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Tuesday, October 28, 1997 Published at 16:01 GMT

Despatches: Europe

PUBLISHED AT 12:00 GMT Monday, October 27, 1997 :


An international conference on child labour has opened in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, with a call for the governments and peoples of the world to put an end to the most intolerable forms of child labour. Representatives from forty countries as well as international organizations and employers are to work out an agenda for action for adoption by the end of the conference on Thursday. From Oslo, William Horsley reports:

"Norway's Minister for Development, Hilde Johnson, who is hosting the conference, opened it with a warning that exploitation of children through work was increasing rapidly in many countries -- but she said concern about it was growing too. The conference aims to build on the issues raised at last February's meeting in Amsterdam on ending the most intolerable forms of child labour, such as slavery and hazardous work. Speaking for the International Labour Office (the ILO), a co-organizer of this gathering, one of its directors, Assefa Bequele, warned against complacency. Children were being put to work, he said, in Moscow and Cairo, in Mongolia and Mexico, Beijing and New York, in Brazil and Mauretania and in the Philippines and Portugal. Mr Bequele set out the most concrete goal of the meeting: to ask countries within two years to adopt a new convention on intolerable forms of child labour. Recently Western companies selling sports goods, furniture and diamonds had been put under new pressure to stop the exploitation of children making their products. Ministers and employers from many countries where these abuses occur -- especially the Indian subcontinent, Africa and South America -- are taking part in a debate which should lead to the adoption this week of a new agenda for action."

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