National Consultation on ‘Country Responses to Child Labour and Way Forward’

A one day-long National Consultation on ‘Country Responses to Child Labour and Way Forward’ jointly organised by the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOLE) and ILO at Hotel Purbani in Dhaka. The overall objective of the consultation was to provide platform for stakeholders to discuss drawbacks, challenges and gaps in addressing child labour in Bangladesh and to propose concrete and coherent actions towards effective and progressive elimination of worst forms of child labour by 2016.

It is expected that recommendations made by the participants would help the Government of Bangladesh, represents by MOLE, as preparation of the upcoming Global Conference on Child Labour in the Hague in May 2010, and implementation of the country’s newly adopted National Child Labour Elimination Policy.

The Consultation was chaired by Honorable Joint Secretary (Labour) and Head of Child Labour Unit, MOLE, Mr Arun Kanti Aich, while Honorable Secretary, MOLE, Mr Md. Nurul Haque, Mr A.J.A.J.M.G Hennekens, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy in Dhaka, Mr Gagan Rajbhandari, Acting Director, ILO, Dhaka were present as Chief Guest and Special Guests respectively.

Around 60 participants from different Government’s Ministries and Departments, Workers’ and Employers’ organisations, national and international NGOs and NGO networks, Dhaka City Corporation and media attended the event.

Mr Gagan Rajbhandari in his welcome remarks said “Today’s consultation is very important milestone for all of us to look back our responses and identify and discuss challenges and gaps so that we can take concrete and robust measures to ending worst forms of child labour by the year 2016 as pledges by the Government of Bangladesh and international community”.

He also added that “We need to discuss some of the prioritized areas such as, how the existing child labour related legal frameworks can be strengthened; what enforcement mechanism that includes sanctions against those who break laws can be developed and enforced; how the newly adopted national child labour elimination policy can be translated into concrete action with specific timeframe; how can an effective child labour monitoring and tracking system be developed and implemented in a sustainable manner which will ensure that children will not be dropped out from school and return to workplaces”.

H.E. Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy in his welcome remarks said “The fight against child labour is an arduous struggle. Often it is argued that short term results cannot be expected. I disagree with that. To put it bluntly: child labour is immoral and it is the responsibility of all of us to act, and act now. The Netherlands congratulate the Government of Bangladesh with the adoption of the National Child Labour Elimination Policy 2010. However, more and immediate actions are needed to protect children from hazardous and worst forms of child labour. This national consultation could provide a good opportunity to define those actions.”

The Chief Guest, Mr Md. Nurul Haque, said “Despite all efforts made by the Government and other actors child labour remains a challenge for the country. The challenge however is to keep up the pace of elimination and making further progress. Policies that have been adopted by Bangladesh related to elimination of child labour are undoubtedly a desirable step forward in the social and human development of the nation as well. However, the implementation of such policies is not easy. Hence the challenge is to translate the policies into practice and to make a tangible impact on the lives of the millions of working children in Bangladesh. I hope today’s consultation will contribute to creation a platform for future action to end the worst forms of child labour.”

Three analytical papers were also presented to make the foundation for discussion. They include: “Compatibility of Children’s Employment and Schooling in Bangladesh” by Dr. Rushidan Islam Rahman, Senior Research Fellow, Bangladesh Institute for Development Studies; “Elimination of Child Labour in Bangladesh and the importance of the ILO Conventions No.138 and 182” by Dr. Monirul Islam, Professor, Department of Sociology, Dhaka University; and “Country Responses to Child Labour” by Mr Arun Kanti Aich, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment.

The second part of the consultation was devoted for group discussion. The participants were divided into five groups under five themes namely i) Political Awareness, Implementation of Policies and Institutional development; ii) Legislation and Enforcement; iii) Education; iv) Knowledge base, Advocacy, Networking and Social Mobilization; and v) Prevention and Protection.

The recommendations made by the participants are now being finalized in consultation with the Ministry of Labour and Employment.