Trafficking in children

Child trafficking is about taking children out of their protective environment and preying on their vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation. Although no precise figures exist, the ILO (in 2005) estimated that 980,000 to 1,225,000 children - both boys and girls - are in a forced labour situation as a result of trafficking.

ILO Convention No. 182 (1999) on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL) classifies trafficking among “forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery” and thereby a WFCL to be eliminated as a matter of urgency, irrespective of the country’s level of development.

The trafficking in children - internally in countries, across national borders and across continents - is closely interlinked with the demand for cheap malleable and docile labour in sectors and among employers where the working conditions and the treatment grossly violates the human rights of the children. These are characterized by environments that are unacceptable (the unconditional worst forms) as well as dangerous to the health and the development of the child (hazardous worst forms). These forms range from bonded labour, camel jockeying, child domestic labour, commercial sexual exploitation and prostitution, drug couriering, and child soldiering to exploitative or slavery-like practices in the informal industrial sector.

As part of larger initiatives to combat the worst forms of child labour, the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) works with governments, workers and employers’ organizations and NGOs to fight child trafficking It works with them to offer broad protection to children at risk and victims, prevent the crime of trafficking, enforce laws and prosecute traffickers, and assist victims in need. Where appropriate, services are offered at source, in transit and at destination. The Programme takes into account the national, sub-regional and regional specificities of the root causes of children’s vulnerability, mechanisms and routes used by traffickers, and the nature of exploitation that takes place, as well as the legal and cultural contexts.

The Roadmap for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016, adopted at The Hague Child Labour Conference in May 2010, calls for international cooperation to combat child trafficking, and achievement of the goal of elimination of the worst forms of child labour - including child trafficking - by 2016.

UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT)

IPEC, together with the Special Action Programme to combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL), represent ILO in the Steering Committee of the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT). Other members of this global inter-agency initiative are the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The mission of UN.GIFT is, through a global multi-stakeholder partnership, to mobilize State and non-state actors to eradicate human trafficking by (i) reducing both the vulnerability of potential victims and the demand for exploitation in all its forms; (ii) ensuring adequate protection and support to those who do fall victim, and (iii) supporting the efficient prosecution of the criminals involved, while respecting the fundamental human rights of all persons.

Capacity building and learning

Capacity building training on child trafficking

In collaboration with ILO’s International Training Centre in Turin, IPEC offers global training courses on combating trafficking in children, along with tailor made courses in countries and regions. For more information see the flyer.

Learning from ILO-IPEC projects

A range of multi-year projects by IPEC and its partners resulted in lots of learning, including research papers, how-to guides, and documented good practices and lessons learned.

While implementing projects on child trafficking we learned that not all children on the move are trafficked and that many children migrate voluntarily. For more information on migration and child labour see the section "Migration and child labour".

Good practices

For documented good practices (GP) and lessons learned see:

Relevant links to web sites and other resources