Pilares: Building the Capacity of Civil Society to Combat Child Labor and Improve Working Conditions in Colombia

Project Duration
December 2017
May 2025
Funding and Year

This project is building the capacity of civil society organizations to more effectively detect and combat child labor and other unacceptable working conditions (OUWC) in artisanal and small-scale mines in Colombia. Pilares formed networks of civil society organizations and empowered local communities to build grassroots movements to improve working conditions and reduce the risk that children will be used in this harmful work.  


The Problem

Most artisanal and small-scale gold mines in Colombia lack land titles and fail to comply with labor and mining regulations, such as occupational safety and health standards and the use of child labor. Children in these mines face harsh working conditions that rob them of their childhoods. Some get injured breaking rocks, digging in the dirt with picks, or lifting heavy loads. Many get sick from exposure to the mercury used in processing gold and lack educational opportunities. While Colombia's Integrated Registration and Information System for Child Labor (SIRITI) reports 5,000 cases of children working in or near mines and quarries, no accurate data exists on the extent of child labor due to the informality of this sector.

Our Strategy

The project seeks to increase the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) to address child labor and working conditions in artisanal and small-scale gold mines.  

During the first phase of the Pilares project, from 2017-2021, the project used the collective impact model to organize CSOs into networks to achieve common goals. Working collectively, the CSO networks piloted tools to detect, document, and report cases of child labor and unacceptable working conditions, including in the gold mining supply chain in four municipalities of the Departments of Antioquia and Bolívar. These efforts improved CSO’s ability to elevate and address labor issues occurring in the ASGM communities in coordination with government and private sector stakeholders. The CSO networks have also increased their participation and involvement in the implementation of policies to combat child labor and unacceptable working conditions in this sector.  

Phase II of the project aims to strengthen CSOs capacities to share their knowledge and skills with other CSOs through a peer-to-peer mentoring approach. The project is also supporting CSOs in leveraging their project-funded local level initiatives to obtain and manage small grants from other funding sources. These two efforts increase local ownership and sustainability of CSOs addressing child labor and OUWC in their mining communities even after the project ends.

View a video about a beekeeping initiative managed by the Solidarity Network in Sur de Bolivar.

View the Joining the Pilares project’s network video.


  • The Pilares project formed three solidarity networks made up of miners, women, afro-descendants, indigenous people, and youth. More than 970 civil society actors and 250 government officials in the networks were trained by the project to identify, document, raise awareness about and address child labor and other unacceptable working conditions in artisanal and small-scale mining.  Based on the Final Evaluation, 100% of CSOs in the SN improved their capacity.
    • “Implementing a systematic process to teach CSOs how to conduct research on issues that impact their communities instead of hiring an outside consultant to conduct research and share their findings with community members was a successful approach. The working committees were trained to identify and document CL and OUWC accurately, to develop data collection tools, to conduct community research, and to create and implement reporting mechanisms." - Final Evaluation
  • The project created two online reporting mechanisms for the Sur de Bolivar and Bajo Cauca regions. These tools helped identify and document of child labor and occupational safety and health (OSH) risks in Colombia's artisanal small-scale gold mining sector. Based on the data, the project supported CSOs in producing thirteen reports that describe the child labor context and OSH conditions in all four targeted municipalities and included recommendations on how to address the issues.  Reports were shared with government institutions overseeing mining or family child services, which led to several joint efforts between CSOs and municipal-level governments including the formal identification and referral of 83 child labor cases to local government coordinating bodies that address such issues.
  • In 2023, the CSO network from Sur de Bolivar became an official organization now known as CORPILARES BOL and is registered with the Government of Colombia at the national level. CORPILARES serves as a resource hub for CSOs wanting to address child labor and OSH issues in their mining communities. As of September 2023, CORPILARES developed a training strategy and mentored 17 new organizations that recently joined the network.
  • Since Phase I, the project has issued over 30+ micro awards to local CSOs trained by the project. Through the project, these CSOs have the knowledge and expertise to apply for, manage, and close out small grants. Micro awards provided by the project have focused on the monitoring and evaluation of child labor and OSH risks, community-level awareness raising, advocacy with government and the private sector, local initiatives to directly combat child labor or OSH issues and capacity building to strengthen CORPILARES.  As of September 2023, CORPILARES has been able to leverage these micro awards to obtain additional grants from the University of Cartagena, municipal governments, and our donor institutions.
Implementing Partners:
Alliance for Responsible Mining
Contact Information:
GlobalKids@ILAB.dol.gov / Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT)
Child Labor
Artisanal Gold Mining
Capacity Building
Supply Chains