In Durban, the Pope urges more efforts against child labor

Pope Francis addressed a message to the participants of the 5th World Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor, which is taking place in the South African city of Durban from May 15 to 20, under the aegis of the International Labor Organization. Labor (ILO). The latter has set with the UN the ambitious objective of ending the exploitation of young people by 2025.

Delphine Allaire – Vatican City

If the Sovereign Pontiff observes “significant progressmade to eradicate the scourge of child labor from society, he notes that this tragedy has been compounded by the impact of the global health crisis and the spread of extreme poverty in many parts of the world, where he regrets “lack of decent work opportunities for adults and adolescents, migration and humanitarian emergencies,” who condemn millions of young girls and boys toa life of economic and cultural impoverishment. The ILO counts 160 million in the world.

«Too many small hands plow the fields»

Unfortunately, “too many little hands are busy plowing the fields, working in the mines, walking great distances to fetch water and doing jobs that prevent them from going to school“, deplores the Holy Father, also evoking “the crime of child prostitution, which deprived millions of childrenthe joy of their youth and the dignity due to them”.

Since poverty is the main factor exposing children to labor exploitation, Pope Francis hopes that participants in this Durban summit will attackto the structural causes of global poverty and the outrageous inequality that continues to exist among members of the human family,” says the encyclical All brothers (116). Likewise, the Bishop of Rome expects this Conference to lead to “increased awareness and commitment” on the part of social actors and international and national bodies to find appropriate and effective means to protect the dignity and rights of children, in particular “through the promotion of social protection systems and access to education for all”.

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Child labor, a major concern of the Church

The question of child labor is of particular concern to the Catholic Church, whose social teaching emphasizes that by ensuring the present and the future of children, we also ensure the present and the future of the whole human family, then recalled the Successor of Peter in this letter addressed by name to Guy Rider, British trade unionist at the head of the ILO.

The Holy See, for its part, will continue to work for the international community to persevere in its efforts to combat the exploitation of child labor in a resolute, joint and decisive manner, so that children can enjoy the beauty of this stage. of life, while cultivating dreams of a bright future, the Pope assured, thanking however the ILO for holding this conference.

First conference of its kind in Africa

This message from the Holy Father was read to participants on Monday May 16 by the Apostolic Nuncio to South Africa, Bishop Peter Bryan Wells. By Friday, Conference delegates are expected to adopt a statement summarizing the actions to be taken, “The Durban Declaration”.

This is the first time that the Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor has taken place in Africa – a region with the highest number of child laborers and the slowest progress according to figures. . Most child labor on the continent – ​​around 70% – is in agriculture, often in settings where children work alongside their families.

The conference builds on the previous four World Conferences, held in Buenos Aires (2017), Brasilia (2013), The Hague (2010) and Oslo (1997), which raised awareness of the issue.

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