Summary of the study:
The Journal of International Law for Research Studies (an international scientific periodical specializing in research and legal studies in the field of international law) published in its seventh issue a study entitled “The Worst Forms of Child Labor”, in which researcher Fadel Abdul Ghany, Director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), critically analyzes the effectiveness of the ‘Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention’ of 1999 in attaining the objective for which it was it created since its launch and up to the present day, and argues that the issue of fighting against the worst forms of child labor is a complex one, as it involves a wide range of economic, social, cultural and political factors.
The 21-page study notes that the elimination of the worst forms of child labor is a core issue for defenders of human rights, including children’s rights, globally; without real constructive criticism and serious changes to the existing mechanisms and methods of implementation, as well as efforts to devise new, stronger and more effective methods, we will never be able to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. In this context, the study provides a brief definition of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 182 of 1999 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and the Immediate Procedures to Eradicate It, noting that this convention is considered the first historical example of an international legal document aiming to protect children from the worst forms of child labor. The convention focuses mainly on criminal cases, with its ultimate objective being to effectively end the worst forms of child labor. The convention classifies the abolition of the worst forms of child labor as a national and international priority in ultimately achieving the complete eradication of child labor.
As the study adds, 186 states have ratified this convention to date, showing near-complete international agreement, noting that the convention played a vital and positive role in this regard, but it stopped at a certain point in combating this phenomenon, and was unable to reach the level that defenders of children’s rights had hoped for.
The study distinguishes between types of child labor, noting that there are three levels of child labor, which are, in order, children in employment; children in child labor; and hazardous work by children, clarifying that the term ‘hazardous work’ by children is often treated as a proxy for the Worst Forms of Child Labor, given that there’s still difficulty in obtaining reliable objective national data and statistics on the worst forms of child labor, and that children in hazardous work account for the overwhelming majority of those engaged in the worst forms. The study notes that Article 3 of the ILO Convention No. 182, 1999 clarified that the term “the worst forms of child labor includes:
(a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;
(b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or pornographic performances;
(c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;
(d) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
In this context, the study clarifies that this differentiation between the types of child labor is vital, because, according to the ILO, there is positive acceptable work for children that should be enhanced, while there must also be coordination and collaboration between all countries and labor organizations around the world to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.
The study provides ILO statistics on the prevalence of the worst forms of child labor worldwide, adding that these statistics which the study was able to access point to a massive international failure in the eradication of this phenomenon. The study reveals that the fight against the worst forms of child labor is a complex issue, as it involves a wide range of economic, social, cultural and political factors at several levels, and that there are many direct or indirect reasons behind child labor, such as poverty, dropping out of education, customs and traditions, family size and culture, corrupt governments, and other causes. The study analyzes three main reasons for issues which could be addressed, first, criticism of a number of articles of the convention itself, second, complexity and weakness of the ILO’s supervisory mechanism, and third, the lack of commitment by many governments around the world to combating the worst forms of child labor.
The study provides a proposal for the establishment of a new convention sponsored by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and UNICEF, with a multi-disciplinary committee emerging from this, on the grounds that the elimination or alleviation of the worst forms of child labor requires the participation of state authorities at several levels of cooperation and coordination alongside the implementation of ILO Convention No. 182. In this context, the study notes that the relevant ILO committees on the issue of child labor, in particular concerning the worst forms of child labor, should coordinate periodically and continuously with United Nations bodies, in particular UNICEF, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child of the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child. Such coordination should result in the joint drafting of a new convention between the ILO, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and UNICEF based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Protocols, ILO Convention No. 138 and 182 and its Recommendation No. 190. This new convention should overcome all the problems and take into account the observations and mistakes of all past years, and a joint working committee should emerge from the new convention.
The most prominent characteristics of this Committee: High levels of flexibility in receiving and responding to complaints; and the ability to impose tangible pressure on violating countries.
Finally, the study includes proposals for the main tasks of this committee to achieve the elimination of the worst forms of child labor flexibly and effectively.