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Concept Note

The first Children’s World Congress on Child Labour will be held in Florence, Italy on 10-13 May 2004. Organised by the Global March Against Child Labour, the event will bring together 300 children to participate in the first ever international conference where children are the main speakers, decision-makers and beneficiaries. The children, who are mainly former child labourers, will meet and discuss the issues they face in life and will express their experience of child labour and their solutions to this complex problem that still affects more than 246 million children worldwide.

Children, more than anyone else, are concerned with the present situation. They have first-hand knowledge of the suffering that is brought by child labour. For that reason the children themselves must be the ones who analyse the situation from their own perspective, propose solutions, and, in their own language, tell the world how to build a more equal and humane world for them and future generations.

In 1998, children began a march of 80,000 kilometers across the globe, grabbing the world’s attention, and bringing to light an issue that before had been largely neglected. They led the worldwide mobilisation against child labour, and their efforts culminated one year later with the historic and unanimous adoption of Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The Convention calls on governments to take urgent action to eradicate the worst forms of child labour.

Despite the enthusiasm with which over 140 countries have ratified Convention 182, subsequent actions by these countries has not been enough to guarantee a quality life for children from underprivileged families. Today, more than one in six children in the world still works instead of attending school.

Five years after the birth of the international movement against child labour, children will take the initiative once again. The goal of the World Congress is that children have the opportunity to emerge as social activists and world leaders at the forefront of the fight for children’s rights.

What is the Children's World Congress on Child Labour Seeking to Achieve? 

Overall Goal

  • To empower children to lead worldwide efforts to end child labour and to ensure free, quality education for all children.
  • To give children a platform to share their experiences and learn from one another while discovering other’s challenges, accomplishments and dreams in order to further their role as leaders in the struggle against child labour.
  • To remind governments of the promises they made to children when they ratified ILO Conventions 182 and 138 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and urge governments to fulfill their obligations ensuring that child labour and education becomes both national and international priority issues.
  • To enhance and strengthen child participation in all processes of decision-making, ensuring that children’s participation becomes an important part of policy-making processes.
  • To enhance child and youth movements against child labour in order to motivate young people to take actions against child labour. 
  • To urge international organisations to increase their support to programs aimed at eradicating child labour, poverty reduction, achieving universal, free, and quality education for all children.
  • To urge the international community to take concrete and effective measures to achieve tangible, time-bound goals to eradicate child labour and poverty and aim at achieving universal, free and quality education for all children.
  • To elicit the interest of more people and organisations to support the cause of the rights of children.
  • To establish a standing children's committee, selected by World Congress participants, to facilitate the communication and implementation of the decisions made in the World Congress and to represent the voices of children in global, regional, or national discussions or actions on child labour.

Who will be the Participants of the Congress?

Former child labourers who are now active for the rights of children and children who are currently working will meet at the Congress to share their thoughts and experiences. They will decide on and demand actions they consider necessary to eliminate child labour around the world.

Also, to attend will be child activists, both in and out of school, involved in efforts to end child labour. They too, will share their thoughts and experiences and their support to fight for children’s rights.

Special invitations will be extended to individuals from international organisations, NGO’s, trade unions, donor agencies, UN organisations and governments who are involved in the fight for children's rights. The child participating will have the unprecedented opportunity to hold discussions with and to question the adult who will be attending the Congress.

Selection Process

The participants will be selected with an equal balance of girls and boys between the ages of 10 and 17 years old. They will be chosen by a fair and democratic selection process where children themselves will select their own representatives at a series of national and regional consultations. These young representatives will present the views, concerns and problems of their country or region.

Beyond the World Congress

Participants from the World Congress will be involved in:

  • Following-up on the decisions and recommendations made during the World Congress.
  • Meeting with different groups involved in decision-making at different levels to advocate for concrete actions based on their demands. The groups may include politicians, civil society leaders, and representatives from international organisations, such as UN specialised agencies and funding agencies.
  • Participating in discussions on the eradication of child labour and promotion of universal, free, quality education.
  • Advocacy at local and national levels to ensure that the demands of the World Congress are heard and felt at all levels of decision-making.