The subgroup on Child Labour aims to raise awareness of the exploitation of Child Labour. It promotes the effective implementation of relevant international Conventions, and facilitates the exchange of information between NGOs and the UN and ILO.
The subgroup on child labour brings together members of the NGO Group who work on the issue of child labour. It uses the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as a framework, with particular reference to article 32 on the economic exploitation of children and to relevant ILO Conventions on child labour. It was created in March of 1991 by Anti-Slavery International and is comprised of international NGOs and professional associations.
Since its creation, this subgroup has aimed at sharing information on child labour issues from around the world and to advocate on child labour policy at international level. Its early activities included making statements to the UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery and to the UN Commission on Human Rights, as well as drafting lists of questions for the Committee on the Rights of the Child to ask particular governments during the Committee Sessions.
In 1993, it was involved in the creation of an information leaflet for the UN program of action on the elimination of child labour, as also in the planning of the theme day entitled the "Economic Exploitation of Children" at the Committee of the Rights of the Child (CRC) in September of that year. It also campaigned against the exploitation of children in the hand-knotted carpet industry by producing a brochure entitled "Eliminating the Exploitation of Child Labour: International, National and Local Action".
In 1993, it produced a brochure entitled, "Eliminating the Exploitation of Child Labour: International, National and Local Action", describing the UN Programme of Action on the Elimination of Child Labour. It also participated in planning the theme day entitled "The Economic Exploitation of Children" at the Committee on the Rights of the Child in September of that year.
Between 1994 and 1996, the subgroup continued to make submissions to various UN fora. It monitored reports to the CRC and continued to be a forum of exchange. It liased with the WHO (World Health Organisation) on their work on the impact of child labour on children's health, coordinated members' input at international meetings, such as the Social Summit held in Copenhagen in 1995 and the Women's Conference held in Beijing in 1995. Its convenor represented members at a meeting with UNICEF in New York for a discussion regarding UNICEF's strategy and policy on child labour. In 1997, the subgroup created a brochure entitled "Working with Companies to Prevent the Exploitation of Child Labour" funded by UNICEF.
From 1996, the subgroup produced a number of briefings for NGOs on developments relating to a new ILO Convention 182 on the Worst FormsChild Labour and information on how to influence its outcome. In 1997/1998, the subgroup conducted an international survey of NGOs views on the content of the proposed Convention, the findings of which were used by subgroup members in lobbying ILO constituents during the drafting of Convention 182.
In 2000 it produced a new brochure entitled "Do you know about the New
ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention?" 10,000 copies were printed
and over 4,000 had been downloaded from Anti-Slavery International's website
by June 2002.
In May 2001, a presentation was given by the Geneva representative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) on the ICFTU's new campaign, 'Stop Child Labour!'. In November 2001, the head of a new joint project between UNICEF, the ILO and the World Bank called 'Understanding Child Work' came to speak to the subgroup. The project aimed to link ongoing activities and ensure the dissemination of information and experience among the three agencies, in order to improve child labour research, data collection and analysis and improve assessment of interventions against child labour.
In the run-up to the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children, the subgroup contributed to the lobbying efforts of the Child Rights Caucus created for the Special Session. Subgroup members participated in the three preparatory meetings and in the Special Session itself in May 2002. In March 2001, it also made a presentation to the Child Rights Caucus during the Commission on Human Rights.
Continuing its history of liaison with the ILO on behalf of NGOs, the subgroup also kept NGOs informed of the forthcoming ILO Global Report on Child Labour - 2002. Its raised awareness on the report and how it could be a useful advocacy tool for NGOs at all levels. It also informed NGOs on how to work with ILO constituents such as trade unions and to submit information through official ILO channels.
At the International Labour Conference 2002, the subgroup made a statement at the plenary session for the launch of the Global Report on June 12th, now designated by the ILO as the International Day for the Elimination of Child Labour. The subgroup also organised a side event entitled: "The impact of discrimination on the phenomenon of child labour and the lives of working children". A paper of the same title served as a basis for discussion.
With regard to the future, the subgroup looks forward to a broader membership and to continue to ensure that the problem of the exploitation of child labour receives the attention it deserves. It is currently chaired by Anti Slavery International.
ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour: country reporting obligations and opportunities for NGOs to feed into the ILO supervisory process
ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour was adopted in 1999. ILO member states are required to report on the implementation of Conventions they have ratified. Conventions enter into force in the country one year after ratification. State Parties to Conventions must submit a detailed report, including all relevant laws, regulations, administrative provisions etc, two years later.
The first state party reports on Convention 182 were submitted in 2002, and 54 reports are due in 2003. The ILO has a website where it is possible to find up-to-date ratification information, and information on State Party reports.
Ideally States should prepare their reports in consultation with national employers' and workers' organisations, and at the very least these organisations should be sent copies for comment.
NGOs are not a core part of this process. However they can still contribute to the ILO's supervisory process:
The supervisory process
The Committee of Experts
The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations meets annually from November to December to review government reports, and make a comprehensive assessment of law and practice. They are helped by supplementary information received from reliable sources (such as trade unions, UN, NGOs).
Official ILO and UN documents, and submissions made by workers' and employers' organisations are treated as primary sources of information with a direct bearing on the examination of the state report. Generally it is workers' and employers' organisations based in the country concerned which submit information on the periodic report. Information submitted by NGOs, the media or individuals is used for background purposes only.
However, workers' or employers' organisations may also submit material on behalf of NGOs - even if they simply attach a cover letter to the NGO information. Workers' organisations are more likely to do this. NGOs are encouraged to develop links with workers' organisations and put forward information in this way as it ensures that the information will be considered in the supervisory process. It is also a good idea to send information on child labour to IPEC directly.
The ILO must receive material by September if it is to be considered by the Committee in the same year. So, NGOs wishing to submit information through workers' and employers' organisations must send it to them well in advance of that, usually by August.
Observations and Direct Requests
The Committee of Experts can make "Observations" and "Direct Requests" to governments. Observations can either indicate long-standing problems implementing a Convention or welcome progress in response to previous years' comments. Direct Requests for further information or clarification can supplement Observations or may stand on their own.
Employers' and workers' organisations can also submit "Comments" to the Committee of Experts on Convention 182, as with any other Convention. They can do so whether or not they are based in the country concerned. Comments highlight breaches in the State's application of the Convention, and can lead to an Observation by the Committee of Experts.
NGOs may not submit Comments - but can supply information to workers' and employers' organisations, willing to take the matter up for them. As with information on periodic reports, workers' organisations are more likely to make use of NGO information.
Although Comments do not have to be linked to the State Party's reporting cycle, the same timetable applies for submitting information. The ILO must receive the information by September to ensure that the Committee of Experts considers it at the following November-December session. So NGOs must make sure to forward it to the workers' or employers' organisation that has agreed to take the issue up by August.
Annual Reports of the Committee of Experts
The Committee of Experts lists Observations on individual countries, arranged in order of Convention number in its Annual Report. The Report issued in March every year.
International Labour Conference - Committee on the Application of
The Committee on the Application of Standards meets every June as part of the International Labour Conference. It is a tripartite Committee composed of worker and employer organisation and government representatives.
The Committee on the Application of Standards makes an in-depth review of about 20 country Observations, all drawn from the Committee of Experts' Annual Report. The Committee generally focuses on the gravest breaches of the fundamental ILO Conventions and cases of repeated non-compliance by State Parties. The Committee also tries to ensure a balance of countries and Conventions.
The tripartite discussions are in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation. Each case discussion ends in the formulation of a concluding paragraph, which is negotiated by the tripartite groups. In the worst cases of non-compliance, the Committee on the Application of Standards may decide to include the case in a "special paragraph" in its report to the International Labour Conference. This report is then forwarded to the Committee of Experts at its next session to continue the monitoring process.
- The 2005 Work Plan of the subgorup is available here [word]
- The 2004 Work Plan of the subgorup is available here [word]
- The 2003 Annual Report of the subgroup is available here [word]
Position papers and reports
- ILO Reporting Process for Convention 182 (text from "Current issues") [word and pdf format].
- Defence for Children International position paper in English [word and pdf format], French [word and pdf format] and Spanish [word and pdf format].
- ILO Submission to the General Day of Discussion of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on indigenous children, September 2003 [pdf format]
Links to relevant websites and structures with which we work:
- Anti-Slavery International www.antislavery.org
- Concerned for Working Children (CWC) www.workingchild.org/htm/cwc.htm
- Defence for Children International www.defence-for-children.org/webpub/dcihome/
- ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) www.ecpat.org
- Free the Children www.freethechildren.org
- Global March Against Child Labour www.globalmarch.org/main1.html
- International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (International Labour Organisation): www.ilo.org/childlabour
- Rugmark International www.rugmark.org
- Save the Children www.savethechildren.org.uk
- The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers www.child-soldiers.org/
- UNICEF www.unicef.org/
- Working Groups on Girls www.girlsrights.org/