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Pan-European and Euro-Mediterranean Regional Consultation Sofia, Bulgaria, July 23-25, 2007


Global March is organizing Pan-European and Euro-Mediterranean regional consultation with the view of new realities within GM and also the pressing need to reposition ourselves in a newly expanded European Union and the development of a Pan-European Trade Union Council including the countries of East Europe. The expansion of the EU offers a great opportunity to promote decent work and fundamental rights in the new EU member States and in the accession countries.

It is time when we should be open to identifying and capturing the new opportunities that come to us from the interdependence of the Euro-Mediterranean countries in the EU and those such as Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco in terms of meeting labour demands and imperatives of the supply chains. It offers possibility to further deepen confidence- building measures with the secular and moderate forces in Islamic countries. In the light of this we support the idea of integrating new partners from the Mediterranean and Northern African region which show higher rates of child labor and have greater challenges in ensuring universal access to all levels of education especially for girls. We are witnessing challenges from the countries in the Balkans where the school systems have suffered and increasing poverty has increased the incidence of child labour. Linked to this is the issue of trafficking of children.

Another important feature is that almost 90% of all development financing for the MDGs and EFA is emerging from Europe. The success of these two significant initiatives depends on addressing child labor as a priority. European donors have invested heavily in these and they do not want their investments to fail. Child labor remains a foremost impediment in this regard. That challenge offers a great opportunity for us to strengthen our work in these countries and expand the horizons of our work with meaningful and committed partnerships.

In the light of the above we need to recognize that the European coordination is of critical value in our future work, from the perspective both of expanding and reinvigorating the movement. We know that the communication between our office and European partners has been weak and the European coordination has also remained lacking at times. In this intervening period our work has grown tremendously and we have received some measure of success.

It has to be recognized that in 1998 ILO Convention 182 did not exist and GM was established to build much-needed global awareness. Today 163 countries have ratified Convention 182 and 148 have ratified the minimum age Convention 138. In 1998 there was no unanimous declaration by all the Governments of the world on Education for All Dakar framework of Action that makes universal primary full time quality education a fundamental right of every child. At that time there was no UN Gender Education Initiative and there were no MDGs to be achieved by 2015. In addition, in 1998 the ILO elaborated its Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which placed an obligation on all member States to eliminate child labour, regardless of ratification (at that time, only of C138).

All of these conventions and new mechanisms make it obligatory on the states to comply by eliminating child labor under14 years of age. However the irony lays with the fact that not only the wider Pro Nats network and its supporters but also some GM partners and some donors continue to work against these Conventions and instruments even though the world has moved way ahead in promising the children right to education and joyful living. We cannot ignore this issue any longer. Our perspective was confirmed with empirical work that child labor retards employability for adult men and women and a key way forward to bring labour sector reform is to eliminate child labor and expand labour opportunities for young adults.

GM has been able to highlight the incoherence in policy and practice around the core issues of poverty, child labor and education sector at the highest level of the donors, in the UN system and in the IMF/WB. We have been able to demonstrate that this incoherence is affecting the work of national governments. We have been able to successfully mobilize the formation of Global Task Force (GTF) on Child Labour and Education. We have successfully lobbied for the inclusion of child labour in education sector plans, strategies and in the PRSPs. We have been able to bring an informed perspective on this with the donors on how they can get value for money and investments in EFA and the MDGs by using their power of financing to make real differences to the situation of child labourers at country level.

Our desire is that Regional Coordinators should increasingly assume a leadership role in continuously redefining the agenda of GM from their perspective and expand their partnership base with strategic alliances. It is the need of the hour to define with you how best the European network can be strengthened and how its work can systemically feed and supplement our global advocacy work from Delhi, Brussels and Washington, D.C. In doing this we need to focus on how to improve future communication, build reliable networks and identify lobbying opportunities together.

Our vision is that the regional work needs to be financed by local and regional donors and this requires evolving innovative method of finding resources for European Coordination. Ideally, we see the need for a strong regional coordination but we are open to suggestions in this regard from you on what should be the future structure.

Our key request is to identify new partners in Eastern Europe and North Africa. Our interest is to know what you think about this enlarged meeting with the partners from North Africa like Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria and from Eastern Europe, including Romania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, Moldova etc. Do you think that East Europe should be combined or it should be kept separately?  Your inputs will guide us in this regard. The next meeting is proposed to be in July. The venue and exact dates will be communicated to you shortly so that you have information in good time to ensure your participation. We will like to evolve a regional long-term strategy after discussing with you and receiving inputs. At this time our concern is to get new contacts for the countries in the region particularly for Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and Finland. Your inputs will be appreciated. We want to know whom you consider as important actors in these countries to strengthen the GM.

Our collective strength has become somewhat trivial in comparison to our brand image. The key question to all who have stood loyal to the GM and in your love for the cause of the child labourers is what we need to do now to resurrect ourselves as a powerful movement in Europe. We need to understand ourselves why Europe is so critical for us in the short- and medium term. This consultation will help reflect collectively and deeper in this regard.

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