A placard on display at activists’ demonstration outside the 4th meeting of the CBD Working Group at the UNEP headquarter in Nairobi. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS
Nairobi, Jun 27 2022 (IPS) – As the last working group meeting of the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Agenda concluded here on Sunday, the delegates’ job at COP15 Montreal just got tougher as delegates couldn’t finalize the text of the agenda. Texts involving finance, cost and benefit-sharing, and digital sequencing – described by many as ‘most contentious parts of the draft agenda barely made any progress as negotiators failed to reach any consensus.
Nairobi – the Unattempted ‘Final Push’
The week-long 4th meeting of the Working Group of the Biodiversity Convention took place from June 21-26, three months after the 3rd meeting of the group was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting, attended by a total of 1634 participants, including 950 country representatives, had the job cut out for them: Read the draft Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and its 21 targets, discuss, and clean up the text – target by target, sentence by sentence, at least up to 80%.
But, on Saturday – a day before the meeting was to wrap up, David Ainsworth – head of Communications at CBD, hinted that the progress was far slower than expected. Ainsworth mentioned that the total cleaning progress made was just about 8%.
To put it in a clearer context, said Ainsworth, only two targets now had a clean text – Target 19.2 (strengthening capacity-building and development, access to and transfer of technology) and target 12 (urban biodiversity). This means that in Montreal, they could be placed on the table right away for the parties to decide on, instead of debating the language. All the other targets, the work progress has been from around 50% to none, said Ainsworth.
An entire day later, on Sunday evening local time, co-chairs of the WG4 Francis Ogwal and Basile Van Havre confirmed that those were indeed the only two targets with ‘clean’ texts. In other words, no real work had been done in the past 24 hours.
On June 21, at the opening session of the meeting, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, described the Nairobi meeting as an opportunity for a ‘final push’ to finalize the GBF. On Sunday, she called on the parties to “vigorously engage with the text, to listen to each other and seek consensus, and to prepare the final text for adoption at COP 15”.
Answering a question from IPS News, Mrema also confirmed that there would be a 5th meeting of the Working Group before the Montreal COP, indicating the work done in the Nairobi meeting wasn’t enough to produce a draft that was ready to be discussed for adoption.
The final push, it appeared, had not even been attempted.
Bottlenecks and Stalemate
According to several observers, instead of cleaning up 80% of the texts over the past six days, negotiators had left 80% of the text in brackets, which signals disagreement among parties. Not only did countries fail to progress, but in some cases, new disagreements threatened to move the process in the opposite direction. The most fundamental issues were not even addressed this week, including how much funding would be committed to conserving biodiversity and what percentage figures the world should strive to protect, conserve, and restore to address the extinction crisis.
True to the traditions of the UN, the CBD wouldn’t be critical of any party. However, on Sunday evening, Francis Ogwal indicated that rich nations had been dragging their feet on meeting the commitment of donating to global biodiversity conservation. Without naming anyone, Ogwal reminded the negotiators that the more time they took, the tougher they would get the decision.
At present, said Ogwal, 700 billion was needed to stop and recover global biodiversity. “If you keep giving less and less, the problems magnify. Ten years down the line, this will not be enough,” he said.
The civil society was more vocal in criticizing the delegates for losing yet another opportunity.
According to Brian O’Donnell, Director of the Campaign for Nature, the negotiations were faltering, with some key issues being at a stalemate. It is, therefore, up to heads of state and other political and United Nations leaders to act with urgency. “But time is now running out, and countries need to step up, show the leadership that this moment requires, and act urgently to find compromise and solutions,” O’Donnell said in a statement.
The Next Steps
The CBD Secretariat mentioned a string of activities that would follow the Nairobi meeting to speed up the process of building a consensus among the delegates. The activities include bilateral meetings with some countries, regional meetings with others, and a Working Group 5 meeting which will be a pre-COP event before COP15.
Finally, the CBD is taking a glass-half-filled approach toward the GBF, which is reflected in the words of Mrema: “These efforts (Nairobi meeting) are considerable and have produced a text that, with additional work, will be the basis for reaching the 2050 vision of the Convention: A life in harmony with nature,” she says.
The upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference will be held from 5 to December 17 in Montreal, Canada, under the presidency of the Government of China. With the bulk of the work left incomplete, the cold December weather of Montreal is undoubtedly all set to be heated with intense debates and negotiations. IPS UN Bureau Report
If done right ocean action will also be climate action but this will require working in concert on a few fronts.
First, we must invest in and support science and technology to produce key solutions. Strengthening science-policy interfaces to bridge practitioners and policymakers contributes to a sound understanding of ocean-climate synergies, thereby enabling better policy design, an important priority of the Indonesian Presidency of the G20 process. Additionally policy support tools can assist governments in identifying and prioritizing actions through policy and SDG tracking and scenarios development.
We must also make the invisible visible through ocean data: just three of ten targets for the goal on life below water are measurable in Asia and the Pacific. Better data is the foundation of better policies and collective action. The Global Ocean Accounts Partnership (GOAP) is an innovative multi-stakeholder collective established to enable countries and other stakeholders to go beyond GDP and to measure and manage progress towards ocean sustainable development.
Solutions for low-carbon maritime transport are also a key part of the transition to decarbonization by the middle of the century. Countries in Asia and the Pacific recognized this when adopting a new Regional Action Programme last December, putting more emphasis on such concrete steps as innovative shipping technologies, cooperation on green shipping corridors and more efficient use of existing port infrastructure and facilities to make this ambition a reality.
Finally, aligning finance with our ocean, climate and broader SDG aspirations provides a crucial foundation for all of our action. Blue bonds are an attractive instrument both for governments interested in raising funds for ocean conservation and for investors interested in contributing to sustainable development in addition to obtaining a return for their investment.
These actions and others are steps towards ensuring the viability of several of the region’s key ocean-based economic sectors, such as seaborne trade, tourism and fisheries. An estimated 50 to 80 per cent of all life on Earth is found under the ocean surface. Seven of every 10 fish caught around the globe comes from Pacific waters. And we know that the oceans and coasts are also vital allies in the fight against climate change, with coastal systems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows at the frontline of climate change, absorbing carbon at rates of up to 50 times those of the same area of tropical forest.
But the health of the oceans in Asia and the Pacific is in serious decline: rampant pollution, destructive and illegal fishing practices, inadequate marine governance and continued urbanization along coastlines have destroyed 40 per cent of the coral reefs and approximately 60 per cent of the coastal mangroves, while fish stocks continue to decline and consumption patterns remain unsustainable.
To promote concerted action, ESCAP, in collaboration with partner UN agencies, provides a regional platform in support of SDG14, aligned within the framework of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Through four editions so far of the Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean, we also support countries in identifying and putting in place solutions and accelerated actions through regional dialogue and cooperation.
It is abundantly clear there can be no healthy planet without a healthy ocean. Our leaders meeting in Lisbon must step up efforts to protect the ocean and its precious resources and to build sustainable blue economies.
Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Secretary-General António Guterres talks to villagers in Llano Grande, Colombia, where he witnessed how the peace process was developing in Colombia. November 2021. Credit: UNMVC
BOGOTA, Colombia, Jun 22 2022 (IPS) – On Sunday, 19 June 2022, the hopes of millions of Colombians working for a more democratic, safer, ecological, and socially just country came true.
Senator Gustavo Petro, in a duo with his Afro-Colombian vice-presidential candidate, environmental expert Francia Márquez, received approximately 50.44 per cent or 11,281,013 of the votes cast, and has been elected the 42nd President of Colombia.
Both his predecessor Iván Duque and his opponent Rodolfo Hernández publicly congratulated him on his election victory.
Some 22,445,873 people or 57.55 per cent exercised their right to vote in the run-off election on 19 June 2022, about 3.7 per cent more than in the first round three weeks ago. Only in 1998 was the turnout higher.
Getting people to the polls is not always easy in Colombia: Thousands of people in some parts of the country again had to travel for several hours, even days, to reach one of the polling stations. In some regions, heavy rain also prevented people from voting. In addition, threats, violence, and vote-buying continue to restrict voting, especially in remote rural areas.
For the first time in the country’s history, neither a conservative nor a member of the Liberal Party will lead the government of Latin America’s fifth largest economy.
With Gustavo Petro, the winning streak of leftist movements and parties in Latin America continues and provides further momentum for the upcoming elections in Brazil in October 2022.
Gustavo Petro’s opponents
In this historic situation for Colombia, what will matter is how the losers behave. On Sunday, Petro not only relegated his direct challenger, the anti-women and anti-migrant 77-year-old self-made millionaire and populist, Rodolfo Hernández, to second place, but with him also the country’s previous political elite.
With 47.31 per cent or 10,580,412 votes, Hernández received much less support than the polls had predicted.
However, significantly more people than in the last elections opted for neither candidate: 490,118 or 2.23 per cent gave a voto blanco.
This is a Colombian peculiarity that allows voters to express their disagreement with the candidates but, unlike abstention, allows them to exercise their democratic right.
Precisely because this triumph is so unique, President Petro should now reach out to his critics, remind the losers of their responsibility in state politics and call on the opposition to work constructively. At the moment, it is unclear whether the losers will be able to accept their new role.
The military, traditionally strong in Colombia, also remains a key player in this phase of the democratic transition. It is expected that the military leadership will soon send out signals that leave no doubt about Gustavo Petro’s election victory.
He will also be their commander-in-chief after his inauguration on 7 August. Should the recognition fail to materialise publicly, Petro’s presidency would be tainted from the outset and rumours of an imminent coup d’état would continue to do the rounds. Both Colombian NGOs and the international community should keep a close eye on this.
Six urgent challenges
In any case, the new president faces enormous challenges. It is already questionable whether Petro will find a majority in the Colombian parliament for a fundamental change of the unequal living conditions, the high unemployment, inflation rate, national debt, and the necessary socio-ecological transformation of the country.
Although quite a few deputies of his left-progressive alliance Pacto Histórico support Petro after the congressional elections in March, he lacks a legislative majority of his own.
Moreover, the newly elected representatives must first prove that they can stick together and also lead a government together, especially now that the ministers are to be appointed. Tensions are already pre-programmed in the colourful spectrum of the Pacto Histórico.
The government’s most urgent tasks include:
Reviving the peace process: In the last four years under Iván Duque’s ultra-right government, the peace process signed in 2016 with the former guerrilla group FARC was hardly implemented.
President Petro needs to relaunch it, push for its implementation, and ensure that social and local leaders are better protected from displacement, violence, and assassination. This year alone, more than 60 of these líderes sociales have been murdered.
After this process, a dialogue with the guerrilla organisation ELN would be necessary too. It is up to the new government to send out signals define conditions as to whether and how negotiations can take place.
A new economic policy: Petro takes over a country with the highest inflation rate of the last 21 years from his unpopular predecessor. With a current debt of around 63 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and a budget deficit of over six per cent, the president-elect has announced that he will begin his term with a structural tax reform.
This envisages an increase in the tax burden for the richest 0.01 per cent of the population. This idea is vehemently opposed by the political right. During the election campaign, they left no stone unturned to discredit Petro, accusing him of preparing the country’s economic decline.
Commitment to women’s rights and greater equality: Petro proposes the creation of a Ministry of Equality led by Francia Márquez, which would be responsible for formulating all policies to empower women, people of all sexual orientations, the different generations, and ethnic and regional diversity in Colombia.
Under Petro, women in particular could expect to gain priority access to public higher education, credit, and the distribution and formalisation of land ownership.
Petro and Marquez are proposing an energy transition that will rule out new developments of future oil fields.
Land reform and protection of indigenous people, peasants, and Afro-Colombian women: The extremely unequal distribution of land is one of the structural causes of the armed conflict in Colombia. The internal displacement of recent decades has led to the expansion of arable land: the resulting tensions are at the root of conflicts between ethnic communities (indigenous and Afro-Colombian) and peasant women over access to this land.
All these groups have been and continue to be excluded from the development of the country. At the same time, they are among the most affected by the armed conflict’s violent dynamics.
Petro’s government will need to ensure a more equitable distribution that enables the integration of ethnic and farming communities into the production and development circuits.
Better education for more people: During the social protests last year (and already in 2019 and 2020), the demand for more public and quality education was one of the central messages of the mostly peacefully demonstrating Colombians.
Petro promises to provide them with a higher education system in which public universities and secondary schools in particular are properly funded.
More environmental protection: Under the Duque government, environmental and climate protection in Colombia was largely neglected, deforestation increased, and the first fracking pilot wells were approved. Petro and Marquez have announced fundamental change.
They are focusing on a more environmentally-friendly production and service model and are proposing an energy transition that will rule out new developments of future oil fields. This process is to be accompanied by a land reform on unproductive lands – mostly resulting from illegal forest clearance.
A Colombia of social justice
Beyond these urgent reform tasks, the president and his government will also have to find answers in other important areas, such as integrated security reform, a diversified new foreign policy, a different drug policy, and on the regulation of narcotics.
At the same time, they must not disregard the necessary coalition with civil society that ultimately lifted them into office.
Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez achieved something historic on that memorable Sunday in June 2022. The expectations for both are huge, perhaps even unrealistic. On the one hand, the winning couple must stick together and remain capable of compromise.
At the same time, both have raised many hopes and are exemplary for the new Colombia: both want a more social, a more ecological, a more secure, and a more democratic republic.
President Petro will make mistakes and he will hardly be granted the usual 100 days grace period.
The fact that the ultra-conservative and liberal power elites were voted out of office by the majority of Colombians is a political turning point for the country. The losers will hardly accept the new opposition role constructively – and as an important element of a consolidated democracy.
It is more likely that they will torpedo the new government from day one and do everything they can to make it fail.
President Petro will make mistakes and he will hardly be granted the usual 100 days grace period – neither by his hopeful supporters from civil society, nor by the more than ten million people he has failed to convince of his programme and person.
He will have to govern openly, transparently, and with a certain flexibility to be able to react appropriately to national and international challenges. He will have to change his behaviour, which is often described as arrogant and self-centred.
And he should emphasise the social team spirit that was the basis for the victory of the Pacto Histórico. That is the only way he can succeed in breathing new life into the peace process and achieve the urgently needed reforms in economic and social policy for Colombia. And he will need many allies to succeed, both at home and abroad.
German and European politicians would be well advised to pledge their support to the new president and strengthen the peace process along the way. At the same time, this would contribute to the consolidation of democratic institutions after this historic change of government.
Both remain crucial for a sustainable, peaceful development of the country, and necessary for a Colombia of social justice.
Oliver Dalichau heads the office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Colombia.
Source: International Politics and Society(IPS)-Journal published by the International Political Analysis Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin
BANGKOK, Thailand, May 23 2022 (IPS) – The Asia-Pacific region is at a crossroads today – to further breakdown or breakthrough to a greener, better, safer future.
Since the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) was established in 1947, the region has made extraordinary progress, emerging as a pacesetter of global economic growth that has lifted millions out of poverty.
Yet, as ESCAP celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, we find ourselves facing our biggest shared test on the back of cascading and overlapping impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, raging conflicts and the climate crisis.
Few have escaped the effects of the pandemic, with 85 million people pushed back into extreme poverty, millions more losing their jobs or livelihoods, and a generation of children and young people missing precious time for education and training.
As the pandemic surges and ebbs across countries, the world continues to face the grim implications of failing to keep the temperature increase below 1.5°C – and of continuing to degrade the natural environment. Throughout 2021 and 2022, countries across Asia and the Pacific were again battered by a relentless sequence of natural disasters, with climate change increasing their frequency and intensity.
More recently, the rapidly evolving crisis in Ukraine will have wide-ranging socioeconomic impacts, with higher prices for fuel and food increasing food insecurity and hunger across the region.
Rapid economic growth in Asia and the Pacific has come at a heavy price, and the convergence of these three crises have exposed the fault lines in a very short time. Unfortunately, those hardest hit are those with the fewest resources to endure the hardship. This disproportionate pressure on the poor and most vulnerable is deepening and widening inequalities in both income and opportunities.
The situation is critical. Many communities are close to tipping points beyond which it will be impossible to recover. But it is not too late.
The region is dynamic and adaptable.
In this richer yet riskier world, we need more crisis-prepared policies to protect our most vulnerable populations and shift the Asia-Pacific region back on course to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as the target year of 2030 comes closer — our analysis shows that we are already 35 years behind and will only attain the Goals in 2065.
To do so, we must protect people and the planet, exploit digital opportunities, trade and invest together, raise financial resources and manage our debt.
The first task for governments must be to defend the most vulnerable groups – by strengthening health and universal social protection systems. At the same time, governments, civil society and the private sector should be acting to conserve our precious planet and mitigate and adapt to climate change while defending people from the devastation of natural disasters.
For many measures, governments can exploit technological innovations. Human activities are steadily becoming “digital by default.” To turn the digital divide into a digital dividend, governments should encourage more robust and extensive digital infrastructure and improve access along with the necessary education and training to enhance knowledge-intensive internet use.
Much of the investment for services will rely on sustainable economic growth, fueled by equitable international trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). The region is now the largest source and recipient of global FDI flows, which is especially important in a pandemic recovery environment of fiscal tightness.
While trade links have evolved into a complex noodle bowl of bilateral and regional agreements, there is ample scope to further lower trade and investment transaction costs through simplified procedures, digitalization and climate-smart strategies. Such changes are proving to be profitable business strategies. For example, full digital facilitation could cut average trade costs by more than 13 per cent.
Governments can create sufficient fiscal space to allow for greater investment in sustainable development. Additional financial resources can be raised through progressive tax reforms, innovative financing instruments and more effective debt management. Instruments such as green bonds or sustainability bonds, and arranging debt swaps for development, could have the highest impacts on inclusivity and sustainability.
Significant efforts need to be made to anticipate what lies ahead. In everything we do, we must listen to and work with both young and old, fostering intergenerational solidarity. And women must be at the centre of crisis-prepared policy action.
This week the Commission is expected to agree on a common agenda for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, pinning the aspirations of the region on moving forward together by learning from and working with each other.
In the past seven-and-a-half decades, ESCAP has been a vital source of know-how and support for the governments and peoples of Asia and the Pacific. We remain ready to serve in the implementation of this common agenda.
To quote United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “the choices we make, or fail to make today, will shape our future. We will not have this chance again.”
Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
“I have been talking to leaders of rich countries to address the problem of post-pandemic economic meltdown. We have to work for social protection for marginalised people in low-income countries and focus on children, education, health, and protection. That is not a big investment compared to what we are going to lose – a whole generation.” – Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi
Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addresses the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Despite setbacks, he is optimistic that child labour can be abolished. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS
Durban, May 16 2022 (IPS) – A mere 35 billion US dollars per annum – equivalent to 10 days of military spending – would ensure all children in all countries benefit from social protection, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi told the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour.
He said this was a small price to pay considering the catastrophic consequences of the increase in child labour since 2016, after several years of decline in child labour numbers.
An estimated 160 000 million kids are child labourers, and unless there is a drastic reversal, another 9 million are expected to join their ranks.
Satyarthi was among a distinguished group of panellists on setting global priorities for eliminating child labour. The panel included International Labour Organisation(ILO) DG Guy Ryder, South African Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, James Quincey, CEO of Coca Cola, Alliance 8.7 chairperson Anousheh Karver and European Union Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen.
The panel discussed child labour in the context of decent work deficits and youth employment. It identified pressing global challenges and priorities for the international community.
Satyarthi said the 35 million US dollars was far from a big ask. Nor was the 22 billion US dollars needed to ensure education for all children. He said this was the equivalent of what people in the US spent on tobacco over six days.
Satyarthi said it was a travesty that the G7, the world’s wealthiest countries, had never debated child labour – something he intends to change.
The panellists attributed the increase in child labour to several factors, including lack of political will, lack of interest from rich countries and embedded cultural and economic factors.
Asked how he remained optimistic in light of the dismal picture of growing child labour rates. Satyarthi told IPS that having been in the trenches for 40 years, he had seen and been happy to see a decline in child labour until 2016 – when the problem began escalating again.
“I strongly believe in freedom of human beings. The world will slowly move towards a more compassionate society, sometimes faster, sometimes slower,” he said.
Satyarthi, together with organisations like the ILO, succeeded in putting the issue of child labour on the international agenda. Through his foundation in collaboration with other NGOs, he got the world to take note of this hidden scourge.
He is convinced that child labour will be eliminated despite the recent setbacks.
“I am hopeful because there was no ILO programme when I started 40 years ago. Child labour was not recognised as a problem, but slowly, it is being realised that it’s wrong and evil – even a crime. So, 40 years isn’t a big tenure in the history of human beings. This scourge has been there for centuries.”
Yet he recognises the need for urgency to roll back the escalation of child labour.
“The next ten years are even more important because now we have the means, we have power, technology, and we know the solution. The only thing we need is a strong political will but also social will,” Satyarthi said. “We have to speed it up and bring back the hope. Bring back the optimism. The issue is a priority, and that’s why we are calling on markets to globalise compassion. There are many things to divide us, but there’s one thing we all agree on: the well-being of our children.”
Satyarthi said to meet the SDG deadline of 2025, he and other Nobel laureates and world leaders are pushing hard to ensure that child labour starts declining again.
“We as a group of Nobel laureates and world leaders are working on two fronts. One is a fair share for children on budgetary allocations and policies,” he said.
The group engaged with governments to ensure that children received a fair share of the budget and resources.
Then they are pushing governments on social protection, which he believes in demystifying.
“We have seen in different countries, social protection – helping through school feeding schemes, employment programmes and conditional grant programmes to ensure that children can go to school, with proven success in bringing down child labour.”
The Nobel laureate knocked on the doors of the leaders of wealthy nations.
“I have been talking to leaders of rich countries to address the problem of post-pandemic economic meltdown. We have to work for social protection for marginalised people in low-income countries and focus on children, education, health, and protection. That is not a big investment compared to what we are going to lose – a whole generation.”
Satyarthi said he was heartened by the response to their efforts to motivate governments and the private sector to join the fight against child labour.
“I have been optimistic to say many of the governments and EU leaders are not only listening – they are talking about it. Yesterday only, I was so happy that President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke very explicitly on this issue, and almost everyone was talking about this issue. But it took several months, several years to get there.”
And Satyarthi is not going to stop soon. With the Laureates and Leaders For Children project, he and fellow laureates are determined the world sits up and finds the will to ensure every child can experience a childhood.
IPS UN Bureau Report
This is part of a series of stories published by IPS during the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour in Durban.
A child beneficiary holding a drawing portraying domestic violence, at the Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education, Lilongwe, Malawi which partnered with the ILO/IPEC to support the national action plan aimed at combating child labour. Credit: Marcel Crozet/ILO
Nairobi, May 13 2022 (IPS) – Children washing clothes in rivers, begging on the streets, hawking, walking for kilometres in search of water and firewood, their tiny hands competing with older, experienced hands to pick coffee or tea, or as child soldiers are familiar sights in Africa and Asia.
Child rights experts at Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation reiterate that tolerance and normalisation of working children, many of whom work in hazardous conditions and circumstances, and apathy has stalled progress towards the elimination of child labour.
Further warnings include more children in labour across the sub-Saharan Africa region than the rest of the world combined. The continent now falls far behind the collective commitment to end all forms of child labour by 2025.
The International Labour Organization estimates more than 160 million children are in child labour globally.
How to achieve the Sustainable Development Target 8.7 and the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour that focuses on its elimination by 2025 will be the subject of the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour to be held in Durban, South Africa, from May 15 to 20, 2022.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to open the conference. He will share the stage with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairperson and President of the Republic of Malawi Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, and Argentina President Alberto Ángel Fernández Pérez (virtual).
“There are multiple drivers of child labour in Africa, and many of them are interconnected,” Minoru Ogasawara, Chief Technical Advisor for the Accelerating action for the elimination of child labour in supply chains in Africa (ACCEL Africa) at the International Labour Organization (ILO) tells IPS.
He speaks of the high prevalence of children working in agriculture, closely linked to poverty and family survival strategies.
Rapid population growth, Ogasawara says, has placed significant pressure on public budgets to maintain or increase the level of services required to fight child labour, such as education and social protection.
“Hence the call to substantially increase funding through official development assistance (ODA), national budgets and contributions from the private sector targeting child labour and its root causes,” he observes.
UNICEF says approximately 12 percent of children aged 5 to 14 years are involved in child labour – at the cost of their childhood, education, and future.
Of the 160 million child labourers worldwide, more than half are in sub-Saharan Africa, and 53 million are not in school – amounting to 28 % aged five to 11 and another 35 % aged 12 to 14, according to the most recent child labour global estimates by UNICEF and ILO.
Against this grim backdrop, keynote speakers Nobel Peace Laureates Kailash Satyarthi and Leymah Gbowee and former Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven will address the conference, which is expected to put into perspective how and why children still suffer some of the worst, most severe forms of child labour such as bonded labour, domestic servitude, child soldiers, drug trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
Satyarthi has been at the forefront of mobilising global support to this effect.
“I am working in collaboration with a number of other Nobel Laureates and world leaders. We are demanding the setting up of an international social protection mechanism. During the pandemic, we calculated that $53 billion annually could ensure social protection for all children in all low-income countries, as well as pregnant women too,” Satyarthi emphasises.
“Increased social protection, access to free quality education, health care, decent job opportunities for adults, and basic services together create an enabling environment that reduces household vulnerability to child labour,” Ogasawara stresses.
He points to an urgent need to introduce and or rapidly expand social security and other social protection measures suitable for the informal economy, such as cash transfers, school feeding, subsidies for direct education costs, and health care coverage.
The need for a school-to-work transition and to “target children from poor households, increase access to education while reducing the need to combine school with work among children below the minimum working age” should be highlighted.
In the absence of these social protection safety nets, the International Labour Organization says it is estimated that an additional 9 million children are at risk of child labour by the end of this year and a possible further increase of 46 million child labourers.
In this context, the fifth global conference presents an opportunity to assess progress made towards achieving the goals of SDG Target 8.7, discuss good practices implemented by different actors around the world and identify gaps and urgent measures needed to accelerate the elimination of both child labour and forced labour.
The timing is crucial, says the ILO, as there are only three years left to achieve the goal of the elimination of all child labour by 2025 and only eight years towards the elimination of forced labour by 2030, as established by the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 8.7.
The conference will also see the active participation of young survivor-advocates from India and Africa. They will share their first-person accounts and lived experiences in sync with the core theme of the discussion.
The conference will also take place within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid fears and concerns that ending child labour became less significant on the international agenda as the world coped with the impact of the pandemic. This could reverse the many gains accrued in the fight against child labour, forced labour and child trafficking.
This is the first of a series of stories which IPS will be publishing during the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour from May 15 to 20, 2022.