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Monday, October 27, 1997 Published at 05:40 GMT


Conference to decide action on child labour

More than 250 million children work around the world (pic: Jenny Matthews, Save the Children)

A second international conference on child labour has started with the arrival of a deputation of children who know all about the problem.

The conference in Oslo comes after an earlier summit in Amsterdam failed to agree an action plan.

The United Nations' Children's Fund (Unicef) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) are setting the agenda for the four-day conference, run by the Norwegian government.

[ image:  ]

The Geneva-based ILO said "choices must be made about where to concentrate available human and material resources" on a growing problem.

The organisation's Director General, Michel Hansenne, added: "The war against child labour is being won and it can be won in all countries in the coming 15 years."

Private charities flew 21 working children to Oslo to encourage the conference to take drastic action to stop exploitative practices.

The group included Lidja Pereira da Silva, aged 15, who leads the Brazilian national street children's movement.

Another visitor, Dibou Faye, who is 14 and from Senegal, said her employer had regularly beat her.

She is now campaigning for basic rights for children in west Africa.

Most child labour takes place in Asia, Africa and South America but also in the United States and European countries such as Portugal and Spain.

Unicef emphasised the role of education in stopping the exploitation of child workers.

[ image: Work can harm children]
Work can harm children

Unicef chief Carol Bellamy said: "Education is the single most effective tool we have for eliminating child labour."

Unicef and the ILO hope to convince the 40 countries attending the conference to sign an "Agenda for Action" outlining principles and actions.

This would complement the 1989 United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child.

But the opposition of non-governmental organisations combined with practical difficulties make the prospect of a complete ban remote.

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The Government of Norway

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Child Labour Coalition