ILO Director-General Guy Ryder speaks at a press conference in Lima, Peru, shortly before the 18th American Regional Meeting began. At left is Elizabeth Tinoco, the Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo: ILO
LIMA, Peru — At a United Nations-backed regional conference held in Lima, Peru, 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries on Wednesday announced the launch of an initiative that bolsters efforts to combat child labour, and achieve the goal of total eradication by 2020.
According to a press statement, the document, signed by labour ministers, representatives of governments and the director general of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), announced the “firm commitment to achieve the goal of eradication.”
“The initiative is part of a global effort to restore the rights of 168 million children and adolescents affected by the scourge of child labour,” said ILO director-general, Guy Ryder.
The regional initiative was signed at the 18th American regional meeting of the ILO, which opened on Monday and runs through Thursday, and is being attended by more than 400 delegates from governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations from across the continent.
During the introduction of the initiative, Ryder recalled that Latin America and the Caribbean had proposed to eradicate the worst forms of child labour by 2016 and to eliminate all forms of child labour by 2020. However, these particular goals may not be achieved.
In recent years, important achievements have been made in reducing the number of children in child labour by 7.5 million. However, the ILO noted that if progress continues at this pace, it will require at least 40 years to achieve the goal of eradication.
According to the ILO, there are 12.5 million children in child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean, of which the vast majority, 9.5 million, are in hazardous work.
“This initiative unites us all in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said the minister of labour of Peru, Freddy Otárola, who is also the president of the 18th American regional meeting.
The “Regional Initiative for Latin America and the Caribbean Free of Child Labour” was launched a year ago at the third global conference on child labour, where several countries shared their concern about the slow progress, and suggested that Latin America and the Caribbean could be “the first region in the developing world to be free of child labour.”
The initiative is designed to accelerate the prevention and eradication of child labour, and includes a number of indications to strengthen the mechanisms of action and identification of the practice.
The declaration signed in Lima states that the persistence of child labour, especially its worst forms, is a factor that exacerbates social inequality, which deepens social and economic vulnerability.