Three years after their adoption, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a shared global vision and a roadmap toward “dignity, peace and prosperity for people and the planet.” The recently-released 2018 Sustainable Development Goals Report highlights progress made on this ambitious agenda, but also identifies major issues and progress that is insufficient to meet some of the agenda’s goals by the 2030 target deadline.
“With just 12 years left to the 2030 deadline, we must inject a sense of urgency.” Stressed UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in his foreword. “Achieving the 2030 Agenda requires immediate and accelerated actions by countries along with collaborative partnerships among governments and stakeholders at all levels.”
As a systemic problem with complex root causes touching over 10 of the SDGs, child labour is a key example of an issue that must be addressed in a comprehensive and collaborative way if progress is to be significant and sustainable.
A key takeaway from the 2018 report, leading up to next month’s high-level political forum discussion, is the need to recognise that the goals must be looked at together. “Transitioning towards more sustainable and resilient societies also requires an integrated approach that recognizes that these challenges—and their solutions—are interrelated.” Any approach that seeks to prioritise certain goals or rights over others risks being ineffective or even harmful.
While it is ultimately the responsibility of individual nations to achieve the SDG agenda, Goal 17, which mandates “bringing together national governments, the international community, civil society, the private sector and other actors,” is critical to overall success. ECLT has seen from concrete examples that productive social dialogue can ensure sustainable commitments and actions from all of these stakeholder groups.
Limited approaches, which call for isolated efforts from a single actor on a narrow policy or supply chain, cannot be effective against the complex problems we are facing.
Recent articles published by The Guardian, highlighting the significant scope of child labour still within global tobacco-growing supply chains, raise important awareness on the harsh realities faced daily by children, farmers and families, who depend on tobacco and other export crops for their livings. However, the narrow scope of the reporting, which is focused on a single supply chain and lacking context on broader agricultural issues and roles of stakeholders beyond the private sector, makes these articles inconsistent with the clear, global mandate for integrated and cooperative solutions set out in the SDGs.
For the 152 million children in child labour, recent ILO statistics show that significant progress has been made, but it has been mixed. There is also a clear crisis with youth unemployment. Youth were three times more likely to be unemployed than adults in 2017 according to the 2018 SDG Report.
As agriculture is the main economic sector in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, where child labour has increased in recent years, governments, donors and agricultural buyers must invest in modernising value chains and developing new markets and support services, which promote decent work for farmers and young workers above the legal age and have the right to work. Key to promoting decent work for youth is understanding inherent risks in agricultural activities, in tobacco growing and beyond, educating farmers to identify them and mitigate them, if possible..
This is the precise aim of ECLT's current partnership with the ILO, a tri-partite plus process to develop and evidence-based advice on hazardous child labour in tobacco growing, so governments around the world can be informed to make and enforce strong national policies that protect children and young workers from hazardous work. As Human Rights Watch rightly points out, when governments are informed and involved based on good policies, accountability and transparency increases. If this is done with a community-based, evidence-driven, cross-sector approach, results are not limited individual supply chains, children are protected and working conditions can improve for young workers and all workers on farms.
With the accelerated SDG target 8.7 to end child labour by 2025, now is the time to invest more in children, ensuring international support and partnerships which are “critical, especially for the poorest countries.” The stakes for children and families around the world are high, and all stakeholders must pull together against global challenges like poverty and inequality, responding to Secretary-General Guterres’s call to “Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals. Unity is our path. Our future depends on it.”
The ECLT Foundation prioritises convening decision makers and thought leaders for sustainable and collaborative solutions against child labour that benefit farmers, children, farmers and their families. The call for common goals and efforts is clear and we must support it in order to be accountable to the children and communities we serve.
Media inquiries: Media@eclt.org