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The world is losing the fight against Child Labour
by IPS, FAO, ILO, Kindernothilfe, agencies
Nov. 2017
The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, which drew nearly 2000 delegates from 190 countries to the Argentine capital, left many declarations of good intentions but nothing to celebrate.
Child labour is declining far too slowly, in the midst of unprecedented growth in migration and forced displacement that aggravate the situation, said representatives of governments, workers and employers in the Buenos Aires Declaration on Child Labour Forced Labour and Youth Employment.
The document, signed at the end of the Nov. 14-16 meeting, recognises that unless something changes, the goals set by the international community will not be met.
As a result, there is a pressing need to “Accelerate efforts to end child labour in all its forms by 2025,” the text states.
In the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), target seven of goal eight – which promotes decent work – states that child labour in all its forms is to be eradicated by 2025.
“For the first time, this Conference recognised that child labour is mostly concentrated in agriculture and is growing,” said Bernd Seiffert, focal point on child labour, gender, equity and rural employment at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
“While the general numbers for child labour dwindled from 162 million to 152 million since 2013, in rural areas the number grew: from 98 to 108 million,” he explained in a conversation with the news agency Inter Press Service (IPS).
Seiffert said: “We heard a lot in this conference about the role played by child labour in global supply chains. But the majority of boys and girls work for the local value chains, in the production of food.”
The declared aim of the Conference was to “take stock of the progress made” since the previous meeting, held in 2013 in Brasilia.
2014 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Kailash Satyarthi said he was “confident that the young will be able to steer the situation that we are leaving them,” but warned that it would not make sense to hold a new conference in four years if the situation remains the same.
Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in his country, India, in defence of children’s rights, and in particular for his fight against forced labour, from which he has saved thousands of children.
“We know that children are used because they are the cheapest labour force. But I ask how much longer we are going to keep coming to these conferences to go over the same things again. The next meeting should be held only if it is to celebrate achievements,” he said.
Junko Sasaki, director of the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division at FAO, said “the increase in child labour in the countryside has to do with informal employment. Most of the children work in family farming, without pay, in areas where the state does not reach.”
“We must promote the incorporation of technologies and good agricultural practices to allow many poor families to stop having to make their children work,” she told IPS.
According to the ILO, as reflected by the final declaration, 71 percent of child labour is concentrated in agriculture, and 42 percent of that work is hazardous and is carried out in informal and family enterprises.
“There are also gender differences. While it is common for children to be exposed to pesticides that can affect their health, girls usually have to work more on household chores. In India, for example, many girls receive less food than boys,” said Sazaki.
Children were notably absent from the crowded event, which brought together government officials and delegates of international organisations, the business community and trade unionists.
Their voice was only heard through the presentation of the document “It’s Time to Talk”, the result of research carried out by civil society organisations, which interviewed 1,822 children between the ages of five and 18 who work, in 36 countries.
The study revealed that children who work do so mainly to help support their families, and that their main concern is the conditions in which they work.
They feel good if their work allows them to continue studying, if they can learn from work and earn money; and they become frustrated when their education is hindered, when they do not develop any skills, or their health is affected.
“We understand that children who work have no other option and that we should not criminalise but protect them and make sure that the conditions in which they perform tasks do not put them at risk or prevent their education,” said Anne Jacob, of the Germany-based Kindernothilfe, one of the organisations that participated in the research.
For Jacob, “it is outrageous that the problem of child labour should be addressed without listening to children.”
“After talking with them, we understood that there is no global solution to this issue, but that the structural causes can only be resolved locally, depending on the economic, cultural and social circumstances of each place,” she told IPS.
The participants in the Conference warned in the final declaration that armed conflicts, which affect 250 million children, are aggravating the situation of child labour.
Virginia Gamba, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, explained that “modern armed conflicts use children as if they were disposable materials. Children are no longer in the periphery of conflicts but at the centre.”
In this respect, she pointed out that hundreds of thousands of children are left without the possibility of access to formal education every year in different parts of the world. Her office counted 750 attacks on schools in the midst of armed conflict in 2016, while this year it registered 175 in just one month.
“To fight child labour and help children, we have to think about mobile learning and home-based education. Education must be provided even in the most fragile situations, even in refugee camps, since that is the only means of providing normality for a child in the midst of a conflict,” said Gamba.
Nov 16, 2017
Ending the Business of Child Labor, by Kailash Satyarthi.
Advocates fighting to eradicate child labor had once hoped that globalization would help. But recent evidence shows that little progress has been made, suggesting that in addition to strong legal frameworks, robust accountability mechanisms are needed to guarantee that child labor is not used in supply chains.
New Delhi – In October 1997, when global leaders gathered in Oslo to strategize how to end child labor, we brought a huge ambition and a deep commitment to change. Through improved collaboration and planning, we sought to protect children from exploitation, and to develop “new strategies to eliminate child labor at the national, regional, and international levels.”
Now, 20 years later, it is time to ask: how have we done? Poorly. Since that first meeting, the world has not even halved the number of children in the workforce. In the last five years, the international community has managed to reduce the number of employed children by just 16 million, the slowest pace of reduction in decades.
Of the 152 million children working today, some 73 million are doing jobs considered hazardous. Even “safe” child labor affects victims’ physical and physiological wellbeing long into adulthood.
Worse, according to the most recent data from the International Labor Organization, the world has made the least progress in protecting two of the most at-risk populations: children between the ages of five and 11, and young girls.
The problem is not that we have failed to learn anything during our four global gatherings (the most recent one, held in Buenos Aires, wrapped up earlier this month). The problem is that we have failed, and are failing, to take our own advice.
Even as we talk, disturbing global developments have added a sinister twist to child labor and trafficking. This was supposed to be the century of empowerment for the most marginalized. Instead, we are witnessing globalization of the most perverted kind, with children becoming victims many times over.
Because traffickers can easily prey amid chaos, children in conflict zones are particularly vulnerable. Syria has commanded attention for years because of the horrific violence to which children there are subjected. But the global rise of organized gangs means that children in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe are also at risk.
Stemming this trend requires urgent and coordinated investment in education and safety wherever children are at risk – in conflict zones, refugee camps, and in areas affected by natural disasters.
I am often left wondering how we got to this point. Over the last 37 years, colleagues and I have rescued more than 87,000 children from forced labor in India. We have rescued girls who were so abused that they lost their ability to speak. Recently, we rescued children from a garment factory in New Delhi, where, for more than three years, they had been forced to sit and work for 20 hours a day in a basement with no ventilation. When they were brought to Mukti Ashram, our transit rehabilitation center, many were unable to walk or even look up at the sun.
We are proud of our accomplishments. But humans’ depravity is a source of continued sorrow.
How can we end this suffering once and for all? Global gatherings, like the one that just ended, certainly have a role to play. But talk alone will not suffice. Serious problems confronting humanity are tackled only when stakeholders become full participants.
Successes in public health are instructive. For example, there was a time when diseases like polio and smallpox ravaged millions. Through the coordinated efforts of doctors, volunteers, global institutions, local governments, and civil society, these diseases were tamed. Similar collaboration is needed now to reduce child labor.
The first place to start is targeting industries where child labor is present, such as agriculture. In addition to strong legal frameworks, robust accountability mechanisms must be established to guarantee that child labor is not used in supply chains. I have found that with the right incentives, businesses and consumers can become partners in eradicating child labor.
One example of this collaboration emerged from the carpet industry in South Asia, where children were being mercilessly exploited. To force change, we launched a movement to educate consumers in the West to compel carpet factory owners to behave responsibly. This led to the creation of a label, GoodWeave, which certifies that no child has been put to work manufacturing the product. Since the label was launched more than 20 years ago, child labor in the region’s carpet industry has plummeted, from roughly one million to about 200,000.
Programs like these are helpful, but the most important changes must come from international efforts led by the United Nations. Ending the vicious circle of child labor, illiteracy, and poverty will require inter-governmental agencies to come together around each of the Sustainable Development Goals that directly affect children. These include Goal 8, ending forced labor, modern slavery, trafficking, and child labor; Goal 4, ensuring education for all; Goal 3, providing universal access to healthcare; and Goal 16, stopping all forms of violence against children.
To succeed, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will need to channel more resources toward improving children’s lives. His first course of action should be to call a meeting with the heads of UN agencies and international organizations, as well as world leaders, to create an agenda for concerted and coordinated efforts to protect young people everywhere.
At the end of the day, only political will can disrupt the grim calculus of child labor. We cannot build a more peaceful, sustainable world without ensuring the freedom, safety, and education of every child. A life of work robs children of all three.
As I ponder the way forward, I cannot forget a young girl I met in Brazil, whose small hands were horribly injured and bleeding from plucking oranges. She asked me a simple question, to which I did not have an answer: “How can the world enjoy the juice from these oranges when children like me have to shed their blood to pluck them?” That is a question we all must ask ourselves, too.
* Kailash Satyarthi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is Honorary President of the Global March Against Child Labour and the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan. This article was published by Project Syndicate:

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Undernutrition is a strong risk factor for children’s cognitive development
by Arnaud Sologny, Melissa Kaplan
Global Nutrition Report, Action Against Hunger
Undernutrition is often addressed solely as a health issue, but its broader impact on child development, hence on a country’s economic development, is frequently underestimated.
As kids in the northern hemishpere go back to school this week, did you know that, compared to a healthy child, a child suffering from undernutrition can lose up to fifteen IQ points, is 12% less likely to be able to write a simple sentence at age 8 or will achieve up to 3.6 years less in school education?
In order to reach their full potential, nations need to empower their children to discover creative ways to drive future growth and development.
However, today, more than 200 million children still suffer from undernutrition worldwide (155 million stunted, 52 million wasted); this greatly jeopardizes their ability to get an education and participate in national development.
Undernutrition is a strong risk factor for children’s cognitive development, opening up inequalities that will last a lifetime and often grow as they grow older. Among other things, maternal undernutrition affects fetal growth and brain development through lack of Vitamin D; iron deficiency anemia before three years of age results in delayed brain maturation. Overall, studies have shown that stunting among young children predicts poorer cognitive and educational outcomes.
Undernutrition currently leaves nearly four in ten children in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia with under-developed brains and bodies. Damage caused by undernutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life are irreversible.
Besides the impact on educational performances, nutritional deficiencies during early childhood development also have an impact on school attendance throughout children’s schooling. In addition to suffering from fatigue and inability to concentrate, stunted children are physically weaker, subject to repeated illness and more likely to miss out on opportunities to acquire lifelong skills.
Undernutrition also undermines children’s self-esteem and career aspirations. Various studies provide evidence of the impact of obstructed early childhood development on later mental health, with higher levels of depression and anxiety among stunted and formerly wasted children.
Moreover, a child’s nutritional status can influence the experiences and stimulation children receive: for instance, parents can treat a stunted child differently because he or she is small. Undernourished children thus not only face diminished bodily and cognitive capabilities, but are also less confident to learn and change their own futures.
The first good news is that ensuring children receive adequate nutrition and education can foster rapid socioeconomic change and reduce inequality. The second good news is that we know what nutrition interventions we should invest in.
The first two years of child’s life - and especially the first 1000 days - are a window of opportunity to prevent and tackle the adverse effects of undernutrition and their impact on the cycle of poverty. Better nutrition contributes to better education by providing every child with the ability to succeed in life.
Early nutritional programs have permanent and long-term impacts: they can help to increase the income of adults affected by malnutrition at an early age by between 5 and 50%, from country to country.
Conversely, better education means better nutrition, as maternal and nutritional education is a strong determinant of child health and well-being. Mothers without knowledge of the causes of undernutrition need education as much as food from supplementary feeding centers.
According to UNICEF, providing every woman in low and middle-income countries with primary education is expected to reduce stunting by 4%, representing 1.7 million children. Giving those women a secondary education would reduce stunting by 26%.
In light of all of these facts, undernutrition should be considered both as a development and an economic emergency. Ensuring early childhood development is not only morally right, but also economically smart.
Every $1 invested in the fight against undernutrition generates between $16 and $20 in economic return. The potential of undernourished children can be unlocked with good nutrition to develop strong brains and bodies. Nutrition is therefore key to boosting a nation’s human capital. In a global economy requiring highly skilled workers more than ever, escaping the cycle of poverty requires eradicating child undernutrition.
In 2016, the World Bank Group President declared, “As countries prepare for a more digitalized global economy, I’m deeply concerned that our failure to tackle this challenge is condemning millions of children to lives of exclusion – lives where they won’t have the brain power to succeed in school or in an increasingly digitalized workplace”.
Recent World Bank estimates suggest that $50 billion are still needed to reduce stunting by 40% by 2025. Overall, an investment of $70 billion over 10 years will be necessary to reach global nutrition targets for stunting, wasting, breastfeeding and anemia.
Governments need to invest today in a skilled, healthy and productive workforce in order to ensure future economic growth and allow children to be all they can be. Investing in the fight against undernutrition is a first step to break out the poverty cycle and ensure equal opportunity.
* Arnaud Sologny and Melissa Kaplan are health advocates at Action Against Hunger, on the links between nutrition and children''s development

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