European Parliament debate on Child Labour, 1 July 2003
Text of Question H-0405/03

'EU Support for the ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour?'

On 13 June 2002, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on child labour in the production of sports equipment which, inter alia, called for more funds to be made available to the ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (point 9). In view of this resolution, and the Commission's response to my question (Oral Question H-0515/02 July 2002), what action has the Commission taken or is planning to take in response to this resolution and specifically in relation to the call to fund the ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour?

Reply from Mr Pool Nielson, Commissioner for Development Co-operation

"Mr President, the European Commission shares the concerns expressed about the use of child labour in general and, particularly, in the production of sports equipment.

The Commission is establishing a strategic partnership with the ILO as a follow-up to the communication on building an effective partnership with the United Nations in the fields of development and humanitarian affairs and the communication on promoting care labour standards and social governance. In that context, careful attention will be given to possible support for the ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour.

Annual high-level meetings between the Commission and the ILO are held in the framework of the cooperation between the two organisations agreed in May 2001. The next high-level meeting will take place on 8 July 2003 - a week from now.

The Community is increasing its support for universal and compulsory primary education in all developing countries. It sees this as one of the most efficient means currently at its disposal to draw children out of the vicious circle of exploitation.

We place great emphasis on working with the ILO on this issue, both because of the problem of child labour as such, and because this is an area in which most people understand the whole rationale of strengthening governance and the rights that the ILO is working for."

Response from Proinsias De Rossa MEP

"I wish to thank Commissioner Nielson for his reply. I am pleased that steps are being taken by the Commissioner to follow up on the commitments already made, and look forward to the outcome of the meeting on 8 July.

The global statistics for the involvement of children in labour are really astonishing, particularly when you see the breakdown, where it is estimated that something like two million children globally are involved in prostitution and pornography and approximately six million children are in bonded or forced labour. The global figure is something close to 200 million for child labour.

Could the Commissioner indicate in what way we can hope to measure the success of the ILO and the European Union's efforts in this area? In addition, could he indicate how we can discourage the major sports companies which sell sports shoes and clothing at inflated prices in European stores? How can we avoid the situation that, when they come under pressure in India, they move to China to carry on exactly the same trade?"

Further Reply from Mr Poul Nielson

"This has to be focused on in all parts of the world. The main side here is as criminal as the production side. Very little is decided in these activities without being defined by the market in our rich part of the world.

There is the 'Red Card to Child Labour' action being taken by FIFA and the ILO to jointly combat child labour, a very good campaign that directly addresses exactly the problem we are talking about here. Matching this with the broader work of increasing respect for the basic principles that the ILO stands for will, I hope, make a difference. The measurement of progress here can be made in many ways. One is to see how many countries actually sign up to the legal instruments. This debate is one that we are pushing quite vigorously with our development partners."

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - July 15, 2003