On this World Day against Child Labour, ILO and UNICEF call for joint work among all stakeholders to create a protective and inclusive environment for children in Iraq
On this World Day Against Child Labour, with the slogan "Universal Social Protection to End Child Labour", ILO and UNICEF are calling on stakeholders to work together to create a protective and inclusive environment for children in Iraq.
Children make up the majority of 4.5 million Iraqis who are at risk of poverty due to impact of conflict and COVID-19, with one in two children (48.8%) facing high risk of multiple deprivations in education, health, living conditions, and financial security.
Disruption to services and the adoption of negative coping mechanisms by poor households are set to increase deprivation and increase inequality. This will particularly impact the most vulnerable children - those affected by conflict and displacement, including in host communities.
Child labour has been on the rise in Iraq in recent years due to armed conflict, displacement, socio-economic challenges, and the pandemic; children were moved to remote learning, increasing the risk of drop out from school and entering the workforce. Scaling-up social protection and promoting equal access to quality social services, with a focus on education, health, and child protection are central policy directions to respond to drivers of child labour.
The Fifth Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour held in Durban last month concluded with a call for urgent action, stating that "the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts, and food, humanitarian and environmental crises threaten to reverse years of progress against child labour".
Child labour, especially its worst forms, deprives children of their childhood and their education. It increases their risks to serious hazards, illness, and exploitation.
On World Day Against Child Labour the ILO and UNICEF reiterate their partnership with the Government of Iraq to respond effectively and accelerate reforms to protect vulnerable children and their families from the worst forms of child labour and promote child well-being.
Iraq is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has also ratified the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), which are vital in the fight against child labour.
Furthermore, Iraq's recent participation in the Durban Conference was encouraging, displaying strong national interest towards tackling the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
Key in tackling child labour has been the development of an ILO-supported Child Labour Monitoring System (CLMS), which is funded by the European Regional Development and Protection Programme for Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq (RDPP II) and implemented with the Government of Iraq. The monitoring system identifies vulnerable children who are in or at risk of child labour and provides them with needed support and services.
It focuses on access to education and psycho-social services and providing the children's parents and caretakers with opportunities that can improve their employability and livelihood. Also, ILO and UNICEF provide age-appropriate skills development programmes for 3,781 young people (10-24 years) including employability skills and educating targeted young people on labour law and human rights standards at work.
After the successful piloting of the system in Ninewa and Duhok, the ILO and UNICEF are jointly supporting the government with capacity building and technical support to adopt and implement the system across the country and specifically in areas where child labour is most prevalent.
In addition, the ILO-RDPP II partnership has helped set up and revive centres in Mosul, Ninewa's capital, and Dohuk to provide children with support tools to catch up on education and return to school. These centres provide a safe space for children who have been withdrawn from child labour, where they can engage in age-appropriate activities that can help them return to formal education.
Since 2021, ILO, UNICEF, and World Food Programme (WFP), with the support of the European Union and in partnership with the Government of Iraq are implementing Social Protection Reform programme to improve the quality and coverage of government-funded social protection programmes for the poorest and most vulnerable children and families. This will also reduce the risk of household economic hardship and children falling out of school and into the child labour force.
On this occasion, it is important to recognize the imperative of a multi-sectoral response, with a focus on scaling up social protection including social security to the most vulnerable families, and increasing investments in services such as education, health, child protection. This should ensure all children in Iraq enjoy equal opportunities to learn, thrive and live in a safe and friendly environment. This is vital to enable children to develop skills and imagination and prepare them to deal with the new challenges of the world in its current stages of transition.