As part of our coverage of the 105th Session of the International Labour Conference, we sat down with experts on a whole range of topics to look at some of the biggest issues facing the world of work. These talks were broadcast live to an audience of thousands of people worldwide, who shared their thoughts and questions with our experts. Here’s a short list of some of the things that we learned.
The importance of employers in the worldwide movement against child labour has never been clearer. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights, including a child’s right to be free from child labour, is now widely recognized. Today, companies that don’t have a policy against child labour are outside the mainstream.
The challenge is to ensure that policy commitments achieve results — and this requires action on the ground, in workplaces and communities. I was in Blantyre, Malawi recently to train a company’s agronomists on combating child labour in agriculture. Every day, these agronomists — who are mostly young men and women — travel huge distances over rough terrain on Honda 125 motorcycles, visiting farms to advise farmers on when to plant, what fertilizers work best and when to harvest.
At the International Labour Conference in June this year, governments, workers and employers adopted a new Protocol against forced labour, supplemented by a Recommendation, which has been hailed around the world as a landmark treaty to protect human rights. The new instruments received overwhelming support from governments, workers and employers with 437 votes in favour, and only a handful of abstentions or votes against.
The Protocol builds on one of the oldest and widely ratified ILO conventions, the Forced Labour Convention (No. 29), which was passed in 1930. The initial aim of Convention 29 was to progressively abolish forced labour in colonial territories. As a result, it allowed for a transition period during which states could still make limited use of forced labour.