ECOWAS Member States have been called upon to harmonise efforts at enhancing the legal framework governing child trafficking and labour to eliminate the scourge in the sub-region.
The call was made at a regional seminar jointly organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the International Labour Organisation, ILO, ECOWAS Parliament and UNICEF in Abuja.
The Director, ILO Country Office for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Mr Dennis Zulu said that the respect for child rights was critical to development in the sub-region.
Mr. Zulu explained that the third Global Report on Child Labour revealed that 168 million children were involved in child labour globally with 85 million involved in hazardous work.
“Sixty per cent of the 168 million of the children are involved in agriculture and most of our countries depend on agriculture as the number one sector in our economies.” “Most revealing is the fact that the rural and informal economy account for significant proportion of the children working in child labour.” “It is therefore important if we are going to address this problem of child labour and trafficking, we must adopt a collective effort involving all stakeholders’’. zulu stressed.
Mr. Zulu stated that one of the ways that ECOWAS was proposing to fight child labour and trafficking was through the promotion of international legal standards.
He encouraged member states to ratify ILO conventions that specifically targeted child labour and trafficking.
According to him, “We are encouraging member states to look at possibilities of ratifying UN convention on domestic work.”
Mr. Zulu also encouraged members to enhance implementation of necessary legal texts that addressed child labour and trafficking and commit sufficient funds in their national budgets to fighting the scourge.
“And as opinion leaders, we have a responsibility of going out there and speaking about these problems and taking leadership in terms of trying to put in place interventions that will ultimately lead to the elimination and worst forms of child labour.” he stated.
In his address, the representative of IPU, Mr Agbre Jean-Albert called on the members of parliament to harmonise their actions for “effective results”.
He also solicited for enhanced inter regional parliamentary cooperation, saying such cooperation will promote a coordinated approach to fighting child trafficking and labour.
“I will like to place particular emphasis on cooperation; the parliament remains a member group of actors whose actions should be harmonised for more effective results.” “I also seize the opportunity to advocate for the strengthening of inter-regional parliamentary cooperation, particularly between West and Central Africa, to render the environment more hostile to child traffickers through concerted and coordinated action.” Agbre Jean-Albert urged.
He added that the seminar would provide a platform for members to share experiences and explore the possibilities of enhancing legislation on child trafficking and labour.
Promotion of child rights
On his part, the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Moustapha Cissé Lo called for the enhancement of parliamentary efforts in the promotion of child rights in the sub-region.
Mr. Cissé Lo said members needed to be “continually vigilant to meet up with the expectations of our peoples”.
“We as parliamentarians can be effective when we consider bills and budgets our countries present to us and concerns relating to human rights should be reflected on. “We should increase parliamentary efforts towards the promotion of child rights and create the legal environment for the promotion of human rights,” he said.
The two-day regional seminar would examine national and regional synergies in the fight against child trafficking and forced labour in the region.