ILO Meeting to forge New Alliances to Combat Child Trafficking

The ILO/Japan Asian Meeting on the Trafficking of Children for Labour and Sexual Exploitation gathers representatives from 14 countires to forge new alliances and strategies to combat child trafficking.

Press release | MANILA | 10 October 2001

MANILA (ILO News):- Amid reports that traffickers are using more sophisticated networks and methods to draw in increasing numbers of child victims, the ILO this week gathers government, employer and worker representatives from 14 countries1 to forge new alliances and strategies to tackle this social evil.

The ILO/Japan Asian Meeting on the Trafficking of Children for Labour and Sexual Exploitation, with financial assistance from the Government of Japan and cooperation from the Government of the Philippines, opens in Manila today (Wednesday 10 October) at the Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel. The three-day meeting will examine new trends that include, rising numbers of reports of trafficking in children; more reports of organized trafficking networks; reports that drug traffickers may be widening their nets to take in people; the sex trade increasingly demanding younger children; and greater use of deception by traffickers.

Children trafficked within and across national borders in Asia are sold into sexual exploitation and other worst forms of child labour - including domestic service, mines and sweatshops, plantations, construction sites and begging.

In papers prepared for the meeting, ILO experts note that traffickers in Asia now seem to be "targeting young people who are already looking for some kind of work or are open to situations that include the promise of better education. Children looking for jobs or better advantages are being tricked, lied to and deceived". Other factors that may make families vulnerable to trafficking include poverty and indebtedness; low levels of education or lack of awareness; gender biases; traditions of migration; family dysfunction; armed conflict; and consumerism.

Although numbers of reports of trafficking appear to be increasing, the meeting papers warn that available data gives only a "partially focused picture" of trafficking in young people. The hidden nature of trafficking makes it difficult to investigate; and the reliability of research that is available varies. More research is needed, the ILO says, carried out professionally and responsibly.

Even so, the ILO stresses, "we know enough to move forward in areas of prevention, protection, and certainly rehabilitation."

The ILO's work to combat trafficking is founded on the Organization's most fundamental principles, says ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Mr Yasuyuki Nodera, describing it as "a gross violation of human rights."

Mr Nodera also points to encouraging unity of purpose between the countries of the region in opposing trafficking, demonstrated by the rapid pace of ratification of the ILO's Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, (No. 182) 1999. The Convention, which calls for immediate action to eliminate these worst forms, including trafficking, "has achieved the fastest pace of ratification in the ILO's history," he said. "In Asia and the Pacific, the Convention has been ratified by 13 member States – and by 100 worldwide."

Both awareness and determination to take action to combat trafficking in the region is also rising, Mr Nodera says. "Increasing numbers of reports may also point to a growing awareness of trafficking, and awareness is important" Mr Nodera says. "There is also a greater willingness to take clear and effective measures to stop this practice." Through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), the ILO is working closely with member States to halt trafficking. "Two of our most promising initiatives are sub-regional projects," he said. One, in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, operates in Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. The other, in South Asia, operates in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The ILO is also working with other partners, including workers’ and employers’ organizations and non-government organizations, with activities that range from prevention of trafficking to the rescue, recovery and re-integration of victims and survivors. Other important steps forward in the region in recent years include the development of national plans of action, and movements towards bilateral and regional cooperation.

Prevention, Mr. Nodera said, was a vital focus. "Trafficking and child labour grow out of poverty - and perpetuate poverty," he said. "The ILO's primary goal today is decent work, and to ensure that all women and men have opportunities for decent and productive work. Children pressed into work or sold into slavery are robbed of those opportunities. They suffer, and so, too, do their countries."

Mr Nodera also praised the meeting's host country, the Philippines, for its ongoing efforts to act against child trafficking. The Philippines was one of the first countries to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with IPEC, and to move forward with initiatives targeting trafficking. Philippine Labor Secretary Mrs. Patricia Santo Tomas delivered a keynote address at the meeting opening. Other speakers included the Director of the ILO's InFocus Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) Mr. Frans Roselaers from Geneva.

During the course of the three-day meeting, participants will hear from:

  • Child victims and survivors of trafficking who have formed their own organization, reading a statement developed at their first ever Children's Consultation on Child Trafficking, calling for action from governments, employers, trade unions and non-government organizations;
  • NGOs working to rescue children, including the Visayan Forum in the Philippines, and the Centre for Victims of Torture in Kathmandu;
  • The authors and implementors of national plans of action and regional cooperation in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Thailand;
  • ILO experts running programmes in South Asia and the Greater Mekong Sub-region to prevent trafficking and help recover and re-integrate children.
  • Workers and employers combating child trafficking, including hospitality industry union leaders whose members are pledged to report abuse.
  • United Nations agencies outlining their work to combat trafficking;
  • …and will visit a half-way house for victims of trafficking based in Manila's port

Journalists are welcome to attend any of the open plenary sessions, the side event and site visit.

1Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines,  Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam.