The International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Guy Ryder has reiterated the call to “rescue” the sustainable development goals (SDG), saying this should start in Durban.
He said this during the opening session of the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour.
On Sunday, the ILO Director-General spoke at Inkosi Albert Luthuli’s International Convention Centre (ICC).
According to the United Nations, the SDGs are designed to end poverty, hunger, AIDS, and discrimination against women and girls. The Sustainable Development Goals, also called the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2015 as a global call to action in order to end poverty, save the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
“This is the fifth global conference on the elimination of child labour, the first to be held in Africa, and the last one before the 2025 deadline for eliminating child labour set under the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. We are in the right place, at the right time.
“The right place because Africa is the continent from where the solutions to the global child labour challenge will emerge. The political commitment, policy innovations, and coordinated regional action, in the face of challenges perhaps steeper than in any other region, are evidence of that. Africa is an incubator for approaches to tackling child labour that the rest of the world can benefit from,” Ryder said.
He further said the right time because the worldwide movement against child labour had just received a wake-up call.
“Because child labour has actually increased for the first time since we started measuring it twenty years ago. Today there are 160 million children in child labour, half of them in work that puts their health, safety and moral development at risk. Eighty-nine million are very young – 5 to 11 years – and child labour is rising, particularly in this age group. Covid-19 has made the situation more difficult still,” he said.
The outgoing Director-General posed a question to delegates:
“Will we allow progress against child labour to continue to stall, or will we summon the will, the resources and the vision needed to regain momentum and reach our common goal?” He said the conference is a precious opportunity to give a clear answer.
“Some may say that child labour is an inevitable consequence of poverty, and we have to accept that. But that is wrong. We can never resign ourselves to child labour. We do not have to.
Tackling the root causes such as household poverty is essential. But make no mistake, child labour is a violation of a basic human right, and our goal must be that every child, everywhere, is free from it. We cannot rest until that happens,” Ryder said.
The 5th Global Conference is held to assess progress made towards achieving the goals of Target 8.7, discuss good practices implemented by the different actors around the world and identify gaps and urgent measures needed to accelerate the elimination of both child labour and forced labour.
The conference is building on four previous Global Conferences, held in Buenos Aires (2017), Brasilia (2013), The Hague (2010), and Oslo (1997).
According to Ryder, “Child lives matter: Policy matters. Finance matters. Commitment matters. You matter. So let’s get to work!”
The conference continues tomorrow (Monday) with further a panel discussion that includes, among others, ILO DG, South Africa’s Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, Zingiswa Losi, President of Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) and experts in the areas of the supply chain, development and child labour studies.