For the seventh consecutive year, Latin America and the Caribbean renews its tripartite commitment to tackling child labour

29 de October de 2021

Latin america and the caribbean

The Network of Focal Points of the Regional Initiative Latin America and the Caribbean free of Child Labour held its VII Annual Meeting with the aim of reaching consensus on its Strategic Plan 2022-2025 and preparing for its Phase III, which aims at sustainability.

Over the past two decades, Latin America and the Caribbean has shown a steady reduction in child labour. However, with the arrival of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents have been forced into this vulnerable situation.

In this context and with the aim of reinforcing all the reduction strategies and actions that have worked in the region, the Network of Focal Points of the Regional Initiative Latin America and the Caribbean Free of Child Labour (RI) held its VII Annual Meeting this week, as a working space based on social dialogue for the fulfilment of target 8.7 in the region.

"The RI is in its seventh year of serving as a reference for social dialogue; a dialogue among the tripartite members of the ILO for the advancement of social justice in our societies" said Vinicius Pinheiro, Regional Director of the ILO Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, who also highlighted that the fight against child labour must be at the centre of the priorities in the recovery from the crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of this meeting, tripartite consensus has been reached on the new Strategic Plan 2022-2025, to add allies in the framework of the 2030 Agenda, to promote comprehensive approaches to policies for the prevention and eradication of child labour, and to continue adding territories to these key policies in the period of crisis we are facing.

The VII Annual Meeting took place at a complex time. On the one hand, the measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic have generated an unprecedented crisis that deepens poverty and inequality, confronting countries with a huge challenge to efforts to tackle child labour. These measures have also led to the VII Annual Meeting being held virtually for the second year in a row. However, on the other hand, the meeting took place in the final stretch of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, a promise fulfilled by Latin America and the Caribbean and which has generated a wave of actions around the world to promote the commitment of social actors to children and adolescents.

Now more than ever, ending child labour

The latest Global Estimates of Child Labour report launched by ILO and UNICEF last June in the framework of the World Day Against Child Labour, shows an alarming increase in child labour worldwide. For the first time in twenty years, not only has there been no reduction, but in 2020 there were an additional 8 million children and adolescents in child labour. Despite this global scenario of increase, the Latin American and Caribbean region had continued to make progress, reducing its figures from 10.5 million to 8.2 million until the outbreak of the pandemic.

In this context, during the meeting, representatives of governments, workers and employers agreed to act urgently in the face of this increase in child labour, concretising and adapting their highest level commitments in these times of pandemic. They also expressed the relevance of the prevention tools promoted by the RI - such as the Child Labour Risk Identification Model (CLRISK) and the Child Labour Vulnerability Index (IVTI) - which allow the shortening of the path towards the achievement of target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda and which have already been adopted by 10 countries in the region.

"What is the future we are creating with our decisions, for the children of Latin America and the Caribbean?" said the Representative of Governments and the High-Level Authority of the RI, Silvia Lara, Minister of Labour and Social Security of Costa Rica, calling for reflective and critical action during the meeting. "As Governments we can and must make the decisions that will ultimately determine the course of recovery and the future we are creating for our children. It is about taking decisive, courageous, conscious and deliberate policy choices for the prevention and elimination of child labour.

For his part, the Employers' Representative, Guido Ricci, Delegate of the Guatemalan Employers' Sector to the International Labour Conference and member of the ILO Governing Body representing the employers of Central America, highlighted the role that companies have played in the fight against child labour, collaborating with national governments and workers' organisations to implement national strategies to improve conditions for families through decent work.  "These strategies have made it possible to focus on the need to improve education systems and the generation of an enabling environment for more businesses to be born, generating more formal jobs and providing opportunities for men and women to have access to decent and productive employment," he said.

"It is time to start employing an approach that addresses the structural causes of child labour. As workers, we must re-emphasize the importance of decent work for adults," said Workers' Representative Jordania Ureña, Social Policy Secretary of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), who also highlighted the importance of strengthening universal and free access to quality education, even more so in times of pandemic, to protect the rights of children and adolescents.

Committing to innovative and sustainable commitments

The strong accompaniment of the development partners that are part of the RI, is and has been fundamental in all its stages of implementation and will be key in the coming years. This is why the VII Annual Meeting also brought together representatives of cooperation organisations that contribute to the achievement of target 8. 7 in the region: Fernando Jiménez-Ontiveros, Director of Multilateral, Horizontal and Financial Cooperation of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation; María Luz Ortega, Director of the Andalusian Agency for International Development Cooperation; Mônica Salmito, Project Analyst of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency; and Tanya Andrade, Chief of the Latin America and Caribbean Division of the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking of the United States Department of Labor.

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