Regional Initiative Latin America and the Caribbean free of Child Labour: an exportable formula for sustaining progress in the fight against child labour

17 de May de 2022

Latin america and the caribbean

Countries, employers' organisations and workers' organisations from Latin America and the Caribbean share the key components of their response as a tripartite platform at the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour.

Ending child labour in all its forms is a global commitment expressed in Target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, according to the latest estimates on child labour (ILO-UNICEF, 2021), during the last measurement period - prior to the COVID-19 pandemic - the figures rose to 160 million children and adolescents in this situation. Despite the global trend, the reduction in rates in Latin America and the Caribbean has been sustained. This sustained progress is due to a formula shared throughout the region: Regional Initiative Latin America and the Caribbean free of Child Labour.

"In the region, we have made sustained progress in the eradication of child labour over the last 15 years despite the global trend. This is due to a good combination of public policies to combat child labour", emphasized Philippe Vanhuynegem, Chief of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch, ILO, at the thematic session "Innovation and partnership: the formula for a region moving closer to ending child labour", held during the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour (15-20 May 2022, South Africa).

"It is not a matter of words, there has to be action, and that is what we are doing in the region through this initiative", remarked Keith Bell, Minister of Labour and Immigration of the Bahamas, in his introduction of the first component of the Regional Initiative formula: a political commitment that has been expressed and formalised by the region through 44 institutions in 30 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The joint work of this regional instrument is possible thanks to its network structure which is made up of focal points from governments, employers' organizations and workers' organizations. "The Regional Initiative was driven by the countries and for the countries", recalled Paola Egúsquiza, Workers' Focal Point of the Regional Initiative and Defence Secretary of the Autonomous Workers' Central of Peru (CATP). Cecilia Flores, President of the Peruvian Institute of Business and Human Rights (IPEDHU) and representative of the National Confederation of Private Business Institutions (CONFIEP) highlighted the tripartite nature of the Regional Initiative, an essential feature to work on a complex reality such as child labour.

"The Regional Initiative is a jewel: tripartite, ambitious, realistic, in unanimity, audacious and open", said Fernando Jiménez-Ontiveros, Director of Multilateral, Horizontal and Financial Cooperation of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), when mentioning the strategies, objectives and results of the Regional Initiative. Precisely, one of the specific strategies designed in this regional action is the Child Labour Risk Identification Model (CLRISK), a model that makes it possible to anticipate the appearance of child labour at local levels and respond in a preventive manner with efficient local public policies. Implementing the CLRISK means taking a new look at existing statistical data in the countries, optimising the resources already available. This was explained by Andrés Espejo, consultant for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and member of the CLRISK design team as part of the inter-agency work with the ILO.

The construction of this preventive model is the result of the second component of this formula: regional investment for local impact, which finds a favourable ecosystem for its development in South-South and Triangular Cooperation. Through these mechanisms, countries have managed to pool their lessons learned and build solid responses that countries are adapting to their own reality. "South-South cooperation has tangible results through the exchange between countries, and the CLRISK is evidence of this. This, little by little, is building a regional formula with its own identity in each country," said Mariana Gonçalves Madeira, Deputy Director and General Coordinator of Planning and Cooperation of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), who highlighted the importance of exporting the Regional Initiative formula to other regions of the world.

As a direct result of the CLRISK, the first public policy for the prevention and eradication of child labour in the municipality of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, Mexico, has been designed. To illustrate the results of the application of this instrument, David Zamora, Secretary of Municipal Economy of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, presented on this experience.

The third component shared by the region is the building of a network of partnerships to sustain progress against child labour. Thus, the Regional Initiative has been able to develop strong roots with development partners and cooperation agencies, which also explains the progressive decline in child labour rates over the last three measurement periods. "Among several advances, 6 countries in the region reflect significant progress against child labour. As such, Latin America and the Caribbean is an example of innovation that should be replicated in Africa and other regions of the world," remarked Thea Lee, Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs at the United States Department of Labor (USDOL).

Cooperation with Spain has also been crucial to the progress achieved. Thus, María Luz Ortega, Director of the Andalusian Agency for International Development Cooperation (AACID), remarked on the importance of supporting the Regional Initiative to achieve the construction of the CLRISK. "The CLRISK is an innovative tool that works with a territorial approach and is aligned with our cooperation. To achieve Target 8.7, it is urgent to generate policies that leave no one behind and that have a direct impact on the people who are most vulnerable to this reality". Likewise, the long-standing work with the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) occupies a fundamental place within the regional formula, as it constitutes two decades of work with a shared vision on child labour, but also a vision that is focused on the future until Target 8.7 is achieved.

"The Regional Initiative needs to be showcased and shared. The exchange with other regions, such as Asia and Africa, would help children and adolescents around the world to find greater opportunities in the future. Undoubtedly, our commitment must continue and AECID is a stable partner to develop this theme" underlined Fernando Jiménez-Ontiveros (AECID).

A shared political agreement, regional investment with local impact and a network of partnerships for the sustained reduction of child labour are the three components that make up the formula of the Regional Initiative, which has allowed for a consistent reduction of this reality until 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the progress achieved for more than a decade and forces us to intensify efforts to push for the last remaining leg of the journey towards Target 8.7.

As Pilar Rodriguez, Chief Technical Advisor of the Regional Initiative Latin America and the Caribbean free of Child Labour stated, "we have many reasons to end child labour: 8.2 million children and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean and 160 million in the world".

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