The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director-General, Guy Ryder, has reiterated the call to “rescue” the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), saying this should start in Durban.

Ryder said this during the opening session of the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour at Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban on Sunday.

According to the United Nations, the SDGs are designed to end poverty, hunger, AIDS, and discrimination against women and girls.

The SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030, all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

Ryder said the fifth Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour is the first to be held in Africa, and the last one before the 2025 deadline for the elimination of child labour, set under the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

“We are in the right place, at the right time. The right place because Africa is the continent from where the solutions to the global child labour challenge will emerge.

“The political commitment, policy innovations, and coordinated regional action, in the face of challenges perhaps steeper than in any other region, are evidence of that. Africa is an incubator for approaches to tackling child labour that the rest of the world can benefit from,” Ryder said.

“[We are at the right time] because the worldwide movement against child labour just received a wakeup call.

“Child labour has actually increased for the first time since we started measuring it 20 years ago. Today, there are 160 million children in child labour, half of them in work that puts their health, safety and moral development at risk; 89 million are very young – 5 to 11 years – and child labour is rising particularly in this age group. COVID-19 has made the situation more difficult still,” he said.

The outgoing Director-General posed the following question to delegates: “Will we allow progress against child labour to continue to stall, or will we summon the will, the resources and the vision needed to regain momentum and reach our common goal?” He said that the conference is a precious opportunity to give a clear answer.

“Some may say that child labour is an inevitable consequence of poverty, and we have to accept that. But that is wrong. We can never resign ourselves to child labour. We do not have to. Tackling the root causes such as household poverty is essential. But make no mistake, child labour is a violation of a basic human right, and our goal must be that every child, everywhere is free from it. We cannot rest until that happens,” Ryder said.

The 5th Global Conference is held to assess progress made towards eradicating child labour, discuss good practices implemented by the different actors around the world and identify gaps and urgent measures needed to accelerate the elimination of both child labour and forced labour.

The conference builds on four previous Global Conferences, held in Buenos Aires (2017), Brasilia (2013), The Hague (2010), and Oslo (1997).

The conference continues today with a panel discussion that includes the ILO DG, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, President of Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) Zingiswa Losi and experts in the areas of supply chain, development and child labour studies.

Source: South African Government News Agency