No social justice without achieving Target 8.7

Ms. Walter Dagmar, Director, DWT South Asia and India, addresses the gathering on behalf of ILO’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Ms. Tomoko Nishimoto at the inaugural session of the Asia Regional Conference on Alliance 8.7

Statement | New Delhi, India | 20 November 2019

  • Hon. Gokarna Bista, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security, Government of Nepal
  • DrRinchen Chopel, Director General, SAIEVAC Regional Secretariat,
  • Hon. Dr Phuyal, Member of the National Planning Commission, Nepal,
  • Other members on the dais,
  • Honourable Ministers, Ambassadors, and Representatives of Governments,
  • Representatives of Employers’ and Workers’ organizations,
  • Colleagues from UN and civil society organizations,
  • Distinguished ILO colleagues,
  • Ladies and Gentlemen,

 On behalf of ILO’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Ms. Tomoko Nishimoto, and on my own behalf, I warmly welcome all of you to this Regional Conference on Alliance 8.7.   The Alliance 8.7 was formed following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 under the chairmanship of Australia, which now has passed on to France.  We thank them for their engagement and leadership.


It is encouraging to see such a wide range of actors from this region and beyond convening and joining forces to achieve a very important SDG target, namely 8.7 which reads to “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.” This is only 5 years from now!


Ours, one of the world’s most significant regions, has a long history of addressing the challenges related to the world of work. As a result, we have accumulated vast experience and learnings in dealing with them as well. Nevertheless, the scale of challenges ahead of us remains significant. To cite an example, Asia and the Pacific remains the second-highest region in the prevalence of child labour and the highest in the prevalence of forced labour. In numbers, over 62 million children of the world’s 152 million children in child labour are from our region. Nearly 50 percent of them are in the worst forms of child labour. Of the 24.8 million people in forced labour globally, a staggering 16.5 million or over two-thirds are in Asia and the Pacific.


Therefore we need accelerated action, innovative solutions, collective effort, and, most of all, renewed commitment to address these challenges effectively. And this is why we have gathered here today.


Alliance 8.7 serves as the platform, aptly demonstrating its ability to convene a diverse range of actors and mobilize them towards a common goal while making optimal use of their diversity and strengths.


In these three days we will work to:

  • promote comprehensive approaches eliminating all forms of child labour, forced labour, and human trafficking in the context of Alliance 8.7, and setting country-specific targets for SDG 8.7;
  • advance efforts across the region leading towards ratification of Protocol 29 to the ILO Forced Labour Convention by sharing the experience of those countries that have already ratified the Protocol or have taken initial steps towards that;
  • showcase innovative approaches to tackling forced labour, child labour, and human trafficking; and
  • strengthen tripartism and social dialogue on child labour and forced labour in the region.
This conference comes at a very special moment in the history of ILO when it is celebrating a hundred years of achievement in advancing social justice and promoting decent work. There cannot be social justice nor decent work in a world where we have child labour, forced labour, any form of slavery, or where people are trafficked for exploitation. This is why the ILO’s Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work underlines the importance of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.


Let me remind you. In December 2016, many of you, Governments, Employers organizations, and Workers’ organizations, convened in Bali, Indonesia for ILO’s Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting. Among other priorities, you agreed to accelerate action to eliminate child labour and forced labour. Two years ago, in Buenos Aires in Argentina, we reaffirmed our commitment to the elimination of child labour and forced labour at the IVth Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour. Many of the countries and organizations gathered here today were part of that conference as well. Most of the countries and UN agencies represented here are also members of the so called Bali process that fights against trafficking in persons.


The region has largely ratified ILO conventions on child labour and forced labour, with just one short of Convention No 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour, which would also mean universal ratification. Also, fundamental convention 138 on minimum age still falls short of 11 ratifications in Asia and the Pacific.


More recently, Sri Lanka and Thailand have ratified the Protocol to ILO Convention 29 on Forced Labour setting an example to other countries in the region. Now we need to convert these commitments to tangible action and impact for those millions of children and workers who need our support.


This is why Alliance 8.7 is very significant for our region. As we all know, eradicating child labour, forced labour, human trafficking, and modern slavery cannot be achieved by any single group of actors alone, whether it be governments, social partners, UN agencies or civil society. It requires the collective strength and collaborative efforts of all. Alliance 8.7 serves as the platform to synthesise that collective strength. Going beyond traditional partnerships, it brings together all of the above actors.


Achieving Sustainable Development Goals is a universal commitment for all of us. So please make sure to network with each other, exchange contacts, and explore what you can offer and gain from each other during formal sessions as well as during informal opportunities.


Four countries in our Region, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Fiji, and Viet Nam, have volunteered to become Alliance 8.7 Pathfinder Countries to “go further and faster to achieve Target 8.7”. They accelerate efforts, try new approaches, and collaborate with others. They are present in this conference to share their experiences, insights, and challenges, and we hope that will inspire other countries in our region to also volunteer as Pathfinders. It is not only about commitment but is also about building and strengthening capacities and creating the right institutional framework to achieve the target. I hope each one of us participating in this conference will have something to take home that will lead to improved capacities as well as stronger and more effective institutions in our collective efforts to achieve Target 8.7.


I welcome each one of you once again and wish you a very productive three days ahead.  I would like to thank Nepal for hosting the Conference and USDOL for their support to the Alliance 8.7, including this Conference.


Thanks for your kind attention.