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The Worst Forms of Child Labour, Education and Violent Conflict

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This paper has been prepared as a background document for the 2011 Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report which will have a particular focus on violent conflict. Its purpose is to show the way in which the worst forms of child labour (WFCL), education and violent conflict are related and why WFCL should present a key area of attention for education policy makers and planners – especially in conflict and post‐conflict situations. Conflict exacerbates child labour and in particular its worst forms. Consequently, if the EFA goals are to be met in conflict‐affected countries, appropriate ways of addressing child labour need to be found both during and after conflict.

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) most recent estimates of child labour indicate there are some 215 million child labourers in the world. Out of these, a staggering number of 115 million children are exposed to hazardous work – a proxy for WFCL. While it is very difficult to obtain data on children in WFCL in conflict, the following numbers can underline the seriousness of the situation: according to UNICEF, just over 1 billion children live in countries or territories affected by armed conflict. Research indicates also that it is violent conflict which lies at the root of poverty. Of all 75 million children out of school worldwide, more than half live in countries affected by conflict. This population represents the single largest obstacle to achieving the EFA goals. Despite the pressing needs, these so‐called “emergency affected states” receive approximately 43% less funding than countries with stronger government institutions.

Children living in countries affected by conflict face varying degrees of disadvantage in relation to accessing education. Some have no access. Others may have access but struggle to combine work and school commitments, which very often results in early drop out from school. Only very few children actually enjoy full access to education; one in three children in these countries is missing out.

The connection between tackling child labour and promoting Education for All has been increasingly recognized. On the one hand, education and in particular free and compulsory education of good quality up to the minimum age of employment, is a key element in preventing child labour. On the other hand, child labour is one of the main obstacles to full time school attendance and in the case of part‐time work, can prevent children from fully benefiting of their time at school. It is the aim of the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) to further increase awareness on the issue and to eliminate child labour and as a priority its worst forms.

As a first step, this paper will elaborate upon the notion of child labour and WFCL: Then the link between child labour and education in times of peace will be analyzed. The main part of this paper will focus on the impact of conflict on the worst forms of child labour/education dynamic. Recommendations on how to ensure education for children in (post)‐conflict situations will be given at the end.