A milestone in the fight against child labor around the world was reached when Estonia became the 100th country to ratify the international convention that calls for immediate action to outlaw the worst forms of child labor.
"This historic milestone shows beyond a doubt that the world is uniting to combat the most abusive forms of child labor," said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "The world is now closer to achieving the dream of stamping out the worst forms of child labor and giving millions of children a chance to have a better life".
In October 1999, the Republic of Seychelles became the first country to formally ratify the International Labour Organization''s (ILO) Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. The United States quickly followed. The U.S. Senate gave unanimous advice and consent in near-record time and then-President Bill Clinton signed the ratification documents in December 1999.
The 175 member countries of the ILO adopted the treaty unanimously on June 17, 1999. It first came into force on Nov. 19, 2000, one year after gaining ratification from two member states.
Frans Roselaers, the director of the ILO''s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, said that IPEC''s campaign for Convention 182, which has the fastest ratification pace of any convention in the ILO''s 82-year history, hopes to achieve near-universal ratification by the end of 2003.
The ILO estimates that as many as 250 million children are economically active worldwide, with many millions working in conditions that are detrimental to their physical, mental, and emotional well being and that prevent them growing into healthy, productive adults.
Under the Convention, the worst forms of child labor include:
- Slavery and practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, forced or compulsory labor, debt bondage and serfdom.
- Child prostitution or child pornography.
- Use of children in illegal activities, such as drug trafficking.
- Work that is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of children.
The Convention requires ratifying countries to apply the Convention to children under 18, even where national legislation defines childhood as ending earlier. It also calls on states to take action to prohibit and immediately eliminate the worst forms of child labor; create monitoring programs; ensure effective enforcement; take measures for prevention, removal, rehabilitation and social reintegration of child workers; and take account of the special situation of girls.
by Sandy Smith