WASHINGTON — For children facing work-filled days — lifting heavy rocks, cutting sugar cane, or weaving carpets — the promise of even a basic education may seem remote. Add the threat of retaliation or violence, under the watchful eye of an employer, and the glimmer of that promise fades even further.
For communities to thrive, children need opportunities to learn and grow. Their families need opportunities to earn a decent living. And everyone needs the freedom of choice to learn and venture as far as their hard work will take them.
Today, at a reception at the U.S. Mission in Geneva honoring Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher P. Lu announced that the Bureau of International Labor Affairs will be awarding $10 million to the International Labour Organization to fund a global initiative to combat forced labor. Lu is in Geneva to attend the 104th Session of the International Labour Conference, where he delivered plenary remarks earlier today on the importance of inclusive economic growth, the decent work agenda, and the future of work.
"We are committed to eradicating child labor and forced labor by uncovering and addressing their root causes. Our efforts to promote opportunities for parents to find and retain good jobs and allow children to go to school can help break this cycle of poverty and abuse," said Deputy Secretary Lu.
The ILAB grant will fund the ILO's Bridge Project (From Protocol to Practice: Building a Bridge to Global Action on Forced Labor), which supports global and national efforts to take action on last year's landmark ILO Forced Labor Protocol to Convention 29 of Forced Labor and its supporting Resolution, which aim to advance prevention, protection and compensation measures. The project will:
- help raise awareness globally about the urgent need to eradicate forced labor;
- invest the needed resources to further data collection to more accurately measure the problem;
- strengthen supply-chain monitoring and law-enforcement training; and
- implement measures to protect victims of forced labor and to provide them with access to remediation.
The project will also develop pilot programs in at least three select priority countries, including Mauritania, Nepal, and Peru. These pilot countries will serve as models for how the Protocol and Recommendation could be effectively implemented at the country level.
The announcement comes on the eve of the 2015 World Day Against Child Labor, the theme of which — "No to child labor; Yes to quality education" — underscores the importance of providing quality education to children in order for youth to secure promising opportunities for decent work.
The ILO estimates 21 million people are trapped in forced labor worldwide, and there are 168 million children who work. Of those numbers, 120 million children are working below the minimum age and unable to attend school and benefit from a supportive, nurturing learning environment. Some of the most vulnerable children include those who come from families in forced labor or who are themselves forced to work.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher Lu addresses a plenary session of the International Labor Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, June 11, 2015..
ILAB leads the U.S. government's efforts to ensure that workers around the world, particularly the most vulnerable, are treated fairly and are able to share in the benefits of the global economy. To these ends, ILAB has provided funding for more than 290 projects in over 90 countries to combat the worst forms of child labor by providing assistance to vulnerable children and their families. More information is available at www.dol.gov/ilab/.