As football fever spreads with the kick-off of the World Cup in South Africa this Friday, the United Nations labour agency today urged the world not to forget the plight of an estimated 215 million children who have to work for survival and miss out on education and sports.
“Go for the goal – end child labour,” is the UN International Labour Organization’s (ILO) appeal to the international community ahead of World Day Against Child Labour, which will be marked on Saturday. The agency is calling particular attention to the target of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016.
“While billions are caught up in the excitement of the football World Cup, some 215 million children are labouring for survival. Education and play are luxuries for them. Progress towards ending child labour is slowing down and we are not on course to end its worst forms by 2016,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.
“We have to get the momentum going again. Let us draw inspiration from the World Cup and rise to the challenge with the energy, the right strategy and the commitment it takes to get to the goal,” he added.
World Day Against Child Labour events will be held in more than 60 countries involving governments, employers, workers, and UN, civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), according to ILO.
The events range from high level policy debates, to football matches and other sporting activities, public debates, media events, awareness-raising campaigns, cultural performances and other public activities.
Many of the activities will also focus new attention on the “red card campaign against child labour” initiative led by the ILO, including the publication of a resource kit produced in collaboration with FIFA that is aimed at using football to support work in child labour elimination projects.
In Geneva on Friday the International Labour Conference will also discuss the ILO’s new global report on child labour. On the same day, hundreds of local schoolchildren will participate in a solidarity event organized by a community association.
The World Day is taking place one month after more than 450 delegates from 80 countries met at a conference in The Hague convened by the Netherlands to agree on a road map to accelerate progress to reach the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016.
Agreement on the road map came as the ILO’s third global report on child labour warned that the global campaign against the scourge is at a critical juncture. The report shows that global efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour are losing momentum, and warns that unless they are significantly stepped up, the 2016 target will not be reached.
In a related development, Brazilian football star Robson de Souza, better known as Robinho, has lent his support to ILO’s campaign to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in Brazil.
Robinho, who will be part of the Brazilian squad at the World Cup, has agreed to be the face of the national campaign that is being carried out by the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) in Brazil.
The Brazilian Government has set 2015 as the goal to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in the South American country and 2020 for ending all forms of the problem.