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Child labor is not an easy issue to resolve; while it seems noble to immediately withdraw investments and cooperation with firms and factories that employ child labor it may do more harm1 than good. Many of these children are from very poor families and work to pay for their family and/or their education. Depriving them of this income has led to some children seeking different, lower paid work, and even prostitution in some cases. Other ways with schemes to help children would likely be needed so that this labor can be phased out. The same has been suggested by the International Labor Organization (ILO), at a meeting in Mexico City in 1999, who also pointed out that child labor affects over 250 million children2, 30 percent of which are in Latin America. A gradual phase out is said to be a more preferable solution.
According to the UK Committee for UNICEF, poverty is the most common factor contributing to child labor3. In addition, "debt, bloated military budgets and structural adjustment programmes imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have eroded the capacity of many governments to provide education and services for children, and have also pushed up prices for basic necessities". (For more information on these aspects, also see this site's section on causes of poverty4 and the harmful structural adjustment policies5.)
According to UNICEF6, Somalia and USA are the only two countries in the world that have not ratified7 the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child8. The convention is the world's most widely ratified treaty. (USA have signed it, but Somalia has neither signed, nor ratified it, at the time I write this -- and Somalia doesn't currently have an internationally recognized government, which is why they cannot ratify the convention. The US have no such excuse.)
9 A huge movement called the Global March Against Child Labor, (which didn't get much media coverage in the USA), was an important event with marches in many major cities around the world drawing global attention towards the most heinous human rights violation: child labor and child slavery. The six-month long intercontinental March took off from Philippines in mid-January 1998, culminating in Geneva to coincide with the Debate Session of the International Labor Organization (ILO10) on the Draft Convention on Child Right.
To find out more about children with regards to trade, labor, rights etc. the following may be helpful:
- Save the Children Fund UK11 and their section on child labor12
- The Global March13 web site. They also have a link to other14 websites that are supporting the movement.
- Unicef15, the United Nations Children's Fund. In particular:
- Casa Alianza19, a South American-based group helping street kids.
- OneWorld20 Guides to:
- Boes.org24 is a site devoted to child rights.
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