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November 20, 2001


20 November 2001 - Today, as the world celebrates its affirmed commitment to improve children's rights, UNICEF and FIFA are launching a campaign to promote the rights of the child. It seems very fitting that the federation representing the world's most popular sport among children and the organisation established to protect children should come together in efforts to raise awareness on children's rights.

However, it seems that FIFA is still not ready to "play fair" - not with child labourers who are exploited in the sporting goods industry and not with the millions of young football players who unknowingly use the products of this exploitation. FIFA has yet to fully comply with their own labour practice code which promises no use of child labour and living wages in its licensed goods production. "We hope that UNICEF is aware of FIFA's current lack of will to truly protect the rights of all children before entering into this partnership," says Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson of the Global March Against Child Labour.

In recent years, FIFA has taken steps in the right direction by sponsoring inspection systems in Pakistan and India to eradicate child labour. However, these measures only apply to a small fraction of the 17,000 FIFA-licensed goods and only deal with part of the code. The inspection pays attention only to the actual use of child labour but disregards the quality of working conditions and wages for adult workers in both India and Pakistan.

Furthermore, the report: "Dark Side of Football" which examines the reality of football stitchers in Punjab, India, reveals that there are still children working in India's export football industry for companies such as Adidas, Mitre, and Mundo. The pay for adult football stitchers in Punjab averages Rs. 30 (US$.60) per day, barely enough to buy a liter of milk and a half loaf of bread. This amounts to Rs.38 less per day than what they should get paid if they were guaranteed the legal minimum wage. The All Pakistan Federation of Trade Unions (APFOL) reports the similar situation in Pakistan.

Earlier this year, the Global March launched a campaign to address the issue of child labour in football production, which will culminate with the 2002 FIFA World Cup. On 31 May 2001, FIFA received an appeal from the Global March urging them to implement their policy on child labour and living wage. This appeal was delivered by Sonia a former child football stitcher at a press conference to kick off the Campaign in Japan. However even the child's sincere plea to help her friends and sisters attend school and have the freedom to play has so far been ignored by FIFA.

UNICEF can take this partnership as an opportunity to guarantee the rights of all children-especially those hidden in the shadows of football production-to receive a quality education, to play, and have a meaningful childhood. UNICEF is certainly able to demand that FIFA sets up a transparent monitoring mechanism and rehabilitation program for all former child labourers. Together UNICEF and FIFA are in the position to ensure that no child is deprived of their chance to blossom to their fullest potential.

The Day for the Rights of the Child, celebrated annually on 20 November, must mark the beginning of a genuine partnership between FIFA and UNICEF for the benefit of all children. With the world-wide respect UNICEF earns for their efforts and the energy FIFA generates among the youth of the world, this collaboration has great potential. With the continued efforts of UNICEF, FIFA, and global civil society, eliminating child labour and ensuring that "fair play" prevails in next year's World Cup is certainly an achievable goal.

Letter Global March Against Child Labour to UNICEF about their co-operation with FIFA

Report The Dark Side of Football

Website Global March Against Child Labour

For more information, please contact Gerard Oonk (+31-(0)30-2321340).

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep
Mariaplaats 4, 3511 LH Utrecht
The Netherlands
tel. +31-(0)30-2321340
fax +31-(0)30-2322246

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - November 20, 2001