The discussions at the upcoming Global Technical Meeting on Work Deficits in the Tobacco Sector have significant potential impact on children, farmers, workers, families and communities throughout Africa and in all the 120+ countries around the world where tobacco is grown.
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Urgent, collaborative action against child labour
Now is the time to urgently intensify work and engage all actors, not to cut back. The call from the globally-accepted SDGs is clear: partnerships are the sustainable way forward.
Ending child labour is an accelerated SDG target that must be met by 2025. Unfortunately, the international community is not on track to meet this goal.
Child labour is a critical problem across agricultural sectors and stakes are high for the 108 million children doing work on farms that puts their safety, health, development and future at risk. Focusing only on the tobacco or any single supply chain increases the risk that children simply move from one field to another, which is not a solution.
We cannot afford to stray from collaborative best practice and limit engagement at the risk of progress for these children.
Collaborative work means measurable results
The ILO, FAO and SDGs are clear about what works: collaborative, multi-stakeholder area-based approaches are best practice because they produce measurable and sustainable results against child labour. Since 2011, collaborative work including the sector has directly supported over 220,000 children, farmers, workers and families in areas where tobacco is grown:
- getting children out of child labour and allowing them to stay in school,
- improving finances, incomes and resiliency of families,
- giving skills to young people to find decent work,
- training farmers to make farms safer for all workers.
Stronger national action plans, capacities and policies to reduce child labour come about through social dialogue. Since 2015, public-private partnerships against child labour have increased collaboration and tri-partite social dialogue, catalysing actions that strengthen protection and investment for all children, in areas where tobacco is grown and beyond.
Support focused on families and sustainable development
Crop diversification is an important tool for smallholder farmers and families to increase their resiliency. It is also challenging reality for all tobacco farmers; it takes time, investment, and does not produce immediate returns. Efforts focused on crop replacement rather than sustainable development will not address the root causes of child labour or other work deficits, diverting funds from necessary, long-term solutions and putting farmers and families at risk.
A way forward that puts children first
On behalf of the children whose families depend on tobacco growing for their livelihoods, we strongly advocate that all tri-partite stakeholders come together on a sustainable, collaborative way forward, guaranteeing progress for children, farmers, workers, and families.