The prosecution of people who exploit children in some of the worst forms of child labour is fundamental to the eradication of the practice. Yet in many countries where children are most at risk, it is exceptionally difficult to investigate and bring perpetrators to justice, due to desperately low resourcing and capacity in law enforcement, social services and the judicial sector, as well as societal attitudes towards the role of children in families and communities.
On paper, laws and policies to protect children from abuse and exploitation can be reasonably robust in even the world’s most unstable and impoverished countries. The Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Ethiopia have all ratified the major international conventions relating to children’s rights and child labour specifically, and have domestic laws criminalising the exploitation of children. In practice, however, the enforcement of these laws is severely compromised.
Without the resources and know-how to enforce child labour laws, the exploitation of children is allowed to continue with impunity.
Prevention starts with awareness. With support from consortium partner the Thomson Reuters Foundation, media outlets in our three focus countries will raise awareness of child labour, its damaging effects on children, and how the issue is addressed in law.
We will also work with law enforcement bodies, social services and civil society to strengthen referral mechanisms and ensure it is clear where to report cases of child labour, and the services and support available to affected children.
At an institutional level, the Thomson Reuters Foundation will work with government-mandated agencies to train local police, prosecutors and justice professionals on the investigation and prosecution of child labour cases, their legal obligations, and the unique skills required to support children in contact with the law. We will also bring together the same public sector bodies to devise and implement national action plans to reduce the incidence of child labour in their respective countries and protect more children from exploitation.
Through these interventions PACE hopes to strengthen the legal and policy environment in all three countries to protect children from being exploited in the worst forms of child labour.
Through awareness raising and referral mechanism strengthening, the general public will be empowered to report cases of child labour; and the ability of the police to investigate reports, prosecutors to bring cases against perpetrators, and judges to administer justice, will be enhanced through capacity-strengthening activities. At the same time, bringing together key stakeholders to implement joint plans of action to combat child labour should result in more joined-up policy making and stronger coordination to reduce levels of child exploitation.