World Day Against Child Labour Message to the Nation By The Honourable Mr. Keith Scott, Minister in the Ministry of Social Protection
The Co-operative Republic of Guyana joins the rest of the world on June the 12th, 2017 to observe ‘World Day Against Child Labour’ under the theme: In Conflicts and Disasters, Protect Children from Child Labour.
It is almost impossible to think about Child Labour without becoming emotional but today I entreat every citizen of this beautiful country of ours to join with me and the rest of the Ministry of Social Protection in observing this significant event.
The theme this year cries out to our sense of responsibility and concern for the wellbeing of children who are mostly affected by two major phenomena which are conflicts and disasters.
However, before touching on those issues permit me to focus-at least briefly-on the social, political and philosophical framework within which this country approaches its responsibilities against Child Labour.
The APNU+AFC government is convinced that Child Labour is a man-made problem, the causes and genesis of which are well known to us. Since the foundation of the problem is known its solution should not be too difficult to determine and apply.
Our Strategies, Plans, and Programmes against Child Labour, were developed against the background of our Constitution; The Combating of Trafficking in Person Act, of 2005, The National Youth Policy 2016, The Education Act, Chapter 39:01 The Relevant Labour Laws and the various International Labour Organization Conventions and Recommendations to which we subscribe.
It is not convenient to discuss the tenets and substance of any of these instruments at this forum, suffice it to say that they interlocked and intertwined a unified way for the elimination of this scourge.
Lest we forget, we need to be reminded that the definition of Child Labour encompasses “all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as sale and trafficking, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced and compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.”
As wide as this definition may seem, it can be extended to embrace the worst forms of Child Labour which incorporates the use, procuring or offering of a Child for prostitution, and for the production of pornographic performances.”
This definition reveals the complexity and pervasive nature of this social illness which must be confronted by the combined efforts of the entire nation.
Child Labour has no specific class, creed, race, political affiliation or ideology. It has no limit and no boundary but strives and survives in situations of poverty, conflicts and disaster.
In situation of peace, comfort order and affluence Child Labour can emerge stealthily and exit clandestinely but the propensity for its expansion increases many folds in conditions of Conflicts and Disasters.
Recent statistics emanating from the International Labour Organization reveal that globally, more than 1.5 billion persons reside in countries which are affected by conflicts and at the same time another 200 million individuals worldwide are impacted by disasters. This means that the opportunities for Child Labour exist amongst approximately 1.7 billion individuals throughout the world including Guyana.
Disasters which may strike and do strike without warning are not subject to elimination and absolute control but conflicts which are always man-made can certainly be reduced and possibly eliminated.
We in Guyana do not experience the type of conflict referred to in the International Labour Organization’s definition, but we do experience some level of disaster from time to time. Just last month we witnessed severe flooding in Region #8 where over 1000 residents were reported to have been affected. But government especially through the Civil Defence Commission was careful enough to ensure that, inter alia, Child Labour-particularly its worst forms was not a consequence of that unfortunate development.
I wish to assure the nation and the wider world that the APNU+AFC government has recognized everyday as a day on which we will continually fight, resist and roll back the frontiers of Child Labour. On June 12, this year as is customary, our sensitivities, consciousness and awareness will be heightened and exhibited on a high scale but we wish to let it be known that we are at work against this menace every day.
While government will continue to lead the charge in this fierce encounter, we wish to recognize the contributions being made by the other stakeholders including our tripartite partners i.e. the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), the Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry (CAGI) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG).
As a matter of fact, we wish to take this opportunity to recognize the contributions which are being made by Civil Society. As we join the Ministry of Education in its truancy campaign, all year around, we also recognize the willing co-operation and participation of Private entities and agencies in the various activities we host at this time.
Finally, I want to extend a special thank you to the media for helping us with our education and sensitization programmes as we march forward in the fight against Child Labour.
It is our commitment that no matter how difficult the circumstances become, we can jointly protect children against Child Labour. All that is required is the will to get the task done.
I Thank You