Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock
Chapter 37: Child labour and fragile states in Sub-Saharan Africa: Reflections on regional and international responses
Action aimed at abolishing child labour has had significant results in many countries. While this has permitted a reduction in the number of working children globally, the ILO still sees the persistence of child labour as part of development failures. In Africa, while these efforts have exposed the extent of the phenomenon, they have not been able to eradicate poverty (with the international community having moved from the concept of its eradication to its alleviation) or to put a stop to the privatization or the weakening of the State. Since initiatives to eliminate child labour have been designed essentially along two axes – regulation of work by children and free and compulsory instruction – their scope has been mitigated. At the same time, however, they have shed light on the key role of the State as a true actor in the fight against child labour and the achievement of sustainable development. This leads to two observations. First, poverty cannot justify putting children to work. Second, international action against child labour should, on the one hand, ensure the participation of children and on the other hand, integrate the need for the State as well as its consolidation as an actor for development. Without tackling the root causes of exploitative child labour, the fight to eliminate it remains unlikely to succeed.
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