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UN labour agency to launch new soccer-themed campaign against child labour

UN labour agency to launch new soccer-themed campaign against child labour

Capitalizing on the worldwide popularity of soccer, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) is set to launch its latest campaign against exploitative child labour practices this week with the start of the 2002 African Cup of Nations tournament Saturday in Bamako, Mali.

The "Red Card to Child Labour" campaign against the use of child labour is symbolized by the red card handed out by referees for serious violations of rules on the soccer field, the UN agency said in a statement issued at its headquarters in Geneva.

The ILO, which aims to take its initiative worldwide to include the World Cup, will formally launch the campaign Friday at a signing ceremony involving President Alpha Oumar Konare and co-sponsors from the Confédération africaine de football and the Comité d'organisation de la Coupe d'Afrique des Nations 2002.

The initiative intends to seize on the popularity of the African Cup of Nations 2002 to generate the widest possible public awareness of the harsh reality of child labour and encourage people to support the global movement against it, ILO said.

The campaign adds a new, symbolic element to the global struggle against child labour, exemplified by the rapid ratification by over 100 countries of ILO's most recent labour standard, the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182 adopted in 1999.

While Africa today is home to some 40 per cent, or about 80 million, of the world's child workers, the continent has in many ways led the way in the struggle against child labour, especially in its worst forms. Of the 115 countries ratifying Convention No. 182, 30 are from Africa, including the first two ratifying states, Seychelles and Malawi.

Following the launch of the "Red Card" campaign in Africa, the ILO plans to expand the initiative to Latin America, Asia and Europe. "Child labour is neither a sport nor a pastime," ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said. "Child labourers work hard - on the farms, in mines and quarries, or as domestic servants. Some are trafficked into slave-like conditions or prostitution. Millions are condemned to lifelong poverty and despair."

"Now, working hand in hand with the world's most popular sport, we hope to galvanize the global campaign against child labour with this potent symbol - the red card that means you're out of the game," he said.