Brussels, 3 July 2013/ ACP: A crucial project aimed at tackling child labour in 12 African, Caribbean and Pacific states will come to a close next month, amidst pleas for its extension from country officials.
Child labour, which refers to any work that is mentally, socially, physically or morally harmful to children, usually results in lost education while risking the child’s health and safety. The TACKLE project was jointly launched in 2008 to address the problem by the EU and the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) with support from the ACP Secretariat, to cobat the problem by ensuring access to quality education.
A two-day workshop in Brussels heard a preliminary review of the five-year project, which highlighted the good progress made in many of the countries – Fiji, Zambia and Kenya for instance, met nearly all their targets. But the main challenge across the board was bringing national ministries of education and labour in line with each other, while facing low public awareness and institutional capacity, as well as general lack of resources.
“We have learned so much by trying to close this gap between labour, education and their different policies – but it has not been easy,” said ILO-IPEC Director Constance Thomas at the closing of the forum. “This is the only project that requires an MOU to be signed between the ministry of labour and ministry of education, and sometimes this took two years. Now we understand much more about collaborating coherently in fighting child labour.”
Participants from were able to share insights on four main target areas of the programme: building suitable education and legal frameworks; boosting institutional capacity to be able to apply child labour strategies; designing targeted actions to combat the problem; and enhancing knowledge networks and education.

“The project was an eye opener. The long years of war in our country created a lot of situations that were not there before, like children on the streets,” explained Helen Lotara of the South Sudanese Ministry of Labour. “But we need proper strategies… We can’t have an abrupt stop [to TACKLE] – maybe three, four, five more years will allow us a gradual exit period so each country can take over the project.”
A delegate from Mali spoke on the post-conflict situation in his own country, where child soldiers and displaced or refugee children are not at school. He said porous borders with neighbouring states mean child labourers and child trafficking is difficult to monitor.
Meanwhile, both Sierra Leone and Jamaican delegations pointed to the need to sensitise police on the issue and the lack of laws that allow the crimes to be prosecuted properly.

While participants called for a second phase of the TACKLE, the EU Commission could not confirm further funding after August 2013. The project already had an 18 month extension to its original plan. Any new programmes will have to be in line with the Commission’s Agenda for Change policy.
The 12 countries that benefited from this project include: Angola, Fiji, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, PNG, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan and Zambia.
(Photo: Top – ILO-IPEC Director Constance Thomas and EU Commission's Marc Sioli of DG Devco; Sierra Leone delegation Mr Abdul Karim Conteh, Mansaray Pearce and James Mahoi; Lorene Baird from the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security in Guyana; Head of the PNG Trade Union Congress John Paska and representative of the Madagascar Ministry of Education Jean Baptiste Randrianandrasana; Below – group photo of participants with coodinator Blerina Vila at the far left)
– ACP Press