagating efforts made by developing countries and condemning unilateral measures. The provisions of Article 8 of the proposed Convention recognize the importance of shared international responsibility towards the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, through programmes of cooperation and assistance.
The proposed Convention recognizes the link between poverty and child labour and Article 8 of the proposed Convention underscores the obligations at international level to assist countries in eliminating the worst forms of child labour through poverty alleviation programmes.
Pakistan is committed to the elimination of child labour; we have undertaken extensive programmes in the context of ILO-IPEC, through bilateral efforts, as well as efforts by government and employers to deal with this problem.
Our commitment to work towards the agreed target within our region to eliminate child labour by the year 2010 is feasible also at the highest political level. Pakistan is perhaps among the few countries where financial assistance is provided by the Government through its own funds to contribute towards the elimination of child labour.
We therefore welcome the adoption of an instrument which will assist countries in taking measures for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. We must express our appreciation to the Workers' and Employers' groups for their understanding that all causes of the worst forms of child labour will not disappear immediately but that immediate and effective measures need to be taken to secure the prohibition and subsequent elimination of the worst forms of child labour.
Original French: Ms. KOCHERHANS (Government adviser, Switzerland) -- "We are also human beings and we do not understand why we should suffer so much. Our dream is something that you can bring about for us." These are the words of a girl who had to work and suffered for doing so. We do not yet know whether we have managed to bring about that child's dream, but we can at least be sure that now we have in our hands a Convention and a Recommendation which are designed to put an end to the worst forms of child labour. This child's dream will now depend upon whether we can actually put these instruments into practice. Switzerland will do everything in its power to ratify this Convention as quickly as possible. We want to give a strong signal that we shall no longer tolerate any child any longer being forced into the forms of work that are covered by this new Convention. In that framework, therefore, my country wishes to be associated with the statement made by Canada on behalf of a number of countries. Our common determination must permit us to ensure that this dream comes true. It is what we owe to the children of the world so that their most precious possession can be given back to them -- their childhood.
Original Arabic: Mr. TAWFIK (Government adviser, Egypt) -- The Committee on Child Labour has pulled off a notable coup in ensuring the adoption of the Convention and Recommendation on the worst forms of child labour. We are convinced that these instruments will be adopted unanimously and that they will foster human dignity and help to liberate people from servitude, poverty and slavery. This is, however, a first step which must be followed by other steps aiming at the effective elimination of all forms of child labour, not only the worst forms. This can only be achieved through international cooperation, greater investment in economic development and the elimination of poverty, and universal access to education.
My delegation's comments on this Convention and Recommendation are reflected in the Committee's report, so I need not repeat them here. However, I would like to refer to the last section of the report, which the Committee has not yet had an opportunity to adopt, and in particular paragraph 419 which contains the comments of the Egyptian delegation. We want to suggest a minor amendment which we have already submitted to the secretariat. The secretary informed us at the beginning of this meeting that there is no need for me to read out this proposed amendment. I should simply like to say that my delegation is in favour of adopting the report with our proposed amendment.
I want to reiterate our congratulations to all those involved in realizing this historic achievement, in particular the Chairperson and Vice-Chairpersons of the Committee as well as all my colleagues in the Government grouped whose work was carried out in the spirit of mutual understanding. However, it would be premature to celebrate. We can only be really satisfied the day we succeed in eliminating child labour and when children throughout the world are no longer subject to exploitation.
Mr. SAMET (Government delegate, United States) It is indeed with a sense of strong hope, a high spirit and great faith that I offer a few additional remarks on our view of the Convention on the worst forms of child labour that we will most certainly adopt tomorrow. Of course, the President of the United States of America has addressed this Conference earlier today and he has placed firmly on the record his intention to submit this Convention to the Senate for its advice and consent for ratification and his views about what action must be taken to stop the worst forms of child labour.
As my President said "we must act together. Today the time has come to build on the growing world consensus to ban the most abusive forms of child labour -- to join together and to say there are some things we cannot and will not tolerate". Indeed we can and I am proud that we join together to say clearly and in one voice that we will not tolerate the abuse of our children. We will not tolerate, as Secretary of Labor Herman said yesterday, children in forced and bonded work, we will not tolerate children brutalized by exploitation in the commercial sex industry, we will not tolerate children subjected to abduction into militias for armed conflicts, we will not tolerate work that breaks the health and future of our children.
At the same time that we proclaim our joint commitment, we must also be clear to back the resolve of today with the resources to bring our children a better tomorrow. We also must be tireless in bringing our message for a global campaign to end abusive child labour to all sectors of the global community and all institutions capable of acting in the international system. To do any less is not to do all that we can. Again as President Clinton said today, we are prepared to do our part through IPEC and through other initiatives and we shall continue to do so.
Let me also note and thank the United States Employers' and Workers' delegations, especially Mike Semrau, Ed Potter, Bill Goold, Deborah Greenfield and John Hiatt, for it was their close collaboration with the United States Government delegation that allowed us to move forward to the positive result that we have achieved. Let me extend our congratulations to the Worker Vice-Chairperson, Mr. Trotman, and the Employer Vice-Chairperson, Mr. Botha, for their fine work. Their ability to move forward together and with the governments led by Minister Atsain of the Côte d'Ivoire is just the latest example of what makes the ILO such a unique, such a treasured and such an enduring institution.
Mr. STEYNE (Workers' adviser, United Kingdom) -- I am tempted in view of time constraints just to say I associate myself with the remarks made this morning by the distinguished Government representative of the United States but actually I should still like to give my address, with your indulgence.
Last year we emphasized that political will was the searchlight needed to uncover hidden forms of child labour. When we adopted our first report, I asked, in the words of another of the great Americans of our century, Dr. Martin Luther King, when the child labourers of the world will be able to sing out that they were "free at last".
This year I am speaking, on behalf of the Trades Union Congress, at what can be a great historic moment.
Indeed, I believe President Clinton's address this morning emphasized that it is an historic moment. The Conference tomorrow should adopt unanimously this new Convention and Recommendation on the worst forms of child labour -- and send a message that every government, employers' organization and trade union is committed to pursuing rapid and universal ratification and implementation of the Convention, and to using the Recommendation to help guide that action.
The priority in the struggle against all child labour is the prohibition and elimination, as a matter of utmost urgency, of the worst forms of child labour for all children under the age of 18: modern slavery, sex work, drug trafficking and any other work which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children. A clear cross- reference to the Recommendation gives greater clarity to the definition of hazardous work. I urge every government to use that guidance in good faith and not to seek excuses for inaction.
This Committee has been characterized by a powerful sense of common purpose and cooperation between the groups. We adopted unusual methods to reach agreement on the main body of the Convention, but not a single record vote was held. I want to thank Mr. Atsain, our Chair, Mr. Trotman, Mr. Botha and the Reporter, all three from the Commonwealth, and our colleagues from the ICFTU, ACTRAV, the Bureau and the entire Workers' group in the Committee, for the magnificent cooperation. I think that almost everybody in that room came with goodwill and with a sense of the expectations placed upon us and I have to say, I detected something else that informed those feelings: frankly, the love that we have as parents and grandparents for our children.
We have created two extraordinary instruments which can provide for real and immediate protection for millions of children toiling in the worst forms of child labour. This Convention and the Declaration of last year are the most important contributions to the international body of human rights instruments for many years.
I will not hide a degree of disappointment on our part that the most hazardous of all forms of child labour, armed conflict, has not been unequivocally banned by the Convention. There is little logic in saying that we wish -- quite rightly -- to ban all sex work for children under 18, even if they are over the age of consent, but want to permit children of 16 and 17 to volunteer as combatants in war. I am sure that the political will could have been found to permit voluntary recruitment for training and combat duties, while taking all possible means to avoid deployment of under-18s. Nonetheless, two years of tripartite debate have brought us further forward than the long discussions of the optional Protocol. All forced or compulsory recruitment for use in armed conflict is now explicitly banned -- and any government which believes that giving a destitute child a few pence to sign up amounts to volunteering should examine the jurisprudence on Convention No. 29.
We also debated whether systematic denial of access to basic education should be one of the criteria defining the worst forms of child labour. The workers did not wish to broaden the coverage of this Convention, nor replicate obligations in Convention No. 138, the fundamental instrument on child labour. We believe that children working excessive hours or confined to the premises of their employer are systematically denied access to education. They are covered in these new instruments, which also require special attention to be given to hidden work in which girls are at special risk: that must include domestic service. Let us not forget that when we talk of children, we are talking of boys and girls.
The TUC is delighted, however, that ratifying governments will be obliged to provide free basic education, that is, eight or nine years or its equivalent and, where appropriate, vocational training for every child removed from the worst forms of child labour. That is the key to prevention and rehabilitation. Combined with policies to replace child labourers with unemployed adults from their extended families, adults assured fundamental rights at work, it is a key to breaking the cycle of depravation which helps to reproduce generations of child labourers.
In the words of Amsterdam and Oslo, and indeed in the meaning of the 1996 International Labour Conference Resolution, "child labour is both a cause and a consequence of poverty". Unfortunately, the Preamble of our Convention cites selectively just one paragraph from the 1996 resolution which describes poverty as the greatest cause of child labour. That same Resolution clearly describes how child labour prevents social development and perpetuates poverty. Remember, this is a Convention proclaiming inviolable human rights. The international community should work with national governments and the social partners to promote implementation. But I repeat -- when government elites fuel senseless arms races and send their own children to the best universities of the world, and then deny that they have the resources to provide basic education for the children of the poor, they do two things. Their hypocrisy diminishes them, and social injustice and lack of political will as the root causes of poverty and child labour become crystal clear to all.
Working in this Committee and in the Drafting Committee, has been, frankly, the high point of my career as a trade union officer. The sense of elation I felt when we concluded our discussion is only matched by one other experience during those years -- the moment I first set foot in a free South Africa. After we had agreed the Convention, I telephoned my family and my eleven-year old daughter, Rachel, said to me: "That's brilliant, Dad, you must be very happy". I explained to Richard, my eight-year old son, about the Convention, and that ratifying governments would have to put it into effect. His reaction, sanguine as ever, was: "But, Dad, those governments which want to keep child labour, won't they just not sign?" So there is the challenge from a couple of kids in south London who took part in the Global March. And it is a challenge from all the children of the Global March and from the entire international trade union movement, they are waiting and watching.
I urge you to adopt, unanimously, these instruments on the worst forms of child labour, and recognize that they are human rights instruments which demand action now. We live in an era obsessed by competition, so I urge you to start a race -- even an undignified race -- to ratify. And I urge you to implement without delay. Let us all find the political will to work in the spirit of tripartism, nationally, internationally and in IPEC, to make a rapid difference to the lives of the millions of children toiling in these unbearable conditions.
To conclude, ignore those who talk of children's rights to work. Remember their right to learn and play, and our responsibilities as adults to choose for them a better life. There is a burden on our shoulders. It does not hurt like a load of bricks on the shoulders of a child, of a child labourer, nor as rape hurts a child forced into sex work. But it is a burden we must carry. We must ask ourselves today -- this time next year, how many children will we have freed from the brothels and brick kilns of the world? When we tell our grandchildren about this momentous Conference, we must all make sure that we will be able to tell them with pride.
I commend the report to the Conference.
Ms. ADLER (Government delegate, Denmark) -- The elimination of child labour has for a long time had very high priority in Danish policy. We believe that the International Labour Organization has a special role to play in the fight against child labour. It has the resources and the capacity to combine the establishment of international rules, the spreading of information, and execution of development projects.
Denmark was pleased to see the ILO's commitment to the abolition of child labour confirmed during the session of the International Labour Conference last year, with the adoption of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
Therefore, we warmly welcome the adoption by this year's session of the Conference of the Convention concerning the prohibition and immediate activities for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour.
This Convention is an important complement to the Declaration adopted last year and to the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138). It constitutes a major step forward in the fight against the worst and most intolerable forms of child labour.
As outlined in the joint statement delivered by Canada on behalf of a number of countries including Denmark, we welcome the Convention's explicit reference to child soldiers. However, we would have liked to see the Conference go much further in its efforts to eliminate the use of child soldiers in armed conflicts. We therefore look forward to decisive progress in the United Nations Working Group on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which we trust will ensure a total ban on the use of child soldiers.
We believe that the adoption of this Convention on the worst forms of child labour will contribute significantly to improving the conditions for millions of children who are performing all kinds of intolerable work, and who are thereby jeopardizing their health and safety.
We regret, however, that the Conference did not find it necessary to determine in the text of the Convention the types of work which would be identified as hazardous. An explicit determination of such forms of work would, we believe, more efficiently have ensured immediate and effective action to secure its prohibition.
It is our hope that this will not reduce the impact of the Convention. We urge all member States to follow the Recommendation of the Convention in determining the worst forms of child labour.
Denmark is of the opinion that child labour is basically an economic and social problem which is caused by poverty and lack of education.
Therefore, we welcome the Convention's emphasis on the importance of education in eliminating child labour.
Denmark hopes that the Convention and Recommendation will be adopted unanimously tomorrow and we hope the Convention will be massively ratified and implemented by the member States. We trust that this new instrument will safeguard children all over the world from working in intolerable conditions and help them and their families to a better life.
The PRESIDENT -- With that intervention we conclude our discussion on this report of the Committee on Child Labour.
We shall now proceed to the adoption of the body of the report itself, i.e. the summary of discussions in paragraphs 1 to 426.
If there are no objections I shall take it that the report -- paragraphs 1 to 426 -- is adopted.
(The report -- paragraphs 1 to 426 -- is adopted.)
Proposed Convention concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour
We shall now proceed to the adoption of the proposed Convention.
If there are no objections, I shall take it that the Convention is adopted as a whole.
(The Convention is adopted as a whole.)
In accordance with paragraph 7 of article 40 of the Conference Standing Orders, the provisions of this proposed Convention concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour will be submitted to the Conference Drafting Committee for the preparation of the final text.
Proposed Recommendation concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour
We shall now proceed to the adoption of the proposed Recommendation concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour.
May I take it that the Recommendation is adopted as a whole?
(The Recommendation is adopted as a whole.)
In accordance with paragraph 7 of article 40 of the Conference Standing Orders, the provisions of this proposed Recommendation will be submitted to the Conference Drafting Committee for the preparation of the final text.
I wish to thank the Officers and members of the Committee, as well as the staff of the secretariat, for the excellent work they have done.
Updated by HK. Approved by RH. Last update: 26 January 2000.