International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour — beyond commitments to action

An interview with Ms. Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, on the occasion of the launch of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, which took place on January 21, 2021.

News | 21 January 2021
Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa
Why is 2021 an important year?

With the adoption of the UN Resolution 72/327 in 2017, the year 2021 was declared the ‘’International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour’’ by United Nations member States; thereby renewing their commitment to accelerating actions to eliminate child labour. It is an opportunity to translate our commitments into action, by defining annually achievable milestones. It is an opportunity appreciate the progress made, while sharing knowledge derived from the implementation of programmes with other stakeholders.

I believe that the impact of the actions to accelerate child labour elimination in 2021 will help to fast track progress towards achieving the SDG target to eliminate child labour by 2025. Furthermore, it will create momentum that will drive positive change through to 2025. In 2021, stakeholders will take action, learn from each other’s experience, and scale up their interventions through innovative approaches.

What does it mean for Africa?

19.6% or one-fifth of all African children are in child labour with 9% of African children being in hazardous. In absolute terms, 72.1 million African children are estimated to be in child labour; including 31.5 million in hazardous work.

We observed from available statistics that child labour increased in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2012 and 2016, in contrast to continued progress elsewhere in the world. This is despite the targeted policies implemented by African governments to combat child labour. This shows that continued business as usual will not address this fundamental development deficit.

To address this important challenge, we are very pleased that stakeholders in Africa have been developing relevant approaches and strategic frameworks to accelerate actions against child labour.

Aida, a young learner in Abidjan ©ILO
Through their 2021 pledges, countries like Nigeria, Tunisia, and South Africa have identified some priority milestones to achieve this year in order to make some important progress in the continent, with other countries’ pledges to be announced by 30 March.

Furthermore, the African Union’s Continental Ten Year Action Plan is a great tool adopted by the African Union to help stakeholders achieve the desired results in 2021 and beyond.

These are specific actions, which stakeholders have committed to in order to accelerate and deliver on making real progress by driving action and paving the way to ending child labour by 2025.

What can we do collectively?

The International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour marks a call to move beyond commitments to action. Launched at the 2017 Global Conference on Child Labour, the concept of pledges this year means taking commitments to effective implementation, building on previous efforts, driving action, sharing experiences and propelling momentum

We invite all stakeholders such as governments, workers’ and employers organizations, civil society, academic institutions, private sector, international organizations, regional organizations and even individuals to propose specific actions, that contribute to ending child labour, and which can be achieved by December 2021.

I call on you to participate in eliminating child labour in our communities, our workplaces, our households, by consuming responsibly, raising funds, supporting governments’ actions and telling the world about your Action Pledges on social media.

What’s next?

The International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour will provide momentum towards the Fifth Global Conference on Child Labour that will be hosted by Africa in 2022. It will take place in South Africa, where stakeholders will share experiences and make additional commitments towards ending child labour in all its forms by 2025, and forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery by 2030. The Dialogue starts today!