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Conversation about child labour and the right to education with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education

Wednesday, 15 June 2005 -- all day (10:00-22h00 GMT/UTC)


An estimated 246 million children are engaged in child labour. Ensuring access to quality basic education is critical to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. Governments have an obligation to provide compulsory and quality elementary education for each child. Join Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, and HREA staff for a chat about child labour and the right to education on the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labour 2005.


Background

The following websites and documents provide background information on child labour and the right to education:

Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education to the 61st session of the UN Commission on on Human Rights PDF file
World Day Against Child Labour
Study Guide on the human rights of Children & Youth
Study Guide on Slavery & Forced Labour
Study Guide on the Right to Education
Other educational materials on child labour
The Right to Education Project
Education for All

 

Featured Guest: Mr. Vernor Muñoz Villalobos (Costa Rica)

Vernor Muñoz answering questions in the chat sessionMr. Vernor Muñoz Villalobos was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education in 2004. Mr. Muñoz works at the Costa Rican Ombudsman's Office in San José, Costa Rica. He is also an advisor on human rights education and teaches at the University of Costa Rica.

 

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From the Moderator:

Good morning/afternoon/evening!

Thank you for joining today's conversation about child labour and the right to education.

We are very pleased and honoured to have with us Vernor Muñoz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, who has made himself available to answer questions despite his extremely busy schedule.

You are encouraged to submit questions, or discussion points, to Mr. Muñoz or HREA staff. To ask a question, click at the "Ask Question" link on the bottom of the page.

-Frank Elbers, Moderator

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Question by Lynn Holland (USA):

I currently teach courses in human rights and comparative politics. I would like to ask what you feel is the best avenue for helping children out of the poverty cycle that leads to child labor. Is educational opportunity alone enough? Should we focus on rights legislation and international monitoring? Or should we make debt relief a priority? For those concerned, how can we best assist?

Many thanks for your time today.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Lynn:

Thanks for your message. In my point of view, poverty is not a consequence of the lack of education, even though lack of education obviously worsens and prolongs poverty. We must be aware of the tendency to expect everything of education, including solutions for economical problems (solutions that must be taken, in the first place, by politicians). Child labour isn't in all cases a phenomenom of poverty because there is a huge population of girls and also boys working in domestic labour that are not necesarily linked with economical facts, but with patriarchal roles.

This consideration allows us to understand that the struggle against poverty and child labor must be faced in "horizontal" strategies (rather than a vertical intervention), fully integrated in a public policy that includes civil society participation and specific child-centered educative sensitivity. These strategies needs to take into consideration all kinds of measures in all kind of social spaces, including human rights legislation, international monitoring, debt relief, gender aproaches, schooling policies and alternative education programmes, among others.

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Question by Jeannette Nduwamariya (Rwanda):

In a small country like Rwanda, where children have lost their parents due to the genocide, we have been working with them, providing uniforms and school material etc but now I am coming from a field visit where I met one lady (16 years) who could not attend school as she has to cultivate for her young sister who is 11 years old. She said "I could not leave our small house and if I go what can we eat? I have to cultivate in my neighbor's field in order to get food". What kind of advice can you give me??

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Jeannette:

Greetings! I hope you are doing well. I would like to thank you for your very important work. In this case, you could be the first step for the answer you are looking for. Enhancing awareness, solidarity and commitment within local and international levels should help to understand that emergency situations require creative responses. This specific problem can’t be solved through a conventional educational system. In this case, school must go to the lady, instead of the lady to the school. However, in the ideal context, this girl child shouldn’t have to work, but should be studying. In the real world, my advise would be: create or design special programmes to take education out of classrooms.

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Question by Ellen Moore (USA):

Couldn't the United Nations initiate a Teach Corps (loosely modelled on Teach for America and the Peace Corps) which sends college and junior college grads from countries all over the world, at subsistence pay, to the most education-needy countries for a two year stint providing basic education in the K through 6 grade range? This program would both educate the millions who need the basics and sow harmony and understanding among nations.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Ellen:

Thanks for your question. Even when I recognize the excellent work that many volunteers organizations have done in several fields, including education, I have my doubts regarding your suggestion, but of course that doesn’t mean that cooperation activities aren’t important and many times crucial for social endeavours. As you may agree, quality education needs to be linked in the human development context of a country, strongly led by requirements of citizenship building. In this sense, United Nations field presence must support substantive actions aimed to strengthen capacities and national programs. Assistance activities of the UN need to be considered as complementary measures, however.

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Question from Nedjeljka Sindik (Serbia and Montenegro):

In my country child labour and right to education is a problem of the minority community--mostly Roma population and obvious in refugees and IDP [internally displaced persons, Mod.] population. Is there anywhere else a similar situation (except former Yugoslavia) and any activities or policies in other countries that could help us to develop ours, and to do something about it?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Nedjeljka:

Thanks for your question. Yes, indeed, the minority Roma population suffers terrible discrimination in several fields, not only education. As long as I know, this kind of discrimination-exclusion-segregation is present in Central and Southeast Europe, mainly in Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, FYR Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovakia (but this is not an exhaustive list). Between 7 to 9 million people belong to these communities and groups. It is said that in some countries Roma have a 70 percent unemployment rate. So you can see how deprived they are, especially in the case of young students, who often times receive a “second class” education.

Last February, government leaders and Roma activists from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, FYR Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovakia signed in Sofia the Decade Declaration for Roma Rights. This event could be considered as a statement of intentions to improve the situation (not necessarily a program for action).

At the United Nations human rights website you can find a lot of information related to the situation of the Roma, as well as in treaty bodies web links.

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Question from Nasser Adawi (Oman):

Most of the countries with high child labour are poor and lacking democratic principles. If such countries could solve the poverty problems effectively, then they will need to set first democratic values into their governing system. The problem of child labour can not be solved by humanitarian organizations alone; political leaders of such countries will have to be involved.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Nasser:

I appreciate your participation. Thanks! It is true that many poor countries have high levels of child labour. But it is also true that several industries of rich countries pay for the cheap manual labour and work of these children. Democratic values aren't abstract principles that have to be set once poverty has been overcome. On the contrary, democratic processes have to be learned and practiced within the implementation of public policies and international agreements on human rights for all. Democratic principles mean praxis of respect and opportunities for everyone. When we make a differentiation between democracy and welfare, we start dividing dignity.

I agree with you: child labour can not be solved by humanitarian organizations alone.

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Question from Olufunke Oluyemi (Nigeria):

I would like to know whether there is a provision for free education to children and at what levels and whether it should differ from country to country or is universal as enshrined in the child's act [UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Mod.].

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Olufunke:

You pointed out a central matter of my mandate, because you have stressed education as a human right, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (these three documents make up the International Bill of Rights), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child –inter alia- clearly state.

Free of charge quality education is a human right for all people, without consideration of race, religion or nationality. Therefore, the existence of fees in many countries (even in the 27 countries that are considered as having serious difficulties in meeting the target of 100-per-cent school enrolment by 2015) hampers the realization of the right to education.

Sadly, in some of the key international instruments, such as the Durban Declaration, this legal guarantee only covers primary education. In practice, free education is still a dream, not only because the existence of fees, but also because in many countries families are compelled to pay for uniforms, text books and so on, that create barriers to education.

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Question from Julia Cornish (Canada):

Mr. Muñoz, I'm wondering if you can tell me of a country or countries where the rate of child labour has been successfully curbed through improved access to education. What key factors are contributing to their success?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Julia:

Thanks. This is a hard question that can be read in several ways. I’m choosing a critical interpretation of it.

Child labour isn’t a static illness that can possibly be cured by a sort of “deus ex machina” named education. Education isn’t a tool to be used exclusively for that purpose either. So, the relation between child labour and the schooling processes, are not automatic. Even more, many children can also have access to education and would still be working after or before attending school. The lack of indicators and statistics doesn’t contribute to analyze alleged achievements in such matters, due to the multi-sectoral nature of child labour's causes and consequences. Consequently, I could give you a list of countries today, that tomorrow will be useless.

One could think that successful factors that contribute to reduce child labour through education mostly can be found outside the education system: educated parents, educated family members and an educated community could actually play an important role in the progressive elimination of child labour.

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Question from Fonong Fevant Fon (Cameroon):

Why are these issues coming up year in year out and there are no changes taking place in Africa? Can the UN not sanction these countries violating the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Fonong Fevant:

I understand and share your concern, but it is unfair to ignore important changes in the field of education that lately have been taking place in Africa. Let me give you some examples: the number of primary schools in Kenya rose by 27.2 per cent between 1990 and 2002, and the number of girls enrolling in schools is reckoned to have increased by 49.3 per cent over the same period. In Uganda, the number of children in formal education has increased from 3 to 5.3 million since the introduction of universal primary education, which shows that approximately 2 million children were outside the school system before this programme was implemented.

I could also give you other examples of deprivation and backwardness. But, truly, I couldn’t say that nothing is going on. Obviously, the whole world owes to Africa, in many senses, in many forms, and this continent still has severe problems, almost in all fields. The sub-Saharan continent reveals a complex context characterized by a huge diversity of issues, cities, politicians, cultures and persons. Many of them have been punished, many of them are now dead and many are still trying to understand what happened with the ancient history of people that, against all odds, nowadays live and fight for their rights.

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Question from MaryRose Godbout (Canada):

I know we are trying to eliminate child labour and give children access to education, however my question for you is: is it going to be free access or how will this plan go into action. The reason I'm asking is because usually children suffering from child labour have some kind of poverty within their family.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Hi MaryRose - thank you for your important question. Free of charge quality education is a human right for all people, without consideration of race, religion or nationality. Governments have an obligation to provide free, compulsory basic education.

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Question from Surya Prasad (India):

Sir, I am a student of Master in Disability Rehabilitation Administration from India. I have one question: what is the percentage of children with disability labourers in the world and India?

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HREA staff answers:

Dear Surya,

Thanks for your important question. Mr. Muñoz plans to publish a report on the situation in education of children with disabilities. Unfortunately, as far as we know, there are no statistics about the percentage of children with disabilities that are child labourers, but we will search for them and perhaps can present them later today. Here are some other statistics/facts that show how urgent the problem of child labour is:

246 million children are child labourers. The largest number of working children –
127 million – age 14 and under are in the Asia-Pacific region. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest proportion of working children: nearly one-third of children age 14 and under (48 million children). Another 2.5 million working children are in the developed economies, and 2.5 million in transition economies.

73 million working children are less than 10 years old. Every year 22,000 children die in work-related accidents. Most children work in the informal sector, without legal or regulatory protection: 70% in agriculture, commercial hunting and fishing or forestry; 8% in manufacturing; 8% in wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels; 7% in community, social and personal service, such as domestic work.

These numbers are from the International Labour Organization.

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Question from Pavai Ganesan (India):

What can I as an individual do to improve this cause?

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HREA staff answers:

Sometimes the sheer size of the problem is overwhelming. One concrete action is to lobby your government to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention (182) on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. As of 17 May 2005, 23 countries have NOT ratified this crucial convention: Afghanistan, Armenia, Australia, Burma, Cambodia, Cuba, Eritrea, Guinea-Buissau, Haiti, India, Kiribati (Republic of), Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Sierra Leone, Soloman Islands, Somalia, Suriname, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela. If you live in a country which still has not ratified ILO Convention 182, you can write to the relevant government representative (usually the Minister of Labour) and urge them to ratify and implement the Convention as soon as possible. Ratification is the first essential step towards eliminating the worst forms of child labour in all countries around the world, and successful implementation is crucial for its effectiveness in protecting children from hazardous forms of labour. A sample letter can be found at the Anti-Slavery International website.

During the chat we will post other specific actions you can undertake.

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Question from Kimberly Wescott (USA):

Sadly, I will be unable to join the general discussion. However, I would like to submit these comments in hope of stimulating some dialog on this subject. Education is too often seen as a means to an end. Governments have an obligation to educate young people in order to turn them into skilled workers. I do not accept that. The purposes of education begin and end with the individual. Self-actualization, critical thought, and knowledge to enhance understanding of the human condition are the main purposes of education. These are the things we owe to our children. Not the feeling that they are in a system meant to herd them into jobs.

Becoming an informed decision maker, a critical thinker and an eager life-long learner are the highest goals of education. Skilled work is periferal at best. I will certainly be with you all in thought tomorrow if not in person or e-person. Best wishes. Kim

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Hello Kimberly,

Many thanks for your participation that allows me to stress one of my stronger positions on the right to education, related to the aims of education. Education enables children, individually and collectively, to develop their personalities, talents and abilities and to live a full and satisfying life within society. I can not agree with the utilitarian tendency that sees education as a provider of “human resources” for the necessities of the labor market.

Many of the international human rights instruments have already defined the full development of the human personality and the strengthening of human rights as the object of education [for example article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "...Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms", Mod.]. It is clear, then, that the gap between aims and actions in the field of education is the product of long-standing historical distortions that encapsulate the contradictions and tensions of economic systems and patriarchal cultures.

 

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Contribution from Mavis Kyakilika Bota (Zambia):

Your response to Jeanette Nduwamariya (Rwanda) provides food for thought. The situation in my country of children who have lost their parents is similar. The difference is that many have lost parents due to HIV/AIDS and are either nursing their parents at very tender ages or are fending for their siblings. Cases are too numerous to quote here. Bringing education to the child out of the classroom is a great idea. However in our situation lack of skilled manpower due to migration is a major challenge.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Hi Mavis - thank you for sharing this with us. Obviously we have to be as creative as possible to tackle such terrible challenges.

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From the HREA staff:

We promised to further research Surya Prasad's (India) earlier question about the percentage of children with disabilities that are involved in child labour. According to Anti-Slavery International there is indeed very little information available about the impact of disability on child labour and they write that research is sorely needed in this area. However, there is evidence of children being intentionally disabled for exploitation such as begging. Furthermore, disability is often, of course, a cause of poverty. So, disabled children or children of parents with disabilities are likely to be more vulnerable to poverty-associated risks of discrimination that cause child labour. Anecdotal evidence suggests that like women, children with disabilities (and disabled adults) are less likely to get equal pay for equal work.

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Contribution from Nasser Adawi (Oman):

Oman is one of the signatories of the ILO treaty prohibiting child labor. Unprecedented rise in the standard of living has shielded young Omanis from demeaning jobs and exploitive sweatshops, sexual exploitation and slavery that are hallmarks of the situation for youth in some developing countries. In the traditional rural culture of Oman, children follow the occupation of their family that has contributed to subsistence economy. These may include farming and agriculture, animal husbandry and craftsmanship for local consumption. Prior to modernization, some children took apprenticeship from family mode of life. Perhaps this may not constitute child labour though conceptually it is. However, exploitation of children as seen in some parts of Asia and some Arab countries like 'camel-race children' is largely unknown in Oman.

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HREA staff answers:

Dear Nasser - thank you for sharing this information with us, which for sure few people are aware of. "Domestic servitude", as it is sometimes called, is certainly a form of child labour (see HREA's study guide on Slavery and Forced Labor for descriptions and definitions of child labour). The ILO statistics we presented earlier confirm that 70% of children work in agriculture and related activities in the informal sector.

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Question from Guide Alberto (Peru):

How do you control, or try to, the NGOs' actions against child labour?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Hola Guido Alberto:

This is an interesting question referring to NGOs' responsibility for their actions. Certainly, a misunderstood task or a wrong activity of an NGO could produce undesirables effects in a given country. To promote work training for children, instead of education, for instance, could be considered as a mistake carried out by an NGO. Necessary accountability frameworks must be developed on the activities, for sure. Governments and NGOs networks could be those in charge of feeding back.

Gracias por tu pregunta. Un abrazo.

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Question from Rónan Nolan (Ireland):

What can we do? Will giving money help or are there other forms of support we can give?

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HREA staff answers:

Dear Rónan,

This question will be asked many more times today. Supporting or joining organisations that fight child labour is certainly one way to help eliminate child labour (an extensive listing of organisations involved in combating child labour around the word can be found at the website of the Child Rights Information Network-CRIN).

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Question from Abraham Magendzo (Chile):

Let me first congratulate you with this initiative. My question is the following. In a global and open market world, couldn’t the most developed countries penalize and not accept products of countries that are putting into the market merchandise that is produced by children’s labour? Is this an utopia? We are trying to do it with violations of environmental rights and we are publicly denouncing world wide those violations.

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HREA staff answers:

Thank you for your kind message, Abraham. Great question. Boycotting products, either by consumers or governments, produced by child labour already takes place in many countries and is a proven strategy. Most known example is probably consumer boycotts of Nike sports gear produced with child labour. The European Union has regulations, and boycotts, regarding the import of products produced with child labour, and so have individual countries like the Netherlands and the USA. Do participants in the chat know of other examples?

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Question from Dominic-savior Chukwu (Nigeria):

My question is, why it is that the UN body responsible for child abuse has not publicly made it known that making children beggars in many parts of Nigeria, especially Northern Nigeria in the name of religious obligation, is a child abuse?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Dominic-savior:

Thank you very much for this question. I can not tell you whether the Committee on the Rights of the Child [the body that monitors the UN Convention on the Rights Child, Mod.] has acknowledged this situation or not. I can’t recall right now if the Committee released an observation on this specific problem of Northern Nigeria, but if you say they haven’t, I deeply regret it, taking into consideration that for any reason and for any justification, a girl or boy has to be forced to be a beggar.

Nigeria ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child [the main international treaty to protect and promote the rights of children, Mod.] in 1991 [and is supposed to report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child every five years what progress has been made in guaranteeing children's rights. The Child Rights Information Network (CRIN) website has special section on NGO Alternative Reports submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which include several reports on Nigeria, Mod.].

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Question from Senaka Dissanayake (Sri Lanka):

Many thanks for giving this opportunity. I would like to know:
1. is there any country or state which have legal provisions in the constitution to allocate resonable amount for the education sector ?
2. most of the time child labour is related to poverty and to war. What can be the most suitable ways to promote child rights among the military and para-military groups?

Thanks.

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HREA staff answers:

Dear Seneka. Thank you for your participation in this chat session. To our knowledge there are no states or countries that have provisions in the consitution about the amount of resources to be allocated to education. Yet there are quite a few countries whose constitutions guarantee free elementary education to its citizens. The link between poverty and education has been raised several times today and the Special Rapporteur has made some suggestions. A situation of armed conflict and war makes the problem even more complicated, needless to say.

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Question from Yuyun Wahyuningrum (Indonesia/Thailand):

I just attended the regional consultation on UN study on violence against children. I belong to a sub-group discussion of violence in the work place. Children themselves convinced many participants that depriving child labor from school is one of the biggest violence that children are receiving. The impact of this is staying longer than we thought. But we don't know how to group this kind of violence (physical, sexual, cultural, etc). I think this should be included into structural violence as the government ignores this basic right for children to education. What do you think?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

I’ve been pointing out that girls lack of education has to be considered as a global emergency. There is another kind of structural violence: violence in/within schools. It is a sort of known and silenced phenomena, for a long time present in many educational systems. Just remember that, according to the French philosopher Foucault, violence, punishments, harassment, bloody “discipline” were considered as core components in a “total institution”, including schools. But this is another story.

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Question from Jason Apostol (Canada):

How do you believe youth can play an active role in making change when it comes to child labour?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Jason:

Good question! We have enough prove that adult-centered education and patriarchal vision doesn't work anymore for world necessities. Changes won't find consistent achievments if they are not inclusive ones. Our common sense tells us see youth are the population who better understand the needs of young people. Therefore, public policies must be based on participation, trust and commitment of youth on their own problems and hopes.

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Contribution from Paul Clancy (Ireland):

I agree wholeheartedly that ways of curbing child labour and integrating children fully into education is a challenging and worthy task deserving of financial, moral and political support.

Awareness at political, community and family level needs to be fostered and tangible benefits from education need to be visible (otherwise families will not encourage children to go to school when their valuable labour can be useful in the fields and in the home). Assisting families in the purchase of school uniforms, shoes etc, lift to and from school, providing school lunches or offering children attending school food to bring home to the family, protecting children from abuse in school, segregating boys and girls in schools (where culture deems is more appropriate), teaching children useful things including lifeskills and about healthy lifestyles are all important elements to helping combat child labour and increase child participation in education. Political commitment is vital too. Governments must be encouraged to ratify key conventions, to embrace human rights and actively work to allow children to grow and develop as children should and to receive an education that will serve them in future life.

I know of young university students (of first year in college) in Central Asia who are very committed to helping educate children in primary schools in their country and who go to schools once teaching is over to help students who are weak in a number of subjects to improve. I think sometimes we forget the wonderful resource that young people are and this is something that should be cherished and encouraged. One contributor to this forum wondered about the contribution of peace corps type interventions in the education field where people could go on subsistence pay to more disadvantaged countries to help out. I think it would be perhaps of more benefit to encourage university students from the "disadvantaged" country to go out to the rural areas or to the urban slums etc where disadvantaged children are to be found (and who perhaps do not attend school) and to offer their teaching services. This would have two benefits: it would enhance understanding among the more affluent and educated communities, building bridges and it would offer valuable learning experiences on both sides, and cultural sensitivities and language barriers would not exist. Governments could perhaps offer small financial incentives to students to cover transport and accommodation or indeed a link could be made with a local NGO. Do you think such an endeavour would be feasible or workable?

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HREA staff answers:

Paul - thank you very much for your thoughtful contribution and excellent suggestion! You make an important point: the role of awareness raising and education about child labour and of building bridges and coalitions. Educators can play an important role in this. Examples of education and training materials about child labour can be found at HREA's website.

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Question from Nodir Aminzoda (Tajikistan):

Who will be responsible if the child wants to study in any educational school, but hasn't financial possibility?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Hello Nodir:

The main responsibles to set up and make feasible the realization of the right to education, are without doubt, States. Moreover, States have the responsability to offer a quality education for every child, according to the "best interest of child" principle. [To learn more more about the principle of the best interest of the child see HREA's study guide on children & youth]. That doesn't mean that States have to offer a sort of "curriculum à la carte", in which every kid could demand any kind of conditions or requirements. So, the realization of the right to education means that States have to guarantee that regular and special necessities will be properly attended, without any cost for students' families. This implies that education must be prioritised in government budgets. Sadly, we see that everybody expects everything from education, but politicians don't give much in return.

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Question from Cristina Manzanedo (Spain):

Los movimientos de niños y adolescentes trabajadores de varios países de ALC rechazan el "Día Mundial contra el trabajo infantil" y proponen celebrar el "Día Mundial contra la explotación infantil". Alegan que hay que distinguir entre explotación laboral y condiciones aceptables. Alegan que ir en contra del trabajo infantil en general no respeta la autonomía ni la cultura de los pueblos del mundo, como el de los niños, niñas y adolescentes del mundo andino y la del mundo amazónico y en particular la del mundo rural. ¿Qué le parece esta postura?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Querida Cristina:

La misma OIT habla de "peores formas" de trabajo infantil, así que la nomenclatura suele confundir muchísimo, pues podríamos suponer que existen formas de trabajo infantil que "no son tan malas..." No sé hasta qué punto pueden ser aceptables ciertas condiciones de trabajo de los niños y las niñas, como si fuera posible disculpar que ellos/ellas dejen de asistir a la escuela por tener que alimentar a sus hermanos-as. Obviamente, ciertas labores manuales y domésticas tienen fines educativos y no podrían considerarse como formas de explotación ni trabajo infantil. Pero a veces los límites son imprecisos.

De todas maneras, ninguna autonomía ni cultura puede justificar la explotación o violación de los derechos humanos, de modo que quizás sea la "cultura" la que deba cambiar y no el derecho. Una tesis parecida se ha sostenido respecto de la mutilación genital femenina, por ejemplo. Eso es sencillamente inaceptable. Las inequidades y asimetrías no tienen por qué ser trasladadas a las personas más vulnerables. No estoy de acuerdo.

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Question from Mubarak Jan (Pakistan):

In Pakistan the basic factor is poverty due to which child labor can't be eliminated easily. So how we can improve the education rate?

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HREA staff answers:

Hello Mubarak,

Thank you for your question. Like you, many other participants in this chat have pointed out that poverty is a major factor that contributes to child labour and the lack of education. However, governments do have international obligations to combat child labour and provide free elementary education. For one, they can prioritise education within their budget and spend less on, for example, defense.

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Question from Karuppu Samy (Tamilnadu, India):

Dear friends,

Discrimination is through race, color, but here in India it is caste. Here most of child labourers are Dalit children only. The government has so many laws but implementation is nothing. So, the state is responsible and also society, isn't it?

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HREA staff answers:

Dear Karuppu,

Thank you for your question. As you underline, especially vulnerable children that face discrimination often are overrepresented among child labourers, as is the case with children with disabilities --as Surya from India pointed out-- and Roma children --as we learned from Nedjeljka from Serbia and Montenegro. In order to eliminate the worst forms of child labour both governments and civil society will have to make huge efforts. Coalitions of NGOs, community organisations and local governments are often effective.

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Question from Ntumba Kapinga (Zimbabwe):

Child labor has been an issue of discussion for quite a long time and so far nothing palpable has been done in order to stop it. What are the new strategies envisaged in order to fight it as it's wealthy people who benefit from it and as in most countries from the third world, where this practice is common, the leaders don't respect the agreements they do sign? Apart from that, in many African countries education is more a luxury, a privilege than a right. What kind of support do you envisage to those countries in order to achieve the goal and what are the measures taken in order to ensure that the funds are used for its designed purpose and not to serve the corrupted leaders?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Ntumba:

In a few paragraphs, you have made an excellent analysis of the situation. I think I already answered some of your points. Please, see my previous messages. Anyway, it is true that wealthy people takes advantage of child labour. That only means that the UN system should emphasise new measures and go deeper in ongoing experiences, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO)'s Time-Bound Programmes. Besides, you are also pointing out the necessity to insist on the "justiciability" of economic, social and cultural rights. Without specifc mechanisms to demand those rights before national and international courts, it will be impossible to improve the enforcement of laws. Moreover, justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights needs to be complemented with other kinds of measures, such as national and popular democratic monitoring of financial investments in education and social services.

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Question from Christina Chenais (Switzerland):

I would be grateful if the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education would intercede on my behalf for my son Kevin of 14 years who is refused admission in almost all schools in France and Switzerland as he has a physical handicap and his is wheel-chair bound. The only hope of getting him into the International School in Geneva is if I am able to pay the 35000 CHF per year. The UN helps me up to 25000 per year but I cannot afford the balance 10,000 CHF as I have a continuing large medical obligation for my son and do not have money left to pay the balance amount. I appeal to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education to intercede on my son's behalf so that the International School of Geneva will not charge me the extra 60% of the total fees thus enabling Kevin to get into school finally.

Kindly reply
Many thanks

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Christina:

I would like to encourage you to write to my assistant in Geneva: Ms. Myriam Tebourbi in order to study your son's case immediately. Thanks for your confidence.

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Question from Paska Fortunate (Uganda):

I appreciate the fact that child labour is a hindrance to the right to education especially in poor, developing countries. How do we address the problem of child labour since most of these children work to sustain their families and are in most cases orphans of aids and wars and thus cannot go to school?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Hi Paska.

I think we must address the problem in different stages and perspectives, knowing that it is not an exclusive problem of poor countries but obviously linked with poverty, cultural discrimination and gender oppression. State policies and measures must be undertaken to overcome large-scale impact of child labour, such as planning and resource mobilization. In addition, governments need to rapidly develop strong and consistent data collection programmes that allows a fine and profound understanding about the causes and consequences of child labour and other forms of exploitation. On the other hand, school systems needs to change a bit, in order to extend as more versatile modalities that could be adapted to all children.

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Question from Igor Ockovic (Slovakia):

As you said before the discrimination of Roma population in central Europe is a huge and real problem. It´s a fact. But the problems of child labour are not involved. In the agenda of solutions of Roma problem there is no countermeasures which are connected with this problem because this phenomenon is really messy. Of course, I talk about Slovakia. All I wanted to say is that in Central Europe (especially Slovakia) child labour is in periphery of solutions because there are mostly more important problems to solve. Do you think I am right? Or do you have more information to not agree with me? Thanks for your time.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Greetings, Igor.

Absolutly. You are right. Child labor aknowledgement is in the periphery almost everywhere, mostly because children's rights, namely right to education, are still in the periphery. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has detected more than 30 different types of discrimination against boys and girls. How many of those come to our mind right now? Countermeasures mean nothing if we don't decide to make children the first priority, because many child persons face multiple discriminations, whether they work or not. Even more, in several cases children suffer labour obligations, just for their childhood condition.

Now that you pointed this out, I also need to stress that in your region, 70% of Roma population remains unemployed and just a small percentage of Roma students finish high school. Just imagine an orphan working Roma girl with a disability. Which would be your first reaction if you hypothetically were in government? All forms of discrimination hamper human dignity. But, but, but, when it is a child who suffers, childhood must be the first condition to be saved.

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Question from Leonardo Insignares (Colombia):

What does your organization do for children with prostitution problems in the world? See our work in this area at www.fundacionrenacer.org

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HREA staff answers:

Leonardo - Within the United Nations human rights system there is a Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Mr. Juan Miguel Petit (Uruguay), It is his task it is to inform the UN Commission on Human Rights about child protitution. (More information about the United Nations human rights system can be found in this study guide). Like other "Special Rapporteurs", Mr. Petit regularly visits countries to consult with governmentsx, NGOs and other civil society organisations about these issues. Usually after such a trip the Special Rapporteur makes recommendations. Hope this answers your question. Good luck with your important work!

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Question from Olugbenga Akindeju (Nigeria):

Top of the day to you Sir!

The issue of child labor and access to basic education though imperative looks impossible to achieve easily in a country like Nigeria where poverty reigns supreme. To have a meal per day is a problem to some people. In Nigeria, the right of adults are not respected not to mention those of the child. Education, even in primary school, is so expensive. The whole situation is abysmal. How can we achieve children rights and education in this situation? Thank you.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Olugbenga:

You are completly right. I revised my last report to the Commission on Human Rights. Let me quote myself:

“...with 26 million primary schoolteachers in developing countries in 2000, the estimated number of additional teachers required by 2015 ranges from 15-35 million - including more than 3 million in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 1 million in Nigeria alone”.

Challenges overflow national capacities. That means that the African situation needs to be faced also internationally, as a problem of human development. In that sense, a human rights perspective has to be incorporated in all discussions and measures related to investment and international cooperation. Even if we agree with the --wrong-- conception of education as a trade good, Nigeria's abysmal situation cannot remain unsolved without international cooperation. The World Bank must convert public debts in financing facility for education, as a good start.

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Question from Renuka Bala (India):

What is right to education, is it only the right to schooling?

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HREA staff answers:

Dear Renuka,

Thank you for your important question. Mr. Muñoz's predecessor, Dr. Katerina Tomaševski, has summarised the right to education as the 4 A's: the obligation of governments to make education
- available
(ensuring free and compulsary education for all children),
- accessible
(elimination of discrimination of certain groups: for example Roma children, Dalit children, children with disabilities, as has been mentioned in this chat today),
- acceptable
(i.e. quality of education, but also education about human rights and freedom of choice for parents), and
- adaptable
(education should respond and adapt to the best interest of the child).

See Dr. Tomaševski's Manual on Rights-Based Education and some of her reports on the Right to Education Project website. For a more general introduction see HREA's study guide on the right to education.

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Question from Joanna Martignoni (Switzerland):

Dear Mr. Muñoz,

I was wondering to what extent you work together with other Special Rapporteurs and human rights bodies in relation to this issue ? How does your work tie in with the work being carried out on child labour in the ILO ? Thanks very much for your time.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Thank you, dear Joanna, for your patience. Yes, indeed, as human rights are interconnected, their defense and promotion must also be inter-related. Well, here I am, talking about labour! HREA help us to keep this in mind; thanks to you also! Commission on Human Rights resolutions on the right to education clearly stablish the necessity to coordinate Special Rapporteurs' work with other UN bodies, such as ILO. Since I just have one year on duty, I started working with UNICEF, UNESCO, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the refugee agency UNHCR, Special Rapporteurs and many NGOs, among others. I'm looking forward to see the way to extend my actions to other institutions.

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Question from Neyda Long (Canada):

Is there any legislation to control and protect "children trafficking" within the boundaries of any specific country?

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HREA staff answers:

Hello Neyda - trafficking in children often happens as part of child labour practices. Under international human rights law governments have to "...ensure that, as a minimum, [trafficking] are fully covered under its criminal or penal law, whether such offences are committed domestically or transnationally or on an individual or organized basis" (Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography). Canada had, as of last week, not ratified this treaty however, as it thus not bound by it.

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Question from Peter Shuttleworth (New Zealand):

It's 6 am here and great to follow the range of questions. We are lucky here, compared to what I know of elsewhere. My role is team leader on child labour for our local NGO under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our weaknesses are no minimum age for work, no minimum wage for those under 16 years, lack of desire by education authority and government agencies to promulgate child employment rights. Having legalised prostitution we now are finding more sex workers under 18, a legal offence but not monitored.

The question is how to promote the protection of youth workers where the local unions are not showing interest?

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HREA staff answers:

Good morning, Peter! Thanks for your message. Unions are often a logical ally in the fight against child labour yet that doesn't seem to apply in your case. Another ally could be the national or regional office of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ILO Convention (182) concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor includes provisions about prostitution, and your government has ratified this treaty. Perhaps other chat participants have experience with similar situations?

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Question from Manisha Solanki (India):

We do have a huge problem with child labour in India. We do have laws and regulations which are not being followed. What can be a way out?

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HREA staff answers:

Manisha- thank you for your participation in this chat. Please read some of the answers to questions from other friends from India. Trying to bring the lack of implementation of child labour laws to the attention of news media (local and national) might pressure local and provincial/state governments to do more. Building coalitions with other stakeholders like employers and unions could be another approach.

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Question from Claudia Lohrenscheit (Germany):

Dear Vernor Muñoz,

The previous rapporteur for the Right to Education, Katarina Tomaševski, said after her 8-years involvement as a Special Rapporteur that she was completely understaffed and her reports were not taken into account seriously by neither the UN Commission on Human Rights nor the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She recommended to either change this situation or to quit the job of the Rapporteur - which is a very provoking statement. How would you comment on this?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Claudia.

I am also completely understaffed, but as you see, wonderful friends such as HREA help me up with this responsability. It depends on how you see the situation, don't you think? You could see the glass half empty or half full...

Katarina completed a six-year mandate and sincerely I can not say that her reports weren't taken into consideration. On the contrary, she opened a clear path but maybe she would have wanted to get some more progress. I've never met her, so I can't tell you about her personal reasons. For the time being, I am grateful to her. I have the strong conviction that we are walking, that the human right to education is gaining territory and that all crises, deafness, heartlessness are just good opportunities to learn and overcome adversity. After all, human rights are the prove that humanity is moving forward. Like Allen Ginsberg says: "No rest without love, no sleep without dreams".

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Contribution from Catalina Crespo (Costa Rica):

Greetings, as you have been saying in your previous responses, child labor is a multi factor phenomenon. In the specific case of Central America, cultural factors play an important role in child labor. Popular belief in the idea that child labor is part of building character is seen as normal. Other countries have launched successful programs in changing popular belief such as China and women’s foot binding. Why is it that our Latin American countries have not yet introduced a campaign challenging these beliefs?

My second question is in regard to education. We know that one of the most powerful instruments in reducing poverty and laying the basis for a sustainable economic growth is education. But if spending on education is reduced, as it has been in Central American countries due to neo-liberal policies adopted in the last 20 years, how are children and families supposed to acquire the necessary knowledge, tools, and skills to make informed decisions? If a country does not sufficiently fund education are they not slowing down the process necessary for human development needed to make progress? What is the relationship between neo-liberalism, child labor, and education? Gracias.

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From the Moderator:

Hola Catalina! You raise excellent and very important questions, which require a long answer. We are running out of time quickly, however, and have at least another 20 questions to answer. I hope that you don't mind that we simply post your message as an important observation that needs to be looked at. OK? Thank you for your understanding.

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Question from Mario Suescún (Colombia):

About the worst forms of child labour - in Colombia the child soldiers are considered delinquent. How we can we change such conceptions?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Gracias Mario:

In the context of armed conflicts, it will be very difficult to change perceptions and sensitivities, but it is clear that child soldiers are additional victims of violence. As Save the Children has stated, more than 120,000 girls and young women have been abducted and pushed into conflict. We don't have enough information about the number of children involved in conflics and wars, but it has to be huge, especially in developing countries, where the population is mainly young.

Since the "irregular forces" are considered outsiders of law, it is understandable that their soldiers are considered criminals as well. Some practical measures to be taken in order to enhance awareness on this theme could be to work with the Defense Ministry and judges on the aplication of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in the context of Geneva Conventions and humanitarian law.

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Question from Twesigye Kaguri (Uganda):

We run a school for orphaned children in a rural village in south western Uganda. We provide children free education, books and uniforms. Other activities include gardening, social activities, free basic health care, lunch and Nyaka anti-aids club, which goes around these villages educating people about HIV/AIDS. But we still have a problem of absenteism due to chores. These children are taken out of school in the middle of the day to go care for the sick, herd cattle or fetch water. How can we enforce attendance and encourage guardians to send kids to school everyday?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Twesigye:

I already wrote several commentaries on this concern. Education in a context of crisis must be faced creatively, looking for a way to take school to kids, rather than kids to school. Education can not solve the problems that military, policians and money makers don't want to solve. Please, revisit my previous comments on this.

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Question from Kazunari Fujii (Switzerland):

Hello from Geneva, Mr. Muñoz. Having read these Q & A and comments, it seems to me that this issue represents an aspect of a structural violence which is a comprehensive term of inter-twisted various issues into one structure that each of those problems remains a causal factor to each other. Poverty, discrimination, lack of education, underdevelopment, disrespect of the rights of the child, etc… I wonder if it might be possible for you to consider a joint study with any other UN Special Rapporteur on other inter-related issues to tackle on this matter. To my knowledge, the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights is planning a consultation on improvement on the special procedures on human rights including the function of the Special Rapporteurs. It might be a good occasion to raise the possibility of closer collaboration of the special rapporteurs. What do you think? And thank you very much for your constant efforts.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Kazunari:

Great to hear from you. Certainly, we start next Monday in Geneva in our annual meeting and this suggestion will be, I can assure you, considerated. From my part, I'll be delighted to continue working closely with my colleagues. Thank you for your time and very well known enthusiasm.

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Question from Alpha Arzu (Bangladesh):

Hi! This is Alpha Arzu from Bangladesh. I am a staff correspondent at an English daily published from the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Question 1- I want to know about the developing countries' situation on child labour as the children are forced to do risky jobs for their livelihood. What about such kind of child labour?

Question 2- Poverty forced to the children to engage in work and they cannot get the chance to get education. What they should do?

Thanking you for your concentration on these topics.

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HREA staff answers:

Dear Alpha:

1. Children working in some of the worst conditions imaginable, in querries and where they face serious risk of work-related death, injury or chronic illnesses, is the theme of this year's World Day Against Child Labour. Please check out the website.

2. The link between poverty and education is probably one of the biggest challenges ahead of us. Please read some of the ideas and suggestions that were raised earlier today in this chat. Thank you!

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Question from Dahir Ali-kamiin (Somalia):

We are from the Sean Devereux Human Rights Center. Working for the rights of children in a country where there has been no government for the last 14 years we face challenges and difficulties. How do you think we can help the helpless children if the INGOs [international non-governmental organisations, Mod.] do not support our efforts in Somalia?

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HREA staff answers:

Hello Dahir - thank you for your question. Sometimes partnering with coalitions of children's rights NGOs in neighbouring countries can help. Both Kenya and Tanzania have such coalitions that are strong.

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Question from Kathyayini Chamaraj (India):

Dear Sir,

Though elementary education 6-14 years has been declared a fundamental right by India through a recent Constitutional amendment and obligation on parents to educate their children has been imposed, there is much civil society opposition to placing compulsion on parents on the ground that this 'victimises the victims', that is, the poor. And that any such measure will only ensure that there are more parents in jails than children in schools. If there is no compulsion on parents, how does one ensure the fundamental right of a child? If parents fail to provide a child's right to education, because of poverty or whatever reason, would it not be the state's duty to either assist the parent to fulfil the right of the child or to take charge of the child and ensure that it is educated? Would not compulsion on parents be necessary in order to do this? How would you interpret the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on this?

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Hello Kathyayini:

Many thanks for this very important comment, that makes me think again about the neccesity to undertake practical measures next to governmental and legislative acts. You are also stressing that educational measures have to be taken in the context and in the convergence of other public policies that make its implementation possible. If compulsory education is complemented with feeding services in school, i.e, it is sure that most of parents will agree to send their children to school. When poor people see that education is useless, motivation needs to be accompanied by solidarity and guarantees by the government that school is truly a place dedicated for the development of the country.

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Question from Maria Olave (Perú):

Estimado Sr. Muñoz:

Quisiera saber cómo valora usted la iniciativa de condonación de deuda contra mayor inversión en educación en los países y el impacto que esto podría tener en la prevención y erradicación del trabajo infantil.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Hola María. Un gran abrazo para las colegas del Perú. Mi valoración es urgente y clara, según lo he expuesto en diversos foros y en mi informe a la Comisión y en términos muy simples te la resumo así: si se plantea que la educación constituye un factor decisivo para el desarrollo (sea cual seal concepto de desarrollo que se maneje), resultará lógico y conveniente que el servicio de la deuda sea destinado a la inversión educativa. Esta estrategia permitirá potenciar el impacto cualitativo en todos los ámbitos de la producción, de la prevención social y específicamente del trabajo infantil. Lamentablemente, la tendencia es a considerar a la educación como un gasto más que como una inversión. Pero sigamos insistiendo.

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Question from Mustapha Sesay (Sierra Leone):

I work for Open Medi@ !nitiative 4 Social Action (OM!S@) in Sierra Leone, a public interest media advocacy and social development charity dedicated to the positive and innovative use of traditional media and telecommunications technology to secure a peaceful, just and enlightened society particularly for children and young people in deprived communities. Our mission is to create equitable and sustainable access to mass media and digital technology resources and services in educational institutions and grassroots communities in Sierra Leone.... How can organizations with such mandates maintain contineous access to advocacy resources dealing with issues such as these online and offline? Moreover, what are the funding options for projects addressing these sensitive issues being discussed here within the UN system if we are to develop proposals for schools and grassroots communities in our country? Thank You!

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HREA staff answers:

Dear Mustapha - various international NGOs like Anti-Slavery International and others offer access to advocacy resources. The ILO also has an advocacy initiative in which it partners with various organisations and this may also offer other resources. Please also check out the Child Rights Information Network to see what other organisations locally and internationally you may partner with.

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Question from Eunice Alfaro (El Salvador):

Desde junio de este 2005, la industria cañera salvadoreña fue advertida por la organización internacional “Human Rights Watch” para que no emplee más a menores en las plantaciones de caña. A los señalamientos de la entidad, se suma la amenaza de no comprar más azúcar salvadoreña. “Los extranjeros lo ven con un tipo de explotación”: 222,479 mil niños/as trabajan en El Salvador, lo que representa el 11.5 por ciento de la población infantil, según el informe 2004 de la OIT. Cortando caña 2,200 menores trabajan rozando caña, según registros de IPEC. El trabajo infantil no sólo debe tener una dimensión moral, sino una de sobrevivencia.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Hola querida Eunice:

Gracias por tu pregunta. La dimensión moral y la supervivencia de las personas se encuentra engañosamente relacionada porque en le caso que nos presentas no se encuentra presente el principal obligado: el Estado salvadoreño. La tendencia a relegar las atenciones básicas en la realización de los derechos humanos, sumado el hecho de que el Estado se contrae cada vez más en el contexto de la globalización, nos lleva a creer que las demandas de las organizaciones de derechos humanos y las necesidades de las poblaciones más discriminadas y lastimadas, como los niños y niñas trabajadoras, constituyen tensiones que deben resolverse afuera de la esfera estatal y gubernamental. Lejos de ello, mi tesis es que el Estado de El Salvador puede cumplir con la Convención sobre los derechos del niño y la niña, sin necesidad de exponerse a las sanciones internacionales. Esa es su responsabilidad.

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Question from Joseph Ochero (Uganda):

The pastoral nomads of the north eastern part of Uganda have used child labour from time immemorial to work as herdsmen. This is a cultural practice that is taken for granted among them. Since the way of life has more value to them than even education, it is almost impossible to convince them that the children will live better with an education. Deliberate efforts from the government to dissuade them from this have failed. Even the alternative strategies that have been deployed will take time before results will be realised. What do you think is the best way to invest in education for poverty eradication and the respect for children's rights in these difficult and many times frustrating situations?

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HREA staff answers:

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Joseph. Culture practices are often a barrier to children's rights. Maybe all those that participated in this chat can share their experiences and tactics on another occasion?

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Question from Mariela Macri (Argentina):

Hello, I am Mariela Macri, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. In my country child labor is a social problem, that concerns not only the 1.500.000 working children, but the society. In order to contribute to solving this problem through education we should have to include in current curricula of schools programs with knowledge of child labor. So no working children and their families take really awareness of the problem. So one step for the advocacy to policy makers is to know about. This may be a long term policy. Nevertheless in our contry there is a gap between, discourse, public policy and reality, during the last century and child labor continues, in spite of the good intentions.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Hola Mariela:

Thanks for your opinion. I just have to say that I very much agree with all that you said. I am not quite sure that child labour could be overcome through education to non -labourers children. Anyway, it is true that social prevention (as a socialization factor) is indeed an explicit objective of the education system. It is also useful to increase knowledge of the problem through curricular approaches. Currently, ILO-IPEC is working with civil society organizations in some campaigns against child labour.

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Contribution from Jorge Castrillo (El Salvador):

I work for ILO IPEC, leading the educational component of our program in El Salvador. As you have sharply pointed before, child labour is a multicaused phenomenon, so answers should attack those different factors. Such is the assumption made in our Time Bound Strategy, which can be found at our web site (www.ilo.org) We have been working in El Salvador for more than two years by now and I think we have reached the phase when some outcomes of our work are starting to show. Let me give some examples.

We found fruitful to offer (and provide) school utensils such as pencils, copybooks, rulers, textbooks, sport balls, etc. to schools principals where child labourers where attending (fishing, sugar cane, garbage) and were not fully served by the Ministry of Education. These items were "traded" for the teachers' compromise to visit the surrounding communities in order to bring children to school. This is a step frequently criticized as being just inefficient, which is true if you are doing it in isolation, but as a part of a broader program, I can tell you it works. As a result of this operation, the schools experienced an increase in enrolment of 10 to 15 per cent.

Also, we have developed what we call “salas de nivelación” in some schools participating in our program (they are all rural schools away from main cities). Children attend to these salas in order to be helped with their school assignments. Parents, teachers and the children themselves have noticed a better school achievement in some of them. Being this an important outcome I would like to stress on the fact that (while attending to salas de nivelación) children are at the school and not at the field or seashore working. These salas de nivelación are administered by NGO´s, but our intention is that they will be taken by Ministry of Education at the end of the project.

Next week we will be distributing among these schools some Workbooks we have designed. These Workbooks are to be used by children and pretend to develop some objectives of the national curricula for 4th. 5th, and 6th grades for Social Studies and for Natural Sciences. The objective of this effort is to integrate the topic of child labor into the national curricula. This is an important objective of our program, since it constitute the best way to widespread the dangers of child labour to the educational community and, at the same time, to help teachers in their day to day effort to offer quality education at rural areas.

But mostly of all, you need to have strongly committed persons to work with. Rural teachers can be gained to this caused when they see you working by their side in what the want most: learning students.

Of course, these measures will not end by themselves with child labour in El Salvador but will surely provide some ideas about what has to be done by the government and the society as a whole. Most important the children withdrawn from work and taken to schools will show it is possible to stop child labour thru education if different organizations work together. (We claim to have helped to withdrawn no less than 4,000 children during these three years.)

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From the Moderator:

Thank you very much Jorge for sharing this with us!

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Question from Rosario Bello (Chile):

I would like to know if there are successfull experiences related to the elimination of child labor? Which programs work? and what kind of State interventions are successfull?

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HREA staff answers:

Rosario - Thank you for asking this question! Some examples of good practices can be found at the ILO website, which is the only organisation that we are aware of that has tried to collect these, but we hope we are wrong about this. Various UN agencies also have prepared guidelines for collecting good practices about eliminating child labour, which is a good first step!

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Question from Cletus Ukpong (Nigeria):

Even though the problem of child labour and the right to education lies upon effective government legislation, and commitment on the part of the governments of various countries, frankly, I see the mass media, especially in Africa, as having a great role to play in this regard. As a journalist working in Nigeria, I have seen it all as far as child labour is concerned, and I have been thinking of how I can possibly be part of a solution to this problem. Unfortunately, maybe this is borne out of personal experience, there is still a wide gap between African journalists and those from other continents, and this has caused the level of collaboration to remain very poor. I wonder what the UN Special Rapporteur has to say on this.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Cletus:

You can make the difference. You can release the ball of snow by sending the right message at the right time. Child labor is just a tiny part of several bad conditions of childhood nowadays. You also have in your hands tons of information gathered by UN bodies, NGO's such HREA and my modest reports, as well. You could also get involved in courses and seminars useful for you to improve your skills on child-centered strategies.You could also reunite some of your most sensitive colleagues to create a network of journalists.

You are the answer that we require.

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Question from Catherine Gangloff (Canada):

Dear Mr. Muñoz,

I was very interested in the comment of Cristina from Spain, unfortunately I do not read Spanish very well and would be grateful if her comment could be translated in English. As you have mentioned a couple of times, participation of boys and girls is very important in the matters that affect their lives. I think it is essential to see children not only as victims, but also as agents of their own development, as it seems to be the case with the children and adolescent labourers associations mentioned by Cristina. I would like to know whether you and other participants to this chat have come across fully participative initiatives related to child labour; whether there are best practices and lessons learned that were drawn from these initiatives; and what we have learned from the children themselves.

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From the Moderator:

Dear Catherine,

Thank you for your question. We will translate all the contributions in Spanish, after the chat ends, which is in 30 minutes!... I am sure I speak for many, and Mr. Muñoz would agree, when I say that involving children is extremely important in these matters. Considering all the enthusiasm during this chat this may an area to explore with the many dedicated individuals and organisations that were involved in this.

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Question from Saida Ibrahim (Tanzania):

Good evening. I am involved in a project for helping orphans who are in poor conditions, maybe you can help me by advising me, how can we help a majority of these children as the support we get sometimes for helping orphans (home-based) is so minimum that a number of children who need someone to support them on education are unable to support them for lack of funds.

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Vernor Muñoz answers:

Dear Saida:

Thank you for you question. It depends on what kind of support you are looking for. Even though, I guess, you are talking about economical aid. I know there are some NGOs based in Europe and North America that may be interested in your institution that you could easely find out through Internet searching. Maybe you could also think about the possibility to request technical support in order to design a specific project on new modalities for curricular or educational experiences with orphan children. This could make more interesting your request and could also increase the spectrum of wanted results.

Good luck!

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Question from Kenneth Burke (USA):

In general, what do you think is most important for parents in the United States to know and understand about the rights of the child? And what concerns are there over the right to an education and educational rights for children in the United States?

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HREA staff answers:

Hi Kenneth - One concern is, of course, that the US is one of two countries (the other is Somalia) that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of Child. Aside from the complicated ratification process, one of the reasons behind this is the concern of the Congress for parental rights. The right to education touches upon many things in US classrooms, including the importance of anti-discrimination measures and free and quality education. Amnesty International USA, but also HREA, among others, consider the right to education an avenue for making the human rights language part of the public discourse, which currently is mostly dominated by civil and political rights.

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Question from Halima Issa (Somaliland):

Here in Somaliland education is for children in the first class and the few elite members of society ....Most children who can't attend schools are working for their daily bread and are also breadwinners in their family. So tackling child labour doesn't only need the goverment but also the community at large.

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HREA staff answers:

Dear Halima - we are honoured to receive your message. Unfortunately, we have run out of time and we can thus not give you an extensive answer. Thank you again for your dedication to eliminating child labour and promoting the right to education, even in extremely difficult circumstances.

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Vernor Muñoz:

Dear All:

It has been an honour and a pleasure to share with you this beautiful oportunity given by HREA. I firmly believe that we can take steps towards a better world for all, especially for children.

Please, count on me and do not hesitate to write or call whenever you need my support.

Thank you dear friends.

Vernor Muñoz

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From the Moderator:

Dear all, and, of course, Mr. Muñoz -- today's chat session has come to an end. Thank you all very much for the interesting questions, the sharing of experiences and ideas, and your dedication!

In the next few days we will be tranlating the Spanish contributions into English and will be adding additional resources on this web page, and links to organisations that are trying to make a difference. We will also consider how we can build on the momentum of this chat and all the wonderful resources that you brought to it!

Thank you again, and good evening/night/morning/afternoon,

-Frank Elbers

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