A global task force will be set up for the first time to deal with the issue of child labor in international efforts to promote universal education, according to a proposal unanimously adopted by participants at Monday's meeting in Beijing on Achieving Education for All and Elimination of Child Labor.
At the third roundtable of UNESCO's 5th High Level Group Meeting on Education, ministers and senior officials from governments and international organizations agreed to immediately launch a task force after recognizing key links between combating child labor and promoting universal education.
"If children continue to be an income source or a source of cheap labor, universal education won't be achieved," said World Bank Executive Director Ad Melkert. "Only healthy and well-educated people can ensure sustainable economic development and social welfare to make education accessible to all."
The global task force will start collecting better data, as the true situation in many places may currently be hidden, and invite other partners to cooperate more broadly not only between education and child labor agencies but on an international level.
It will aim to increase political will and momentum on mainstream child labor issues, advocacy for coordination and support, and step up best practice exchanges to help countries learn from each other.
Education Minister Zhou Ji called for increased international efforts and cooperation.
Participants agreed that the fundamental way to combat child labor was to help families and communities develop their economies and eradicate poverty, requiring the international community and governments to come up with practical and effective assistance to promote education.
"Maintaining child labor is maintaining poverty. Only by getting the kids in school can their parents' income be increased, and the child labor discouraged," said Melkert.
According to 2002 figures from the International Labor Organization, 246 million 5 to 17-year-olds were engaged in child labor in the year 2000. Of them, 8.4 million were in forced and bonded labor, armed conflict, prostitution and pornography and other illicit activities.
The Asia-Pacific region had the largest number of children aged 5-14 who were at all economically active -- 127 million out of 211 million in the world.
(Xinhua News Agency November 29, 2005)