Progress towards the elimination of child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years, with a reversal of the downward trend and numbers reaching 160 million children suffering worldwide of this situation. These are the figures provided by UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which note a worsening of the phenomenon in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his Message to the FAO Global Meeting on the Elimination of Child Labour in Agriculture on November 2, Pope Francis stressed that "even more so when it manifests itself as exploitation, child labour becomes a scourge that cruelly harms the dignified existence and harmonious development of the youngest children, considerably limiting their opportunities for the future, as it reduces and damages their lives to meet the productive and lucrative needs of adults".
In this context, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2021 the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour: one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
In order to draw attention to this scourge and encourage coordinated initiatives to protect children, the Vatican COVID-19 Commission of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, together with the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the FAO, is promoting an International Conference on the topic: "Eradicating Child Labour, Building a Better Future", to be held on 19 November, in virtual format, from 14.30 to 16.30 CET.
The conference will focus on the persistence of child labour in the 21st century and the obstacles to overcoming this scourge. Attention will be paid to the issues of health and education to understand how child labour affects the dignity of children. Finally, the importance of dialogue and international cooperation will be stressed in order to jointly address a problem that crosses territorial and cultural boundaries.
During the meeting, a video will be projected that collects the Holy Father's thoughts and statements on the subject, and other short video contributions, made in the field, will deal with the denied rights of minors at work, how to promote their dignity, and the Church's commitment to building a world where the scourge of child labour has been healed.
The meeting will be opened by the greetings from the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Card. Peter K. A. Turkson; the Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi and the FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero. Among the speakers: Cornelius Williams, Associate Director for Child Protection at UNICEF; Michelle De Cock, Head of the ILO Research and Evaluation Unit; Nasreen Sheikh, founder of Empowerment Collective, in Nepal. There will also be testimonies from the field, the perspective of NGOs working against the scourge of child labour and the commitment of the local Church on the ground. Business models that put the dignity of children at the centre will also be offered.
The meeting will be closed by Msgr. Fernando Chica Arellano, head of the Holy See delegation to FAO, and by Maurizio Martina, Special Advisor to the Director-General of FAO.
To follow the meeting, simply register at the link: