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The Hague Global Child Labour Conference: What about working children’s participation?

The year 2010 is 10 years after the coming into force of ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL), one of the most widely-ratified international labour conventions, and it is 6 years ahead of the global target of eliminating these worst forms. While the global movement has achieved much progress in reducing the incidence of child labour, efforts must be stepped up if we are to deliver the commitment of a world free of the worst forms of child labour by 2016. In order to meet that challenge, the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, in cooperation with the ILO, is organizing a global conference on child labour to be held in The Hague (the Netherlands) on 10 and 11 May 2010. The conference will provide opportunities for countries, workers and employers organizations, international organizations, NGOs and other relevant parties to showcase their good practices and lessons learnt in the fight against the worst forms of child labour.

1. European Network of Masters in Children’s Rights STATEMENT

Professors, researchers, guest professors, allies (such as Dr. Manfred Liebel, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Technical University of Berlin; Senior Fellow at the International Academy for Innovative Pedagogy, Psychology and Economy, Free University of Berlin; Dr. Olga Nieuwenhuys, Lecturer, Department of Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; Editor of ’Childhood - A Journal of Global Child Research’; Dr. Michael F. C. Bourdillon, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe; Dr. William E. Myers, Visiting Scholar, Department of Human and Community Development, University of California, Davis, US; Dr. Lourdes Gaitán, Sociologist, Independent Researcher in Childhood Studies, Madrid, Spain), of the European Network of Masters in Children’s Rights (ENMCR), regarding the Global Child Labour Conference organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Dutch Government in The Hague (The Netherlands) on 10 and 11 May 2010 express publicly their opinion as friends of working girls, boys and adolescents and state the following:

1. To urge competent authorities, within the remit of the United Nations and States parties, to revise ILO Conventions 138 and 182 in order to:

  • Find juridical coherence between ILO Conventions 138 and 182 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child under the principle of the best interest of the child;
  • innovate in social action to include the principle of participation of organized working boys, girls and adolescents, through their own representatives in a direct way within the ILO, expecting a favorable attitude towards their participation from this Organization;
  • respect the principle of non-discrimination of working girls, boys and adolescents, and accept their demand to be valued as workers;
  • implement actions against: i) economic exploitation, commercial sexual exploitation of children, slavery and similar forms of exploitation and to take to court the members of the mafia organizations who support those activities; ii) defend the rights of working girls, boys and adolescents when these are violated.

2. To demand from the competent authorities:

  • To carry out an independent and complete appraisal of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) so as to asses its pertinence, consistency, efficiency and impact;
  • To assess public policies aimed at the eradication promoted by the IPEC and implemented by the States Parties around the world;
  • To disseminate the results of the aforementioned evaluations.

3. As regards working girls, boys and adolescents in the context of a fair world for the future, it is recommended:

  • To take into account their right to express their opinion and their right of association so as to respect fully their participation as protagonists in all national and international decision taking instances in all matters concerning them;
  • To take into account and articulate their way of life within public policies, programs, development projects and democratic governance;
  • To adopt inclusive policies for working girls, boys and adolescents living in the street as unemployed workers searching for work;
  • To adopt inclusive policies for sexually and economically exploited children and adolescents who are trying to free themselves from this subjection and have access to work in dignity;
  • To adopt inclusive policies for farming girls, boys and adolescents, members of communities and ethnic minorities, respecting their customary traditions, their education cultures, care for environment, territory and work, and particularly the right of girls, boys and adolescents to work in dignity within their communities.

4. As regards the policies of the European Governments, the European Union and the Council of Europe, it is recommended:

  • To respect and take into account in their policies the opinions and demands of working children and adolescents and their organizations in their continents;
  • To acknowledge the fact that there are many children and adolescents in Europe who have the experience of work and are searching for legal opportunities to work in dignity and free from exploitation;
  • To guarantee, at local, national and European level, and active and efficient participation of children and adolescents when decisions affecting their lives are taken, particularly those children and adolescents in disadvantageous conditions and social exclusion.

5. The undersigned will stay alert and examine academically the ILO Global Report on Child Labour 2010 when made public, and will state publicly their professional technical opinion if considered pertinent”.

2. MOLACNATs STATEMENT

Latin American and Caribbean Movement of Working Children and Adolescents MOLACNATs write a statement: “We raise our voices as the Latin American and Caribbean Working Children and Adolescents Movement to protest the disrespect shown to us by the organizers of the Hague Conference by neglecting to invite us to participate, or indeed, even informing of us that it would take place.
MOLACNATs, for more than 30 years, have been a place where working girls, boys and adolescents have organized themselves to implement collective action to protect and promote the rights of all girls, boys and adolescents. This activity revolves especially around our fight for social, cultural, political, and economic recognition as well as creating working and living conditions in dignity for working children, as well as for recognition of children in general as both subjects and social actors under the law.

It is unacceptable that we, the legitimate representatives of organized working girls, boys and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean, were not invited to the conference since the subjects under discussion are parts of our reality. The exclusive attendance by adults, most of whom are quite distant from the realities of our lives, once again confirms that the approach taken to working children and adolescents continues to be adult-centered and child and adolescent participation is relegated to lofty intentions and legal texts.
We condemn the violation of our right to participate as children and adolescents as accorded under Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly given the observations and recommendations made by the Geneva Committee on the importance of complying with this article.

For more than 30 years, our movement has defended its firm position to fight and denounce labor exploitation of millions of children throughout the world, while at the same time fully rejecting ILO Conventions C. 138, on minimum working age, and remaining critical and opposed to Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labor and its IPEC Program:

  • As regards C. 138, We consider the minimum working age to be discriminatory, excluding minors younger than 14. This convention condemns thousands of girls and boys to the illegal and informal sectors, thus greatly exposing them to exploitation.
  • As regards C. 182, which considers the use, procuring, or offering of a child for prostitution, the production of pornography or for pornographic performances, or the use of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production or trafficking of drugs as the worst forms of child labor, we believe that these are criminal offenses and flagrant violations of a child’s human rights. We are clearly against all of these phenomena, but calling them “labor” creates dangerous confusion and leads to purely repressive practices as opposed to truly liberating alternatives.

Our movement already has clearly made its presence felt in the Amsterdam and Oslo C.182 preparatory conferences (1997) where it drew attention to the negative implications C.182 would have on the lives of thousands of working girls, boys and adolescents. Its ratification has given way to the development of repressive policies in some of our countries that criminalize the social, cultural, and economic reality of many of our families. Unending raids, persecution and stigmatization of child and adolescent labor in the popular classes of countries like Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Guatemala, are clear and regrettable examples of the effects of these “hard-line” policies.

The lack of objectivity shown by these international organizations, who continue to deny our dignity with statements such as : “Child labor is a development obstacle” or “None of the main Millennium Development Goals can be achieved without eradicating the worst forms of child labor”. Statements of this kind conceal the real reasons for economic, social, and political crises that our people have historically suffered as a consequence of the neoliberal economic model which is condemning millions of girls, boys and adolescents to poverty, marginalization and exclusion. The next Hague conference will be a space where this hypothesis will be given just that much more momentum.

We propose from our organizing spaces, as working children and adolescents who know the reality of working children in Latin America and the Caribbean, to contribute and propose work-education programs which would train us both as producers and citizens.
We demand:

  • to be recognized as social actors, political and economic subjects by international organizations and society in general. (and to be invited immediately to participate in the discussions and drafting sessions of the next Hague conference).
  • to be considered while public policy which could affect us is being drawn up.
  • For our input to always be sought so that social policies can be implemented with a holistic perspective and in a way which favors development of our capacities and skills to overcome the exclusion and marginalization we face in many countries in the Global South. -*For governments to spend on education, health care, food, recreation and protecting the environment, instead of prioritizing payment on foreign debt.
  • For our proposals to be listened to and considered for an economic system of solidarity where our social relationships and production take place without undermining human dignity and while protecting the environment and promoting solidarity among peoples.
    We call upon labor, peasant, indigenous, Afro-descendant, student, women, and intellectual organizations as well as progressive world governments to show solidarity to our call and not submit to international organizations and their power grabs with programs and policies that while covered with a varnish of good intentions, only propagate a system which exploits human beings .
    We once again demand our recognition as working children and adolescent so as to achieve the wish expressed by a working child:

“We want to make it possible for children to be happy and walk hand in hand with adults and everyone in society to make this world a big house where we all belong” Yes to work in dignity, no to exploitation! Yes to equality, no to discrimination!“, wrote Latin American and Caribbean Movement of Working Children and Adolescents .

3. International Movement of Working Children

The Working Children Movements have been active in Latin America, Africa and Asia since the 1970s. These local organisations are a fundamental, and often the only, instrument for protection and promotion of their rights.The Movements have been promoting projects on the following lines of action: rights education, public education, health, recreation, participation and organisation. The principles that guide this process are the protagonism of children and adolescents, respect for rights, and a critical evaluation of work. Different terminology is used to identify organised Working Children, and it is linked to the various continental and local languages. We are going to mention only the main ones, despite the innumerable forms and dialects to be found in many areas of Africa and Asia, NATs (Niños y Adolescentes Trabajadores) is a Latin American acronym which translates into English as «child and adolescent workers». In English-speaking countries we use Working Children and in francophone countries EJT (Enfants et Jeunes Travailleurs).

When analysing the Working Children Movements, we must look at their organisational structure and the pedagogical methods they employ to guarantee an impact through their activities. They are helping children become aware of their own rights and are constantly working to guarantee that they be respected by identifying alternative solutions to exploitation, abuse, discrimination and injustice. Through their organisational processes, working children and adolescents come out of individual isolation, and start a process of reciprocal recognition as a social group. Through this principle, which is the basis of their collective identity, they start to meet to discuss their problems, to propose initiatives and organise a response. During this process, they are able to create a subjective public and political presence, reaching increasingly complex levels. Therefore, group identity is transformed into a capacity for mobilization and protagonism, from the local, national to international levels. The term “Movement”, used to define the local groups and associations of working children and adolescents, alludes to a fundamental characteristic of organisation and action of these new social actors. A social movement is a form of collective action that calls for solidarity that shares a common goal. Its members recognize each other as equals, as active citizens with the same problems, because they come from a given social sector. On the other hand, a movement indicates the existence of social conflict.

Organised Working Children and Adolescents ask to be recognised as Social Movements that work within society to guarantee working children’s rights, and those of children in general. They work on the local and national levels, without forgetting the essential opportunities that are provided by their organisation on the intercontinental and world levels, which is strengthening with time. “Participation” is fundamental in the Movements’ initiatives. Working Children have organised themselves in a social movement that is struggling to recover full democratic rights for children and adolescents. This means that children and adolescents participate fully in their «own» organisations, in order to recover the full status of citizenship. For example, the Movements have a democratic process for electing both their delegates and their accompanying adults. Even the management and representation of the Working Children’s organisations (whether in the day to day local initiatives or in the wide horizon of international ones), is the responsibility of these delegates who represent their peers. Organised working children and adolescents have been promoting the importance of participation for the past 30 years, even tough the large international agencies are only just now recognising its significance. It is the main tool to bring about consciousness-raising regarding their situation. The more complete term, “protagonism”, includes everything from exchanges on the social level, to the educational process of perceiving ones own possibilities and rights, to finding common solutions to improve living and working conditions for working children and children in general.

On the international level, the Working Children Movements began to coordinate their efforts of solidarity and collaboration in 1996, in Kundapur meeting, India. There, 34 delegates of the three continents participated in drafting the 10 points summarising their common struggles and claims (see document: Kundapur Declaration), the first and foremost of which was that their voice be heard and taken into consideration in decisions that affect them directly. The World Movement had faced and overcome many obstacles when they were able to meet again in 2002 in Milan. There they expressed the need to have a world meeting. They accomplished this goal in 2004, when 33 delegates from Africa, Asia and Latin America met for the 2nd World Meeting of Working Children Movements, in Berlin (see document: Berlin Declaration). This process continued in 2005, when a small delegation of working children from the three continents was able to meet in Kundapur (India). During this preparatory meeting they defined the agenda and the main issues to be discussed during the 3rd World Meeting of Working Children Movements that tooked place in Siena in October, 2006.

During the 3rd World Meeting of Working Children at Siena (Italy) from 15-29 October 2006, 23 representatives of working children’s forums/collectives from Asia, Africa and Latin America participated in this meeting. Representatives of all the movements discussed their major concerns and came up with a do-able plan of action along with the strategies for taking their movement forward and also for making their lives better. A formal structure of the world movement of working children was also discussed and decided during this meeting. In the International meeting of Working Children’s Movements from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, that took place in October, 2006 in Siena, the delegates present voted in favour of declaring the 9th of December as the “International day of Working Children”. This is a particularly important date for the Movement, because ten years ago on the 9th of December, 1996, in Kundapur (India), a long process was started that led the organisations of working children to found the International Movement of Working Children.

Now I analyze 3 important cases in Ecuador (Latin America), Africa and India (Asia).

4. CASE A: ECUADOR, Salesian and Jesuit initiatives support thousands of child and adolescent workers

The phenomenon of child labor in Ecuador has the face of a million working children, 18% of the economically active population. In a country where 54% of the population is in the grip of poverty, child labor to support the family takes on different connotations: 67% is in the agricultural sector, 15% in commerce, and the remaining 18%, in the tertiary sector, crafts, and domestic work. An articulate response to this situation comes from the Latin American country projects initiated by the Salesians and the Jesuits, who have long cared for thousands of working children. These topics were discussed on March 24, at the Salesian Polytechnic University in Quito, during the presentation of the study “On Children’s Rights: Different Views on Child Labor, Exploitation, and Citizenship Rights of Children and Adolescents in Ecuador” , presented by Cristiano Morsolin, an expert from the Latin American Observatory SELVAS, which has been working since 2001 on international cooperation projects in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Brazil. Among the examples cited by the study, he noted the initiative of the American Jesuit Fr. John Halligan, who 46 years ago founded the Young Worker’s Center, offering an opportunity for dignity to 25,000 people in only half a century. Each year, 1,200 underage workers are trained through professional courses in industrial mechanics, carpentry, bakery, and cosmetic laboratories, sewing and tailoring for girls, in addition to the daily accompaniment of some 800 parents who support the soup kitchen and volunteer work on Sundays to help to build houses for the families who migrate from the Andes to the city. The results are satisfactory, considering that 42% of children entering the center have not completed primary school, 85% finish elementary school or middle school once entered training, and 64% continue to study after finishing their training at the Center.

Along the same lines of fighting against exploitation and promoting rights, as well as enhancing the identity and subjectivity of the young worker, there is the Salesian project that has 30 years of history, accompanying the growth of some 8,000 children/adolescents each year. Situated in the rural context of Ambato, the Salesian project operates a large farm as a learning area, educating parents not to mistreat their children. In the industrial metropolis of Guayaquil, the project especially aims at street children, prevention and management of addiction, while in cities such as Esmeraldas, the predominant issue is that of youth of African descent. There is a strong commitment there from Bishop Eugenia Arellano, helping promote the integration of “pandillas,” gangs of youth, into the social fabric. In large cities such as Cuenca, there are shelters established as an alternative to the street, as well as training workshops with the support of the Salesian University, outdoor theater performances and marches to raise awareness in society on the rights of youth to a work with dignity, as recognized by the new Constitution of Bolivia, which in Article 61 permits work for boys, girls, and adolescents in the family environment and in the country write Vatinan FIDES Agency and Salesians at the United Nations .

Antonella Invernizzi, Research Consultant, France, and Honorary Research Fellow, Swansea University- UK declared that “the work prepared by Cristiano Morsolin is important and highly relevant. The conclusions he puts forward are indeed very consistent with theoretical considerations and research findings put forward by academics as well as statements issues by children and young people and outcome of consultation in other countries and continents. There are indeed serious concerns about the potentially very detrimental outcomes of a simplistic approach to child labour, focusing on narrow interpretations of their rights might bring to children and communities. The international community is starting to be fully aware of participation as a right for children, although not actively sought and not properly implemented. What perhaps needs to be underlined is how much participation rights have to be coherently promoted to appropriately fulfill the other obligations states, organisations and more generally adults have towards working children and children in general under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Cristiano’s work is thus a welcome recognition of a particularly rich and inspiring development of participation in Latin America, the approach of protagonismo. It also channels important topics that have emerged through years of activity within working children’s organisations which, as I see it, place stress on the need to adopt a holistic approach to their rights rather than separating the issues of child labour from those of rights to education, health, and respect for cultural understanding. The notion of indivisibility of rights and what complements them, so praised by those who initially drafted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is very much present in what working children’s organisations put forward. Also very present, I believe, is the stress on respecting the dignity of human beings and children among them. Finally, Cristiano’s work put forward the key issues that need to be addressed to improve policy and programming and that imperatively must be tackled by international organisations who explicitly suggest they intend to promote working children’s rights.

5. CASE B : 8th Africa AMWCY Meeting

On 26th October 2009, the Labor Minister of Benin, his Excellency Charles Kenth Auguia proceeded to open the 8th General Assembly of the AMWCY at the Kouhounou sports palace in Cotonou. Themed: “With the realization of our 12 rights, we obtain improvement of our living and work conditions”, this tri-annual meeting of 20 countries saw the presence of the Director of the Head of State, the Director of Family Coastal Atlantic, the representatives of partners like Unicef and the local authorities.

The objective of this meeting is to assess the evolution of the children’s rights, of the WCY actions and their impact from the 7th meeting in Ouagadougou to the present 8th meeting. This meeting is coupled with the 20th anniversary celebration of the Convention on Children’s Rights (CCR) with the theme: “20th anniversary of the CCR, the WCY build their rights”. During the two weeks of the meeting, the participants did the tri-annual assessment of their actions and discussed the results of the impact on rights questionnaire, the study of the evaluation of their movements, statistics and they decided on new directions for their Movement. The media are present and broadcasted the ceremony through their aerials. Before and during their addresses, the national ballet “elites of Benin” assured the animation all through the ceremony. The children of the company impressed the public with their great choreography and talent as budding great dancers.

During the 8th meeting in Cotonou, Benin the African Movement of Working Children and Youth (AMWCY) delegates noted that “the database is expanding with new groups of children, totalling up to 260,824 members and supporters who are in villages and 196 different locations of 22 African countries.
We the children organized the existing initiatives on basic education, the fight against migration and early child abuse. We are advancing the 12 rights, again and again and sustainably among growing children.

Our Income Generating Activities (IGAs) grow with the opportunities offered by micro-credit associations to their members. Our courses are developed with a variety of topics at the association.
Our coordinators are structured in line to become interlocutors between the base and the authorities.

In the years ahead to promote the development of children in group based neighbourhoods, villages and cities, the African Movement of Working Children and Youth are committed to:

  • Give more vision to our associations with measures of general public communication
  • Increase achievement of the 12 rights to a large number of children
  • Develop Income Generating Activities (IGA) with more WCY fighting against poverty in our families and communities.
  • Ensure participation of children in the national coordination
  • Getting involved in local programs and national development efforts with partners and authorities.
    Our solidarity has no limit, beyond borders; we will conduct ourselves as one people ... sisters and brothers throughout Africa. Long live the African child and his rights!

6. CASE C: Children’s Development Bank (CDB) in India and Asia

Street and working children constitute one of the most disadvantaged section of society as a result of homelessness, lack of family support, struggle for survival, vulnerability and exclusion from basic services such as health and education. Most of them suffer from malnutrition, hunger, health problems, substance abuse, harassment by the city police and railway authorities, physical and sexual abuse and a general neglect from civil society. Many of them from extremely poor families live a hand to mouth existence, earning meager amounts in rag picking, shoeshine, portering, street vending, as domestic or casual worker in shops and restaurants. They live their lives from day to day. And although they may have “dreams”, there is no encouragement to plan for or to save for their future. Indeed there is no safe place where they can keep their money, and the temptation is to “blow” what they have earned on short-term gratification.

The Children’s Development Bank is an innovative way for creating an alternative to the lifestyle for street and working children, which is dictated by their need for day-today survival, their vulnerability and a short-term perspective. Thus, it is important to provide opportunities for saving for their future and encouragement to do so by creating a safe place. Equally important is to create a way of channeling those very entrepreneurial skills that are needed for survival and directing these into income generation and employment, which can be linked to skills training being provided by organizations working with these children. Creating funds that are available to street and working children, many of whom have no identify card or birth certificate or address, and cannot get credit for setting up a business activity from existing sources, providing opportunities for positive self-development through designing, managing, leading and acting as advocates for street children’s banks.

The Children’s Development Bank focuses on improving the lives and the prospects of street and working children, empowering these children and equipping them with life skills needed for their development, linking simultaneously to economic enterprises.
The Bank is “Managed” by children, in effect as a cooperative. under the facilitating of adults Members set all rules for CDB functioning. These rules cover criteria for membership, eligibility for size of advance available, interest paid on savings and charged on advance, repayment terms and guarantees, etc.

The children’s savings is recycled into advance. Enterprises may fail, children may run off to another city, or unrelated factors such as ill health or a family crisis (for those who are in touch with their families) may occur. That members of the Bank take responsibility for dealing with such issues is an important part of the process. It also makes the young people running he Bank extremely careful about how they offer advance and to whom; on the one hand they want to encourage loan-taking so that children can set up an enterprise, but on the other hand, they do not want to see their members’ savings lost or the Bank fail due to bad advance. Soft advance is provided to children to continue education or technical training .

7. CONCLUSION

Kristoffel Lieten – IREWOC, wrote that “consumer boycotts in specific cases may have had negative effects. Boycotts destroy the livelihoods of working children without providing alternative sources of income. What happens to child labourers who are sacked from their workplaces in the wake of a consumer boycott or because of restrictions imposed by Western governments? Unfortunately many children end up in worse conditions after losing their jobs.3 This is one of the reasons why mainstream organizations have pleaded for a balanced and contextual approach that involves all the partners in the field.

However, the boycott campaigns have indirectly helped raise awareness of the child labour issue. Economic development, technological changes, a better educational infrastructure, government policy initiatives and the gradual changing of the standards in civil society have all played a part. Globalization may also be helping, not due to improving economic conditions, but because of the dissemination of a new childhood standard across the globe. One effect of the ILO Convention 182, adopted in 1999, is that official sanction has been given to the idea that not all work done by children needs to be eradicated. Not all the work children perform is necessarily negative. In reality, children can do a variety of jobs under widely divergent conditions.

Child labour takes place along a continuum. At one end, it is beneficial and promotes or enhances a child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development without interfering with school, recreation or rest. At the other extreme, the work is destructive and exploitative. A more precise delineation of what child labour is can be determined by a combination of Convention 138 (setting the age standards) and Convention 182 (setting the harm standards). This is the general line along which governments have been working. Not everyone accepts this distinction. Some scholars and NGOs claim that nothing is wrong with child labour. They actually avoid using the term and instead talk in terms of ‘child work’. Governments, rather than taking measures against child labour, should introduce measures that secure the right of children to work and then protect the working child. The international Movement for Working Children, which resists the eradication of child labour, has emerged over the last decade. The movement consists of several national networks of working children organizations from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. ‘Yes to Child Work, No to Exploitation’ is their slogan.

According to Manfred Liebel, one of the ideologues behind this movement, children should be regarded as independent individuals who can judge and design their lives themselves. This idea of participation in the Latin American context is referred to as protagonismo. It refers to the capacity to participate in society and to transform it. Liebel argues that the ILO ‘is deaf to the concrete interests of working children’ and ‘should be recommended to ask exactly what could help to improve the situation of these children – while actually listening to working children and their organizations, and beginning a serious dialogue marked by mutual respect’ The ILO focuses on the worst forms of child labour in combination with Convention 138. Some organizations and alliances consider this a soft and compromising option. They argue that all forms of child labour should be abolished on a priority basis. Organizations and action committees, such as Stop Child Labour Now, regard all forms of work done by children as child labour. They also consider any child who is not in school to be a child labourer” .

There are some interesting studies from academic world, such as Liebel, M. (2004) A Will of Their Own: Cross-cultural Perspectives on Working Children. Zed-Books, Burns Weston (2005) Child Labor and Human Rights – Making children matter, Beatrice Hungerland, Manfred Liebel, Brian Milne and Anne Wihstutz (2007), Working to be someone Child Focused Research and Practice with Working Children; J. Williams and A. Invernizzi Children and Citizenship (Sage, 2007).
Children and Citizenship offers a contemporary and critical approach to the central debates around notions of children’s citizenship. Drawing on different disciplinary perspectives and including contributions by leading scholars in the field, this book makes explicit connections between theoretical approaches, representations of childhood, and the experiences of children themselves, legal instruments, policies, and their implementation. The book contains reflections on the notion of children’s citizenship in general as well as in relation to international instruments, in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the case law of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and EU legislation relating to citizenship and children’s rights .

The article Re-assessing Minimum-Age Standards for Children’s Work by Michael Bourdillon, William E. Myers, and Ben White, appears in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy - Volume 29 no.3 Special Issue - Child Work in the 21st Century: Dilemmas and Challenges (2009) .The authors point out that there has been no serious policy analysis on universal minimum age approaches, and question common assumptions concerning such policies by reviewing available knowledge on the impact of work on children. Available research does not support a presumption that blanket minimum-age laws are beneficial. In some cases, it is clear that they are injurious to children, underlining the need for systematic policy analysis. The promotion of universalized minimum-age policies should cease until their effect on children has been reliably assessed. In the meantime, more energy and investment should be devoted to alternative, proven ways of combating forms and conditions of work that are genuinely likely to cause harm, and promoting access to education .

Twenty years have passed since the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on November 20, 1989. From that time onwards, children have been gaining recognition of those rights: the right to be protected from discrimination, exploitation and abuse; the right to free quality education and health services; the right to associate, be listened to, and participate in all matters concerning them. And they also have the right to demand compliance with these rights, which we divide into rights related to protection, promotion and participation.

The CRC is a binding treaty on the level of international law. It commits the signatory States to adapt their legislation and administrative norms to the Convention’s mechanisms for guaranteeing the rights of the child. The CRC has intensified the global-level debate on these rights, generating initiatives and the introduction of legal measures that have improved children’s legal position. A large number of initiatives have also emerged to propagate the Convention, which has helped increase interest in and awareness of their rights among children themselves. But despite all this, there’s a wide gap between the rights set out on paper and actual compliance with them. And this is the case in many States of the South of the World.

The World Movement of Working Children, declared during the 3rd Meeting of the World Movement of Working Children in Siena (Italy): » we ask for more consideration and respect of our rights by our governments and by all the peoples. We would like them to support us and to see us as children who have rights, as all other children have. They must listen to us and they must involve us in the decision-making processes that concern us: our proposals must be taken into account. National and international organisations must open spaces for us to engage in dialogue and negotiation on problems that regard children. They have to recognize our movement and support our initiatives. What about working children’s participation during the Hague Global Child Labour Conference?


The opinions expressed and the arguments employed in this document are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily express the views of the CETRI.

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