Thursday, June 17, 1999 Published at 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Child slavery ban agreed
Millions of children work in developing countries
The International Labour Organisation has unanimously adopted a convention to end the worst forms of child labour.
Child labour activists and trade unions have hailed the convention as a giant step forward in the campaign against child labour.
The convention is a compromise document, following the widespread failure of countries to ratify the decade-old convention on abolishing all forms of child labour.
In a separate move, the ILO overwhelmingly approved - in an unprecendented move - a resolution barring Burma from all of its activities until the country puts a stop to the use of forced labour.
The resolution prevents Burma from receiving aid or attending meetings and is the strongest the organisation can impose.
The Burmese authorities have reacted by accusing the ILO of "deplorable interference in its internal affairs".
But the organisation failed to pass a clause banning children from armed forces around the world.
The problem for the ILO when dealing with child soldiers is that the ILO defines a child as anyone under the age of 18, but many influential countries, including Britain, the US and Holland, recruit 17 year olds into their professional armed forces.
In the end a compromise was reached. The convention includes under the category of worst forms of child labour "forced or compulsory recruitment" of child soldiers under the age of 18.
Nevertheless, activists say the convention is stronger than expected.
ILO countries have a poor record on swift ratification and the enforcement of workers rights conventions.
But this time round, it is hoped universal outrage at the plight of millions of child labourers will spur them into action.
He said: "We must wipe from the Earth the most vicious forms of abusive child labour. Every single day, tens of millions of children work in conditions that shock the conscience."
The Geneva-based ILO estimates that in developing countries alone, 250 million children between the ages of five and 14 years work.
Asia has around 61% of all child workers, compared with 32% for Africa and 7% in Latin America.
However, Africa has the highest rate of child economic activity, estimated at roughly over two children in every five.