ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

89th Session, 5 - 21 June 2001

Special High-level Session on the Launch of the Time Bound Programme on the Worst Forms of Child Labour in the Republic of El Salvador, the Kingdom of Nepal and the United Republic of Tanzania

12 June 2001

Address by Mr. Findlay
Deputy Secretary of Labor, United States

First, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak about the important progress we are making in our struggle against child labour.

Thank you, Mr. Director-General, for your leadership on this important issue.

I am very happy to be here today, on the occasion of the launch of the Time-Bound Programme on the Worst Forms of Child Labour in El Salvador, Nepal and the United Republic of Tanzania. Elaine Chao, the United States Secretary of Labor, very much regrets that she could not be here today, but she sends her greetings and congratulations on the commencement of this important Programme.

Let me just take a moment to express, on behalf of the American Government and, more importantly, the American people, our sympathies to the people of El Salvador and Nepal regarding the recent tragedies that have occurred there and prevented their Heads of State from joining us here today. We wish they could be here with us, but we look forward to continuing our work with them in the future.

This is a very significant moment — a milestone in the challenging journey that began nine years ago, in 1992. We have not yet eliminated the worst forms of child labour, but we are at last in a position where we can begin to do so, and reaching this point is itself a great accomplishment. Let me congratulate everyone who has worked for all these years to bring us to this day.

When the ILO first created its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, many governments did not even talk about the issue.

As we all know well, the first step towards conquering a problem is acknowledging its existence and speaking honestly about the challenges it poses. Many nations have joined this worldwide effort, but I must particularly commend the Government of Germany for its early leadership on this issue.

A topic that was once taboo is now openly debated, and there has been a growing willingness on the part of the international community, including the more than 50 countries participating in IPEC, to commit significant resources to addressing it.

At the same time, I think there is a general understanding that the ultimate answer to this problem begins at home, in each of our countries.

I am very pleased to note that during the course of the IPEC Programme, there has been a growing willingness among nations to address the problems of child labour within their own borders, and at the same time, there has been a dramatic increase in the willingness of the international community to support these efforts.

Most importantly, this progress has been reflected in the unanimous decision, two years ago, of the ILO member States that we shall not tolerate the worst forms of child labour, and that we “shall take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency”.

The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), was adopted unanimously, and this was a landmark moment in the history of the struggle against child labour. Nations have ratified this Convention at a record pace.

Today, the United States and other nations are moving forward rapidly in our efforts to assist countries that are ready to follow through on the commitment embodied in Convention No. 182, by providing technical assistance to countries that are working systematically to eliminate child labour.

Altogether, our commitment to eliminating child labour through IPEC and other programmes totals almost $150 million over the course of the last six years. These funds are supporting a broad range of educational and economic development programmes to provide assistance for working children around the world. Through the programmes we have already funded, we expect to withdraw at least as many as 160,000 children from exploitative work, and to prevent another 100,000 from entering such work, while providing indirect assistance to many others.

Our President, President George W. Bush, was elected on a promise “to leave no child behind”. He used that term when talking about improving America’s public education system and opening the doors of opportunity for every American, but President Bush’s pledge should also inspire all of us here who are working to eliminate abusive and exploitative forms of child labour. We must stand firm in our commitment to work together as a community of nations to leave no child behind, anywhere in the world, in appallingly dangerous workplaces, bound in slavery, exploited as prostitutes or employed in other criminal and hazardous professions. No child should be involved in dangerous, illegal or immoral work.

I applaud El Salvador, Nepal and the United Republic of Tanzania for accepting the challenge of embarking on these comprehensive and integrated time-bound programmes.

So, let this event mark not only a new level of commitment and action, but also the promise of a foreseeable future when children wake up in the morning, not to another hopeless and exhausting day of work, but to learning and other opportunities at school.

Updated by HK. Approved by RH. Last update: 13 June 2001.