The Hague, February 25-27, 2002


The international Conference on Combating Child Labour, meeting in The Hague, from 25-27 February 2002, reiterated concern about the exploitation of children by way of child labour. The meeting explored effective ways to investigate, identify and combat hazardous forms of child labour. It focussed on the potential of building alliances to address this problem.

The Conference recognizes the importance of pursuing the progressive elimination of child labour as stipulated by ILO-Convention 138 (1973) and the prohibition and immediate and effective action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour in conformity with ILO Convention 182 (1999), both Conventions having been ratified by 116 Member States, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and its optional protocols and notes that ILO-members have unanimously adopted the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its follow up (1998) whereby, all members have an obligation to respect, promote and realise the principles of all the fundamental labour standards, including the effective abolition of child labour.

The Conference concludes that:

  1. Universal, free and basic education, social dialogue, decent work and respect for fundamental principles and rights at work are prerequisites for the effective elimination of child labour;

  2. The effective elimination of child labour is closely linked to the implementation of the other fundamental labour standards as determined by the ILO; freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation;

  3. The effective elimination of child labour, including its worst forms, requires immediate and comprehensive action, taking into account the importance of free basic education and the need to remove the children concerned from child labour and to provide for their prompt rehabilitation and social integration and appropriate education and vocational training, while providing adequate alternatives to children and their families, including enhanced adult employment; similarly the universalisation of basic education is only possible with the effective elimination of child labour;

  4. The effective elimination of child labour contributes to and develops from sustainable economic growth and social progress, in particular poverty alleviation and universal quality education; more immediate solutions lie in good governance, public awareness, political will, improved access to basic education, and enactment and enforcement of labour legislation. The Millenium Development Goals and National Policy Frameworks for poverty alleviation, such as the PRSP's, provide a suitable policy framework for the effective elimination of child labour;

  5. Effective and time-bound measures are urgently required to stop the recruitment of new child labourers, to prevent the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labour and to provide the necessary and direct assistance for the removal of children from the worst forms of child labour and for their rehabilitation and social reintegration;

  6. As the national processes of identifying hazardous child labour, as set out in Article 4 of Convention 182, provide a crucial foundation for action, they must be undertaken soon after ratification, while taking into account the provisions of paragraph 3 and 4 on hazardous child labour of Recommendation 190, drawing on the expertise of national institutions and organizations. These processes should be completed as a matter of urgency with the results being widely disseminated;

  7. Specific attention should be paid to the different risks for boys and girls in hazardous child labour. In order to determine these types of work and circumstances under which girls are at special risk, the organisations involved in the determination of hazardous child labour should ensure that women and girls participate actively in this process;

  8. Both physical and mental aspects of health should be taken into account when determining if work or the circumstances under which it is carried out are hazardous. Situations that could affect the child mentally (stress, violence, isolation) have to be taken into account;

  9. Special attention has to be paid to combating child labour in the informal economy, as this is where most of the child labour cases are found, often in the most hazardous and hidden forms, including forced labour and slavery and situations where children are confined to the premises of the employer;

  10. Research and statistical data are to be kept up to date. Paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 of Recommendation 190 should serve as the guidelines for data collection;
  11. The competent government authorities to design and coordinate child labour policy should be clearly designated and identified;

  12. All efforts must be made by all concerned parties to promote corporate social responsibility and accountability taking into account the conclusions of this conference;

  13. Countries should ensure that national legislation on labour inspection is in place for combating child labour, both in the formal and informal economy and, where necessary, amend legislation to ensure universal coverage and access;

  14. Countries should strengthen their labour inspection services, develop functional inspection systems policies, provide these systems with adequate resources and fully meet their obligations under ILO Conventions 81 and 129, on labour inspection in industry and commerce, and in agriculture respectively. Partnerships among national labour inspectorates should be established in order to exchange experiences and best practices;

  15. All efforts must be made to ensure an inspectorate, whose composition reflects the diversity in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, religion and geography, giving due regard to in-service training to ensure that labour inspectorates may pay particular attention to issues of gender, linguistic and ethnic diversity in their monitoring strategies;

  16. Countries should develop multi-disciplinary and integrated approaches to combating and monitoring child labour which build upon the comparative advantages and complementary competences of different actors, including labour inspection services, other relevant public authorities, workers' and employers' organisations, NGO's, voluntary social initiatives, community based organisations, teacher organisations, school attendance inspectors, and the families and children concerned;

  17. Broad alliances should be developed at every level, with clear responsibilities for the different actors involved. Strengthening of social dialogue, including in the informal economy, is an important step in promoting, respecting and realising the fundamental labour standards and therefore in the effective abolition of child labour;

  18. Awareness about child labour, including its worst forms, and about feasible solutions, should be raised and information should be distributed to parents and children, workers, employers and their organisations, companies, ngo's, schools, labour inspectorates, health professionals, concerned authorities and other relevant actors.

Countries and relevant international agencies are urged to enhance international cooperation focussed on the elimination of child labour, including by supporting social and economic development, poverty eradication and universal free basic education. These conclusions should be recommended to the United Nations Special Session on Children, scheduled by the General Assembly for 8-10 May 2002.

Illustration Dick Bruna, 1997