Response of European Commission (November 7, 2005)


European parliament resolution on the exploitation of children in developing countries (),
with a special focus on child labour (July 5, 2005)

1. Rapporteur: Manolis Mavrommatis (PPE-DE/EL)

2. EP reference number: A6-0185/2005 / P6-TA-PROV(2005)0272

3. Date of adoption of the resolution: 5 July 2005

4. Subject: European parliament resolution on the exploitation of children in developing countries, with a special focus on child labour

5. Analysis of the text and Parliament’s request:

This is a comprehensive report. It recalls the background of the international and EU policy frameworks in the area of child labour. It specifically calls on the Commission to address children rights in its revision of the Development policy statement and in its country and regional programmes, with an emphasis on birth registration, the strategic partnership with ILO and the links with the right to education.

6. Respond to the requests and foreseen actions:

On 13 July 2005, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Joint Declaration on the European Union Development Policy, “The European consensus”. This proposal states that respect for human rights forms an integrated part of long term development and refers explicitly to children’s rights. Rights, capacities and essential services to address children needs are included in the first “Action Theme”. The Commission guidelines to implement this policy explain that the actions to confront HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, will include measures to support orphans and vulnerable children. The guidelines also reaffirm that the Commission’s priorities in education are quality primary education and vocational training and that the Commission’s social development policy framework promotes the protection from the worst forms of child labour.

The Commission supports institutional development and capacity building in 33 ACP countries where issues related to children rights can be discussed. It has allocated € 833 million to this field and an additional € 233 million at the 2004 Mid Term Review. In neighbouring countries, the Action Plans between the European Community and Jordan, Morocco, Moldova, Tunisia and Ukraine incorporate specific references to children’s rights issues pursuant to the UN Convention on the rights of the child.

In the European Initiative for Human Rights and Democracy (EIDHR), children's rights are included as a specific priority for financing during the years 2005-2006. Specific attention is given to the ratification and implementation of relevant international agreements, including the UN Convention on rights of the child and its Optional protocols and the Action Plan agreed at the UN special session on children in May 2002. Furthermore, children rights are mainstreamed in all thematic priorities under the EIDHR. For these reasons, it is not relevant to create a specific budget line.

Other “accompanying measures” include the specific training on children’s rights for Commission officials launched in 2004, the inter-institutional group on children rights, and a guidance Note for Commission Delegations on Children’s Rights.

With regard to trade, the Commission will investigate the legal and practical aspects of labelling schemes, including the feasibility of such schemes with respect to WTO international trade rules. Furthermore, the Commission will continue to pursue the promotion of core labour standards in bilateral agreements.

The Commission has launched a dialogue with European enterprises on Corporate Social Responsibility in order to encourage them to take their responsibilities in, among other areas, the fight against the exploitation of children. The Commission has also proposed an Action Plan for agricultural commodity chains to enhance coordinated efforts and codes of best practice. Finally, the Commission is elaborating a policy on how to encourage European consumers to choose products originated from fair trade and from companies respecting the OECD norms for multinationals.

In relation to specific actions to prevent child labour, the Commission signed in July 2004 a Strategic Partnership with the ILO in the field of development. One priority of this partnership is the prevention of child labour. In this context, the Commission and the ACP partners have proposed an action programme to fight child labour together with the ILO International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour. The action will focus on capacity building, targeted interventions and a legal framework to enhance children being freed up from child labour to access primary education. The overall budget foreseen is in the order of € 15 million. The ACP Sub-Committee Sustainable Development has endorsed this initiative in July 2005.

Some of the worst forms of child labour are related to trafficking. In this field of action, the Commission has supported a West African interregional collaboration in the fight against the trafficking of children. This programme has led to the Declaration of Libreville, which includes harmonisation of legislation against trafficking of children. Given the magnitude and prospects of the problem of Orphans and Vulnerable Children affected by HIV/AIDS in the Southern Africa, and their higher risk of being trafficked, the Commission is in the process of defining an Action Plan to prevent and mitigate child trafficking in the region. This would include strengthening national capacities on birth registration and tracking mechanisms for children at greatest risk of rights’ abuse.

The Commission is currently discussing a draft strategy on children and development. The draft sets the prevention of violence against girls as a priority area. The objective would be to target the needs of the estimated 1 million children, mainly girls, who are exploited in the sex industry, the 2 millions who undergo Female Genital Mutilation, the one third of all girls who are subject to coercive sexual relations and the one fifth who are victim of forced marriages. The scope of action should expand to all forms of sexual violence and initiatives should be identified at the national, regional and global level.

Concerning the links between child labour and education, the European Commission’s education policy in development cooperation is outlined in the Communication “Education and training in the context of poverty reduction in developing countries”1 (March 2002) and the subsequent Council Resolution on “Education and poverty” (May 2002). The European Community approach was further strengthened by the adoption of the European Parliament Resolution on education in May 2003. The Community policy is firmly anchored in the international community’s commitments to education as defined in the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All goals and focuses on basic education and gender equality. Overall, the Commission is allocating an estimated annual average of € 260 million2 to education. The largest part of these funds target basic education for children. In addition one also needs to take account of general budget support, which is linked to policy dialogue and provides incentives to increased allocation to social sectors and improved health and education outcomes. The indicators used guiding the release of the variable tranches of budget support are related to basic children rights and education such as for example the enrolment and completion rates of primary education.

1.  COM(2002)116 - C5-0333/2002 - 2002/21775COS.
2.  This covers support to ACP countries within the timeframe of the 9th EDF (2003-2007). For ALAMED (Asia, Latin America, Euro-Mediterranean partnership) countries, the programming periods vary from 2002-2004 to 2002-2006.

India Committee of the Netherlands - November 15, 2005