Use the UN's development goals to stop harmful child labor

Right now, UN member states are negotiating the new development goals that will make the world more equal, prosperous and sustainable. At the same time, 168 million of the world's children are working in harmful jobs. The world's governments must understand the extent of the problem and ensure that children are actually included in development goals, writes Carolina Ehrnrooth at Barnfonden.

Today, on International Day Against Child Labor, we would like to remind Sweden's decision - makers that 168 million children work so much that it affects their ability to go to school. About half of the children, a staggering 85 million children, corresponding to the entire population of Germany, also engage in directly hazardous and dangerous jobs, such as mining.

The new development goals, which replace the Millennium Development Goals and apply from January 2016 and fifteen years onwards, are a great opportunity to get all the countries in the world to commit themselves to taking action against harmful child labor.

The proposal that is now on the table includes the eradication of harmful child labor as an intermediate goal. But once the world leader begins to negotiate to make the final decision, there is a risk that it will fall away. Sweden has a good reputation and a tradition of standing on the side of children. That is why it is important that we stand up for the children even behind the closed doors of the UN. We have a shared responsibility to ensure that the children's issues do not get lost in the negotiations.

Prevents schooling and well-being

Although the number of children at work has decreased over the past ten years, the UN estimates that 168 million children still have a job that harms their development. Children should not work in a way that prevents them from being children, that risks harming them mentally or physically, or that prevents them from going to school and getting an education. It may seem obvious, but for millions of children, slavery-like working conditions in, for example, agriculture, the construction, mining and manufacturing industries are commonplace. The world is losing millions of valuable thoughts and ideas when these children are not only deprived of their potential but also of their childhood and dignity.

In addition to the fact that the 195 countries that have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have both a legal and a moral responsibility to protect children, there are also financial incentives to stop harmful child labor. According to new UNESCO statistics, 58 million preschool children and 63 million young people of primary school age are not even enrolled in school, and for many of those enrolled, attendance is low.

Costs the world SEK 700 million

The long-term consequences of missing schooling will be costly for our communities if we do not act now. In a study commissioned by Barnfonden and ChildFund Alliance from the British think tank ODI, children's participation in the worst forms of child labor is estimated to cost the world up to SEK 700 million annually.

The argument is simple. The world cannot afford to ignore the problems that child labor can bring. Children who have to work in a dangerous environment or to the extent that they cannot go to school have limited opportunities to contribute to society. They find it more difficult to take part in societal development and economic growth and there is a great risk that their children will also be forced to work.

The countries of the world must guarantee school

World governments must listen to the UN recommendations: to ensure free, compulsory and quality education for all children. All countries in the world must also implement the necessary policies to ensure that all boys and girls have a safe and child-friendly educational environment. The UN's development goals have great impact. The new goals are adopted in September, until then the fight is ongoing so that the children are not negotiated away.

We want the Swedish government to take responsibility and follow the Swedish tradition of taking the side of children. We want the Swedish government to actively work to include children in the new development goals, now is the chance to give millions of children the opportunity for a better future. If we do not stand up for the children, then who will?

Carolina Ehrnrooth, Secretary General of the Children's Fund

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