The first steps in policy and programme formulation
Child labour problems cannot be eliminated overnight. Priorities therefore need to be established to ensure that the worst forms are dealt with first (see Chapter 2, section 2.4). Both long-term preventive measures which address the root causes of the problem, and short-term measures have to be identified to remove or protect children from unacceptable forms of child labour and to prevent other children from having to work under such conditions. This is where a policy framework on child labour becomes important. While most countries have similar problems and common concerns, there are no blueprints available that can be transposed "ready-made" from one country to another. To be effective, policies and programmes on child labour must take account of the socio-economic situation of each country: they must be country specific and be based on a genuine commitment from within the country to address the problem.
Policies, programmes and projects addressing child labour problems - as any other development problem - are best formulated within the framework of the programming cycle, which has four distinct interrelated phases:
The paucity of data on child labour has contributed to a sometimes emotional debate on the subject in which some tend to downplay the magnitude of the problem, while others exaggerate it. Lack of reliable data obscures the problem and can be counterproductive when it comes to setting national priorities for action. (This topic is discussed in detail in Chapter 3.)
Therefore, one of the first steps is the preparation of a national report on child labour and the organization of one or more planning workshops. A comprehensive report on child labour provides an overall description and assessment of the child labour situation in the country. A complete law and practice review, and an overview of existing policies and programmes that directly or indirectly bear on child labour and the measures already taken to deal with the problem, are prerequisites for a successful planning workshop on child labour. The report stimulates an exchange of views among potential partners on the core problems and facilitates the development of a national policy and plan of action.
Broad consultation on the report
In preparing the overview, it is important that all relevant parties in the combat against child labour - including potential ones - are involved from the very start in the preparation and analysis of the report, to ensure that the end product includes the views of all stakeholders. Key partners are the government agencies in the labour, education, social and economic development fields, workers' and employers' organizations, and non-governmental organizations. As such the preparation of the report on child labour and the development of priorities for action during the planning workshop are a first step in mobilising a broad social alliance against child labour.
In many countries, National Steering Committees or a special task force have been set up to overlook the preparation of the report. Their composition usually reflects the wide range of potential actors mentioned above.
Often, countries also organize "expert" meetings prior to the planning workshop to critically review the report and identify the major lessons that can be drawn from it. Such meetings enhance the quality and credibility of the report, and make the task of the planning workshop easier since the major issues to be discussed have been identified beforehand. The composition of the "expert" group is extremely important. The persons who make it up should be selected based on their widely recognized expertise and should not simply be representatives of a few ministries or other agencies.
Experience shows that a participatory approach to formulating a policy framework, based on sound information and involving all concerned parties, can build consensus on the real problems and priorities for action, and can be a good start for mobilizing broad public support. Over the years, the ILO has supported many countries in organizing national planning workshops on child labour. Experience also shows that a competent situation analysis, followed by the organization of one or more discussion forums or planning workshops where priority target groups of children are determined and broad fields and forms of action are outlined, can be a good start in addressing the problem systematically. The consultative forums serve as venues for formulating the policy framework and a programme of action as a collective and collaborative effort among the different sectors involved.
Organization of multi-sectoral forums for discussion
After collecting and compiling sound information, multi-sectoral forums are conducted to discuss the national report, and to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of existing policies and programmes in addressing child labour. Meticulous preparations are made for these meetings. A wide array of participants are invited, with careful thought given to what represents the optimal number, as meetings that are too large are not always productive. The appropriate level of the participants and adequate representation of the different regions in the country should be seriously considered. Appropriate facilities, for example, concerning meeting-room sizes for plenary as well as group work, facilitate productive interaction. Appendix 1.2 provides practical tools and ideas for group work in planning workshops on child labour aimed at identifying priority target groups, core problems and strategies for action.
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