International Labour Organization
International labour standards
One of the most widely ratified ILO Conventions is the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), which requires ratifying States to suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour. It defines the term as "work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily" - other than in certain excepted circumstances, for example, the performance of military service, and emergencies such as wars, fires, earthquakes and so on. It imposes an obligation on the ratifying State to punish the exaction of forced or compulsory labour as a penal offence and to ensure that penalties are strictly enforced.
Convention No. 29 is an important instrument to promote government action in countries where child bondage exists. Since it applies to everyone, whatever age, it protects children from forced or compulsory labour and is applicable to children in bondage and their exploitation in prostitution and pornography. Indeed, the Committee of Experts and the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards have been dealing extensively with the problem of the forced or compulsory labour of children in relation to the application of the Convention by several member States. The Committee of Experts has stated on several occasions that the forced labour exploitation of children is one of the worst forms of forced labour, which must be fought energetically and punished severely.
Under the ILO's Constitution, ratifying Members must report to the ILO on measures taken to implement the Convention. Such information is often supplemented by reports from ILO constituents, which might forward reports from NGOs or others concerned. Moreover, reports to the United Nations Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery are also considered by the Committee of Experts.
The new Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), and its accompanying Recommendation (No. 190), provide additional and powerful weapons for the elimination of all forms of child slavery. Adopted by the International Labour Conference in 1999, the Convention applies to all children under the age of 18 and obliges member States to act immediately against the worst forms of child labour, which include slavery and practices similar to slavery - such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom - forced or compulsory labour - including forced recruitment for armed conflicts - and the use of children in prostitution, pornography and illicit activities, in particular the production and trafficking of drugs. The Convention also requires adequate penalties and encourages member States to assist one another through international cooperation or assistance to combat the worst forms of child labour.
Ratifying States are required to adopt programmes of action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. These programmes are to include specific measures to prevent children from being exploited in forced labour and to rehabilitate and integrate them once they are removed from such exploitation. Thus, in addition to providing for a clear legal prohibition of child slavery, the new Convention is oriented towards immediate and effective action to assist the children concerned.
In 1998 the International Labour Conference adopted the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which reaffirms the commitment of the ILO's Member States to promote fundamental labour rights, whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions. The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour and the abolition of child labour figure prominently among these rights.
International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC)
Consistent with the new Convention and the Declaration, IPEC gives top priority to action which will bring an end to the worst forms of child labour, such as slavery and similar practices, the exploitation of children in prostitution, pornography and for illicit purposes. In addition, IPEC gives special attention to children who are particularly vulnerable, those who are very young and girls. Examples of IPEC-supported action are given in section 5.4 on action at national level and strategies for action against child bondage, and in section 5.5 on trafficking of children and commercial sexual exploitation.
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