To work towards the goal of combatting the various challenges to end the worst forms of child labour a ‘Global Conference on Child Labour’ was held in May 2010, at The Hague, The Netherlands. This was organized by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and the ILO. The outcome of this conference was ‘Roadmap for achieving the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child labour by 2016 ’. ‘Global March Against Child Labour’ was one of the civil society members of the Consultative Group at the Conference.
An initial step of commitment towards ratifying the ILO Convention 182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour) as well as ILO Convention 138 (Minimum Age of Employment) was taken in 2006 by the ILO member states through the adoption of a ‘Global Action Plan’ to create a world free of any child labour by 2016. However, the passage of years did not see much progress towards the achievement of this goal.
Roadmap 2016 & the Garment Manufacturing Sector
Since the adoption of ‘Roadmap for achieving the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child labour by 2016 ’ was not an end in itself, but a means to the end goal, the urgent need for commitment by all the actors involved was emphasized upon in the conference held in 2010. Twelve months from its implementation, an international consultation was organized by ‘Global March against Child Labour’ on May 11, 2011 in New Delhi, India, to evaluate the till-date status and progress and to underline the key challenges remaining in tackling rampant child labour practices. This was to ensure decent working conditions along with implementation of core labour standards in all the levels of the garment manufacturing supply chain in India.
‘Global March Against Child Labour’ is a worldwide coalition of trade unions, civil society and teachers’ organizations, in its struggle to eliminate the worst forms of child labour practices, protect and promote children’s rights to provide education and freedom from economic exploitation across the planet. Through the promotion of decent work, education, social protection and poverty alleviation, the organization advocates policy changes and coherence amongst the above all levels of the organized and un-organised work sectors.
The main objective of this consultation was to facilitate a dialogue and engagement between multi-stakeholder groups, national government representatives, domestic and international manufacturing and retail companies, national and international trade unions and civil society organizations, national and international certification and social compliance initiatives, UN agencies and international organizations and other interest groups present at the conference. Such an exercise brought forth a grand effort of coherence and solidarity amongst all the above mentioned bodies in an endeavor to bring together the various individual public and private initiatives which already exist to achieve Roadmap 2016. This international consultation also provided a platform for sharing of experiences and expertise, building partnerships, thereby elaborating the broader picture of the current environment of the garment sector and the realizing the burning necessity to facilitate highly structured reform wherever practicable.
The forum saw some eminent actors of the above mentioned organisations who shared their knowledge, experience and best practices as well as the many obstacles faced by each of them. The talks given by the various personalities such as Mr. Kailash Satyarthi (Global March), Mr. Ashok Singh (Ministry of Labour, India), Ms. Tine Staermose and Mr. Ben Smith (ILO), Mr. Peter McAllister (ETI), Ms. Lakshmi Menon Bhatia (FLA) among others, were very informative. Although we see child labour practices around us everyday, the consultation gave us an insight into the underlying facts. The speakers imposed that constant criticism and accusation by the civil society needs to be replaced by active participation in educating the parties involved (children, parents, employers). Subsequently, the gross lack of coordination and coherence between NGOs, unions, stake holders and manufacturers which lead to failure of eradication of child labour practices was highlighted. Convergence of the existing gaps between the local child protection laws, current government policies and initiatives tackling the child labour menace has become the need of the hour. Hence, the 3 C’s (convergence, communication and collaboration) amongst the various stakeholders was emphasized to move further towards the goal.
At the end of the discussion round, both the industry and the non-industry groups emerged with their individual lists of pledge and expectations (from each other) in order to make Roadmap 2016 an achievable reality. Both groups agreed to and committed the following practices in their role to wipe out child labour from the garment sector:
- To collaborate with each other;
- To implement stricter monitoring practices;
- To create awareness and address issues at all levels of the supply chain;
- To associate and connect the individual practices of stamping out child labour so that the actual goal can be achieved;
- To recognize the complexity and build partnerships based on trust and confidence;
- To be able to deal with media expose (if any for the brands), take onus and commit towards appropriate action to combat any child labour issues.
Finally, it was understood by all present that 2016 is the deadline for elimination of the worst forms of child labour (as per the commitment made at The Hague), which could only be reached by initiating and implementing all the opportunities evolved out of the consultation. It remains imperative that all the working groups promote and follow the recommendations which emerged from the event. It is also crucial that they coordinate with open and frank exchange of ideas, and correlate each others’ actions. This remains the most effective way of working towards stamping out child labour.
However, it remains to be seen how much can be achieved by the industry and the non-industry groups towards remediation of child labour practices. It is a daunting task in India to primarily map school drop-outs, work done by children at various sub-levels of the supply chain and child labour trafficking practices, etc. Ultimately, it all depends on the actors, to not just adhere to the 3 C’s, but to be the change they want to see, in order to realize the goal of Roadmap 2016.
Contribution by Gargi Banerjee and Dona John.