Today, June 12, the global community commemorates World Day Against Child Labor with a focus on the essential role of education in combating child labor. I was honored to be in the audience just a day before World Day Against Child Labor, when Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi addressed a special sitting of the 104th Session of the International Labor Conference in Geneva. Kailash’s tireless crusade to end child labor and allow all children to claim their right to an education has removed thousands of children from exploitation and secured the issue on the agenda not only of international organizations but also governments, industry, and broader civil society. His advocacy, along with the efforts of civil society, was essential to the development of ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, now adopted by 177 of 189 ILO member nations, including the United States.
During his remarks, Kailash recalled the inception of the Global March movement in which tens of thousands marched in countries around the world to raise awareness against child labor crying "No more tools in tiny hands! We want books and education!" The march ended in Geneva during the June 1998 International Labor Conference in the exact room in which Kailash spoke last week. One year after the march, Convention 182 was adopted. Kailash praised the international community for the advances it has made in eliminating child labor but cautioned that there is still a long road ahead.
The U.S. Department of State has long been an advocate for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor. All children have the right to be free from labor exploitation and to receive an education. The advocacy of Malala Yousafzai, who shared the Nobel Prize with Kailash, illustrates the tremendous value that educated children bring to society, and the tremendous social costs of policies and practices that keep children away from schools. As the ILO, World Bank, and other multilateral development institutions have recognized, ensuring access to quality education for all children is one of the best ways to combat child labor and one of the best economic investments a developing country can make.
Of course, there is a distance between forming a global consensus and the elimination of the worst forms of child labor. The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor will continue to contribute to the fight because the American people believe that children have a right to childhood and education and are the foundation of a successful global community. Let us make sure that every June 12th we are closer to the realization of a world where children are free from exploitation.
About the Author: Sarah Fox serves as Special Representative for International Labor Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
For more information: