As part of the global movement against child labour, a strong and sustained worldwide effort is underway to eliminate child labour in agriculture. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has now joined forces with five key international agricultural organizations to launch a new landmark global partnership to tackle child labour in agriculture.
Members of the new partnership, brought into existence with the signing of a Declaration of Intent on Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture during the ILO’s annual International Labour Conference 2007, are the:
- International Labour Organization (ILO);
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);
- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD);
- International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR);
- International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP);
- International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF).
Worldwide, agriculture is the sector where by far the largest share of working children is found — nearly 70 percent. Over 132 million girls and boys aged 5 to 14 years old work in crop and livestock production, helping supply some of the food and drink we consume and the fibres and raw materials we use to make other products.
Child labour, according to International Labour Organization conventions is work that harms children’s well-being and hinders their education and development.
Peter Hurst is leading this work for the International Labor Organisation. Below is my interview with him.
- What are some of the pertinent facts of child labour that concern you personally?
That 126 m children (under 18) work in hazardous child labour where they can be killed, injured or made ill, and that this situation needs to be stopped with kids under 14 in school, and those aged 14-17 in decent work combined with vocational skills training
- What are the strategies being used to stop child labour at a micro level so that families who rely on the income gained from child labour are diverted from exploiting their children?
Everything from income generation activities for poor families, conditional cash transfers, promoting children's access to education, strengthening the capacity of governments, employers' organisations and trade unions, NGOs to eliminate child labour.
- In June this year (2007) The International Labour Organization (ILO) joined forces with five key international agricultural organizations to launch a new landmark global partnership to tackle child labour in agriculture. Could you please explain the catalyst for this and why was this initiative different to what had been in place before?
70% of working children are in agriculture - 132 m children aged 5-14. Prior to the setting up of this new International Agricultural Partnership in June 2007, apart from the IUF, none of the other organisations - FAO, IFAD, IFAP; IFPRI/CGIAR were addressing Child Labour. So ILO initiated the partnership with these international agricultural organisations - and through them national ministers of agriculture etc - to boost international efforts in this sector, and to help these partner organisations to mainstream Child Labour in their own policies and programmes .
- What benefits did this partnership have for each of the collaborators and what role will each of them play in achieving the collective goals?
The buzz word is "sustainable agriculture and rural development". The other partners have realised that elimination of Child Labor is part of making ag truly sustainable and tackling poverty as 75% of worlds' poor live in rural areas and depend - directly or indirectly on ag for their livelihoods
- What hope do you have for the success of such a partnership? What do you see it's success being predicated on?
The short answer is high hopes especially if we can get national ministers of agriculture, agriculture extension services etc working to tackle Child Labor.
- How did you come to be involved in such a partnership? What is your role in relation to it?
I started the ball rolling in 2005 when I persuaded my IPEC director and colleagues that if we didn't work to mainstream Child Labor elimination into the work of specialised international agricultural organisations then the ILO goal of elimination of all the worst forms of Child Labor by 2016 would not be achievable. I've been coordinating the efforts of setting up the Partnership.
- How do the issues of education and HIV Aids impact upon the problem of child labour in agriculture?
Hugely. IPEC is heading up a Task force on Child Labor and Education as part of Education for All Initiative and achievement of MDGs. We have projects on HIV especially to provide social protection nets for orphaned children who might otherwise end up as child laborers.
- What obstacles have emerged thus far in the partnership and its dealings and what strategies have been employed to overcome them?
The initial "obstacle" was getting all the partners on board. The kneejerk reaction to elimination of Child Labor in agriculture is "you're trying to stop any child working on a farm and helping their parents and family". We're not. One of the Partnerships's aims is promotion of decent youth employment in agriculture. We want to cut out the exploitation.
- What benchmarks are being used to gauge levels of achivements from this partnership?
We have to set these up and the first full Partnership meeting is planned for Feb 2008.