12th June was the official World Day Against Child Labour. Children around the world are routinely engaged in paid and unpaid forms of work that are not harmful to them. However, they are classified as child labourers when they are either too young to work, or are involved in hazardous activities that may compromise their physical, mental, social or educational development.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, the report reflects on how it threatens to reverse years of progress in tackling the problem of child labour and assesses how the pace of progress towards ending child labour is likely to be affected by the continuing pandemic and the economic crisis that has accompanied it.
For more on the World Day Against Child Labour, please see here, whilst you can find the ILO and UNICEF report here.
When the words ‘sport’ and ‘human trafficking’ are put together it immediately conjures images of the use of forced labour to construct stadiums or work as hospitality staff at events, or even trafficked sex workers being exploited by organised criminals to make an income on the vast number of people gathering in a particular area. However, human trafficking can be found in other areas of sport also; trafficking of athletes.
Trafficking in football/sport: The individual is moved to the a destination country where they have their money and documents confiscated and controlled. They may be forced to sign an exploitative contract which is then further used to control them.
Trafficking through football/sport: The individual is drawn into paying for transport to a foreign country with the allure of a promising career, though upon arrival they are abandoned.
Overall, it is clear that there are many different ways in which human trafficking can manifest in the context of sport. Though there has been no discussion of the links between forced labour, construction, and major sporting events, or the links between sporting events and sexual exploitation, these are important issues to account for. When forced labour and sexual exploitation are also included it is clear that the sporting sector is one at high risk of human trafficking and modern slavery. The conditions for human trafficking can occur under the traditional ‘push and pull’ of economic deprivation and a ‘way out’ and appear congruent with traditional concepts of human trafficking. But human trafficking in sport can also occur within the legitimate structures of sports player transfers, particularly transfers of children, without proper safeguards for their welfare and best interests.
In the development CSR, rights observers have understood that corporate interests generally outweigh the voluntary demand for an ethical and socially responsible supply chain. There are various examples of CSR that have developed, which compels corporations to comply with legal standards. For example the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 that that dictates national legal standards, which requires corporations to publish the steps they are taking to ensure their supply chains and free of modern slavery, child labour, human trafficking. This regulation applies both domestically and for international sourcing, in which certain export standards of mandatory social compliance are placed onto developing countries with cheap labour. The California Transparency in Supply Chain Act (CTSCA) 2010 operates similar obligations but working at state level. The Indian Companies Act (2013) compels Indian corporations to spend 2% of their pre-tax profit on CSR.
How Child Rights fit into CSR
Although such legislation is aimed more broadly at achieving supply chain transparency, upholding child rights is a key element of this. Specifically, there is a set of 10 Child Rights and Business Principles as outlined by Save the Children, the UN Global Compact and UNICEF, which give a comprehensive yet non-exhaustive list of CSR requirements in relation to child rights. Corporations must:
Meet their responsibility to respect children’s rights and commit to supporting the human rights of children
Contribute to the elimination of child labour, including in all business activities and business relationships
Provide decent work for young workers, parents and caregivers
Ensure the protection and safety of children in all business activities and facilities
Ensure that products and services are safe, and seek to support children’s rights through them
Use marketing and advertising that respect and support children’s rights
Respect and support children’s rights in relation to the environment and to land acquisition and use
Respect and support children’s rights in security arrangements
Help protect children affected by emergencies
Reinforce community and government efforts to protect and fulfil children’s rights
The focus of CSR towards children aims to eliminate child labour from supply chains, but also must take the nuanced approach which includes protecting the rights of children in their core business strategy, covering all operations, employee rights, marketing, and delivery of products and services.
Claiming to be ‘ethically sourced’, tobacco fields are one of the biggest cash crops in the developing world yet have one of the most corrupt supply chains. Tobacco farms are worked on by children labouring excessive hours for minimal or no pay, while tobacco companies reap the multi-billion dollar benefits of the industry.
On our analysis, this is problematic not only because of the short-term consequences on the health and social rights of the workers, but also as it fuels the longer-term demand for the toxic, pollutant and addictive recourse. This demand is rising in the vulnerable areas of Asia, Africa while decreasing in the West due to education, taxation and policy restrictions. Abolition of child agricultural labour is a high policy agenda for the new Zimbabwean government, and a fundamental step in promotion of a stable democracy throughout other developing states that are also the production sources of tobacco.
Human trafficking has become one of the three largest organised crimes, along with small arms and drugs trade which all monopolise on the displaced people of the refugee crisis. Gangs already involved in trade of illegal substances exploit the opportunity in the modern slave trade that produces over $150 billion annually.
Modern slavery is a global issue, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi highlights the highest number of slaves per country are in India, with over 18 million current victims. Europe’s refugee crisis exacerbates numbers, as approximately 10,000 lone children have been reported missing since entering the EU according to Europol data. In order to prevent their daughters being sold into slavery or for commercial sex, families of Syrian refugees are being pressured to arrange child marriages.
This month Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit 2018 is an international summit on Child Rights addressing the nexus between gangs, refugees and modern slavery. There is an emphasis on technological advancements such as facial recognition for missing children, as well as tighter enforcement amongst gangs involved in refugee migration and education amongst vulnerable victims to address the root causes.
International attention has been brought to the issue of child soldiers as the United Nations released findings of high recruitment statistics, despite progress made last year. According to the United Nations, ‘’the global commitment to end the use of children in armed conflict led to the release and reintegration of more than 5,000 children in 2017’’.
In 20 countries analysed by Virgina Gamba, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, ‘’tens of thousands of boys and girls are still being recruited, kidnapped, and forced to fight or work for military groups or armed forces at ‘alarming rates’.” The main goal is to prevent children from being recruited from within conflict zones, as their opportunities become limited once exploited in this environment and exposed to violence and trauma which ‘shapes their identity’.
Reintegration is a sensitive process which requires ‘‘strong political and financial commitment’’. Once freed from armed forces, children are rehabilitated through education and training, medical and psycho-social support to cope with anti-socialisation they may have learned. There are questions around the effectiveness of international efforts and it is stressed that each case must be dealt with individually, the causes must not be assumed to be ideological, interventions must be long term and children treated with autonomy.
Read further on these findings of child soldiers in UN News.