‘No stakeholder can, or should be expected to, tackle these issues in isolation. The most successful achievements of the global community have come when actors worked together across dividing lines toward common interests.’ The US Department of Labor recently published a 2018 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. This document assesses progress by country and highlights the success of collaboration and context specific programmes to provide effective and sustainable solutions in the fight against child labour.
Child Labour in Agriculture
The recent findings confirm that the goods which contribute most heavily to child labour are gold, bricks, sugarcane, coffee, tobacco and cotton. Agriculture remains the sector with the most child labour, making up 74 percent of all child labour. The report outlines effective, collaborative approaches which have contributed to the removal of 94 million children from labour in the last two decades but we still have a long way to go, over 152 million children are still doing work which puts their heal safety and development at risk. Global estimates, like these from the US Deparment of Labor, enable us to understand the full scope of child labour, the ‘vulnerabilites’ for prevention and to evaluate which solutions have the most impact.
Working together for impact
'Solutions rarely result from unilateral action and, instead, often are cross-sectoral and collaborative, leveraging the unique strengths, resources, and positions of multiple stakeholders'. The US Department of Labor highlights the importance of collaboration for real impact in the fight against child labour around the world. In Panama, the coming together of the Government, civil society and the sugarcane industry to align and strengthen efforts has seen the number of child labour cases in commercial and family farms drastically decrease. These efforts, and a strong remediation system for the isolated cases of child labour that do occur, has lead to the removal of sugarcane in Panama from the List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.
Solutions made for complicated realities
In addition to collaborative solutions the US Department of Labor notes the importance of solutions which are adapted to national and local contexts. ‘Solutions must account for a variety of factors, such as the legal, regulatory, and enforcement context; the number of producers of a particular good in a country; the structure of supply chains; geography; infrastructure; and the social programs in place to assist victims.’ In Uzbekistan, cotton has also been removed from the list. In 2017, reports revealed that there was a small number of cases of children picking cotton as part of a school group. In response to this, the Government of Uzbekistan made specific efforts to tackle the increased risk of child labour during harvest seasons, and the mobilization of children for labour in cotton fields by their schools. As a result of coordinated efforts, public-private partnerships and a strong legal framework, evidence shows that only a few isolated cases of child labour remain, and systems are in place to remove and remediate these.
Commitment needed to move forward
Reports like the annual USDOL list of products that are made with child and forced labour are important benchmarks for progress and reminders that there are still many changes needed in the fight against child labour.
As we look ahead, ECLT will continue to work with partners to help translate the national commitment to end child labour into tangible benefits for children and communities to provide effective and sustainable solutions to ending child labour. This calls for increasing collaboration and cooperation because no actor can solve child labour alone.