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30 countries of the region continue on their way towards target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda.

6 Years of sustained commitment to achieve a joint goal: end child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean

Today, October 14, the Regional Initiative Latin America and the Caribbean Free of Child Labour (RI) commemorates the 6th anniversary of its constitution in a context of uncertainty and crisis, but more alert than ever and with the sustained commitment to continue improving policies that reduce the risk of child labour and preserve the progress made in recent years.

  The RI is made up by 30 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean*, 7 employers´ organizations, 7 workers´ organizations, and 1 Technical Secretariat under the Regional Office of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

*Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The articulated work of the Network of Focal Points of the Regional Initiative, together with the support of its partners -such as the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the Andalusian Agency for International Development Cooperation (AACID), the Department of Labour of the United States (USDOL) and the Madrid City Council- has managed to institutionalize it as an innovative cooperation platform with installed capacities. It effectively strengthens national responses and advances towards the achievement of target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda, which calls for an end to child labour in all its forms by 2025. 

The current scenario shows that the urgency to prevent and intensify the elimination of child labour is more relevant and necessary than ever to avoid regressive effects.

According to recent estimates by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), poverty may regress by 15 years in the region, affecting 231 million people, while extreme poverty would regress by 30 years, reaching 96 million people.

With the widening of inequality gaps, the risk that more boys, girls and adolescents will enter or continue in the labour world prematurely and dangerously increases, which would further deepen the vulnerability of their families and lead to the intergenerational reproduction of the cycle of poverty.

A few months before starting 2021 and inaugurating the commemoration of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, the Regional Initiative and its Network of Focal Points are preparing for the challenges they will have to face during the recovery phase of the COVID-19 crisis. The aim will be not going backward on the path towards the achievement of target 8.7.

Farouk Mohammed, Trinidad and Tobago Focal Point, one of the founding Focal Points of the Regional Initiative, maintains that, since its constitution, it has been able to combine innovation, critical thinking, tripartite participation and sharing good practices through South-South Cooperation. For Trinidad and Tobago, recognizing the relevance of the Regional Initiative from its inception helped to identify the issue of child labour as a priority for economic development. In line with this, it has made great strides in raising public awareness, establishing the National Steering Committee to promote collaboration and ongoing studies that will drive the development of a policy and plan of action on child labour.

Esmirna Sánchez, Costa Rica Focal Point, also one of the founding Focal Points of the Regional Initiative, highlights that the platform has been able to mature and be recognized and position itself at a global level. She reaffirms that teamwork, as well as sharing experiences and lessons learned among the different countries is the best way to face and attend to the reality of child labour. 

María Kathia Romero, Focal Point of Peru since its beginnings, states that the generation of knowledge has been a window of opportunities for the countries in the challenge of strengthening their national policies. To do this, she points out that the impact on policies is strengthened by regional experiences.

For Susana Santomingo, Founder Focal Point and representative of workers, the Regional Initiative has had a quantitative and qualitative evolution. A reflection of this is having added 18 more countries since its constitution, as well as three more representatives for the group of employers and workers. Part of this evolution has also been the creation of the Child Labour Risk Identification Model, an ILO statistical tool built in partnership with ECLAC within the framework of the Regional Initiative. In this sense, it highlights that the group of workers values ​​the Regional Initiative for being a highly democratic environment for social dialogue, expanding knowledge and skills on the subject in union cadres and because it has become an unavoidable and reliable partner for consultations.

The group of Focal Points of the employers´ sector considers that the Regional Initiative has been consolidated as a technical instance that, through tripartite dialogue, provides a space of trust and commitment for the eradication of child labour, particularly in its worst forms. In addition, she points out that the most important lessons learned, in both ways, are that when there are clear objectives and tripartite actors share a vision about the route to follow, important advances can be made in the fight against child labour.

In the context of the crisis, Farouk believes that the pandemic poses a serious challenge to the countries of the region by slowing down or eroding the progress made in achieving target 8.7. He comments that greater focus and commitment is needed to ensure that no child or adolescent is left behind and has the opportunity to reach their full potential, despite the crisis.

For the group of workers, according to Susana, one of the challenges at this juncture will be to sustain progress and redouble efforts, taking into account the critical socio-economic situation that strongly affects vulnerable groups in a region with deep inequality. She also argues that it will be more complex to eradicate the worst forms of child labour before 2025.

In line with that, Esmirna points out that the Regional Initiative should maintain their position as a positive and successful platform of articulated work to face the issues of hazardous child and adolescent labour.

María Kathia adds that it is necessary to increase cooperation among the countries, reinforcing the generation of knowledge for the design of proposals adequate to the context. 

The Technical Secretariat maintains that the Regional Initiative is essential in the context of COVID-19 because its capacity allows it to face and respond from different approaches to target 8.7 and influence and support the advancement of other national and global goals and objectives in the framework of the 2030 Agenda. The comprehensive approach of the Regional Initiative addresses the reality of child labour from different priority issues at the regional level, which are the following: agriculture, value chains, decentralization, education, youth employment, migration, indigenous and afro-descendant populations, and information and communication technologies.

With a view to the International Year 2021, the Network of Focal Points will hold its 6th Annual Meeting virtually from October 27 to 30, 2020 to define priorities, redouble commitments and agree on its action plan on child labour in the context of the crisis associated with COVID-19 and the recovery stage.