Press Release

IACHR Urges States to Take Immediate, Effective Steps to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

June 11, 2015

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Washington, D.C. - On the occasion of the World Day against Child Labor, commemorated on June 12, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to adopt appropriate measures to immediately eliminate types of exploitation known as the “worst forms of child labor.”

Convention 182 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) establishes that the “worst forms of child labour” include all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom, and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; the use of children for prostitution, for the production of pornography, or for pornographic performances; the use of children for other illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs; and work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm children’s health, safety, or morals. Under the terms of the convention, the worst forms of child labor in this latter category shall be determined by national laws or regulations, after a process of consultation.

“We recognize the efforts States have made in this area,” said Commissioner Rosa María Ortiz, the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child. “Civil society organizations that work with children and adolescents and participate in the consultations to determine the list of the worst forms of child labor should be taken into account. The voice of children, especially those who are at risk of child labor, should also be considered in order to better understand their vulnerabilities,” she added. “We call on the States to listen to their opinions concerning the preparation of a national list of the worst forms of child labor that should be prohibited, as well as in the consideration of measures to be adopted to protect children and adolescents from the types of work that impair their rights and to provide the necessary direct assistance to ensure the rehabilitation and social integration of children who are victims of exploitation.”

The IACHR provides ongoing support to the process of protecting and defending the rights of children in the Americas, and takes note of the challenges that remain in translating into reality the principles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “The unmet challenges are many and complex, and the Commission is prepared to work with the States to address these challenges, within the scope of its mandate and functions,” the Rapporteur said. She also emphasized that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child established the need to distinguish between the type of child labor that must be abolished and acceptable work done by children, including such activities that allow indigenous children to understand their identity and culture.

On another matter, the Inter-American Commission has noted that poverty and hunger place children at greater risk for all types of exploitation. The Commission recognizes the efforts that have been carried out and the progress made in the region with respect to poverty and in the area of social protection, but it notes that challenges remain. “When the State has a sturdy safety net that ensures assistance to cover the basic needs of low-income families, the risk that children will be exploited decreases,” said Commissioner Paulo Vannuchi, who is in charge of the IACHR Unit on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

In addition, the Inter-American Commission urges the Member States to adopt measures to widely publicize the rights of children, especially among children, parents, those who defend children’s rights, teachers, justice operators, police, members of the military, and groups of professionals who work with or for children. Along the same lines, the Commission urgently asks States to ensure that children who are not receiving a formal education are integrated into a high-quality educational system, and that the education they receive is culturally appropriate and responds to their needs. The Commission urges States to adopt measures to ensure that all children in the region can complete at least a primary education and have training opportunities that will prepare them for decent work, and to free children from all forms of harmful labor so as to ensure their social integration while also addressing the needs of their families.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 067/15