Business Times

Ending worst forms of child labour by 2016

By Quintus Perera

The best way to dissuade children from worst forms of child labour would be to provide them with quality education and provide their parents with adequate employment so that they could afford children's education without disruption. This was stated by Ms Tine Staermose, Director, International Labour Organization (ILO) Colombo when she addressed a 3-day conference on 'Zero Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016 held in Colombo last week.

She urged the donor countries to contribute to Sri Lanka as the country is at a critical juncture to solidify its foundations for peace and development, which cannot be achieved if children are involved in the worst forms of child labour. Ms Staermose said that as it has always been during transition phases, vulnerabilities emerge and in Sri Lanka where hundreds of thousands are returning to their areas of origin and taking up education and livelihood, it is imperative to ensure that families are able to send their children to school and vocational training so that they would not be sent for work.

She said that despite these challenges they believe that the 2016 target (to end child labour) is highly feasible for Sri Lanka if the momentum is maintained, technical assistance is provided, national resources allocated or re-allocated and the donor community makes timely contributions. She said that last month ILO Director General, Juan Somavia released a report entitled "Accelerating Action against Child Labour , amid growing concerns over the impact of the economic downturn. The report warns that efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour are slowing down and calls for a 're-energized' global campaign and effort to end the practice.

She cautioned that the South Asia sub-region is home to one-third of the world's children and has more children at work today than the rest of the world combined and indicated it has countries, such as Pakistan and India with the largest out of school child population in the world. She pointed out that investments in education remain low in many of these countries. Ms Staermose said that the good news is the numbers in Asia are dropping faster than anywhere else and the situation calls for a re-energized global campaign against child labour.

The roadmap for action to achieve the set goals prepared by the Ministry of Labour Relations and Productivity Promotion was handed over to Ms Staermose and the discussions in the conference was based on this Roadmap. Heartney Edward, Economic Relations and Commercial Affairs, American Embassy representing the Ambassador said that the United States and President Obama have considered elimination of child labour vitally important and they are supporting Sri Lanka to achieve the goals of eliminating child labour in this country.

He said that with the economic progress and providing education could make productive citizens for the society. He said that there are other issues like the war could bring in worst forms of child labour.

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