380 participants from 80 countries at global child labour conference

The two-day international conference against child labour, at which 380 participants from 80 countries are in attendance, got underway this morning in The Hague. Those present include government officials from Bangladesh, Brazil, South Africa, India and the Netherlands, representatives of employer and employee organisations from various countries, non-governmental organisations, and international organisations. The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will be addressing the conference in a video message, and Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is due to attend on the second day. Mr Piet Hein Donner, the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, is the organiser of the conference together with the International Labour Organization (ILO), and is also the conference host.

“There is no place for child labour – child labour must be eradicated,” said Mr Donner as he opened the conference.
“There are more than 200 million children at work all over the world. Moreover, countries in which child labour occurs on a large scale are unable to develop into modern societies with modern economies,” said the minister.

On Tuesday, two former child labourers will describe their experiences. 21-year-old Awa Niang from Senegal and 14-year-old Kinshu Kumar from India both performed physically demanding work from a young age. Awa and Kinshu were able to gain qualifications which enabled them to escape from their situation.

The purpose of the conference is to emphasize once again the importance of the fight against child labour and to reach concrete agreements about eradicating the worst forms of child labour by 2016, such as work that is inevitably harmful to their health and safety as well as the deployment of children as soldiers, or in the sex industry or in illegal activities like the drug trade.

The Netherlands has organised conferences against child labour in the past, in 1997 and 2002, the first of which laid the basis for ILO Convention 182 against the worst forms of child labour, and which was adopted in 1999. This has now been ratified by 171 of the 183 ILO member-states. In 2006, the ILO adopted a Global Action Plan by which the worst forms of child labour should be eradicated by 2016.

At the start of the conference Kinderen voor Kinderen, who are well-known in the Netherlands, performed a song (in English), entitled ‘Children Now’, which was written specially for the conference. Kinderen voor Kinderen will continue to highlight the theme at various events throughout the country and during a television appearance later this year.