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Written Answers. - Children's Rights.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 551 No. 3

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 55. Ms Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  the steps he intends to take to support the recent campaign launched by Trócaire to help end child slavery; the action Ireland intends to take on bonded labour and child labour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10253/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”. Full adherence to the absolute values enshrined in the declaration is of paramount importance. The concept of slavery has broadened from the traditional concept of the slave trade and now includes practices such as bonded labour and child labour.

The Government is committed to the active promotion of full observance of universal human rights standards, including opposing and seeking the elimination of all contemporary forms of slavery. Contemporary forms of slavery include practices such as bonded labour, the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography, the exploitation of child labour, the sexual mutilation of female children, the use of children in armed conflicts, debt bondage and trafficking in persons. We voice our concerns wherever possible in partnership with other like-minded countries, in international fora such as the UN General Assembly, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. While the issue of bonded labour or child labour is not primarily a matter of the UN Security Council, we remain vigilant for opportunities to pursue the issue in the context of ongoing discussions on specific issues.

I welcome Trócaire's recent Lenten campaign which highlighted the issue of bonded labour and child labour.

Efforts to eliminate contemporary forms of slavery involve a wide spectrum of international organisations, NGOs and governments. Slavery and human rights issues in general are normally considered by the UN bodies which have a specific role and expertise in this area, notably the Commission on Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation, ILO. Ireland has [791] ratified the ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, in which Article 3 defines “all forms of child slavery or practices similar to slavery” as comprising the worst form of child labour.

My colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Kitt, led the delegation to the 89th International Labour Conference in Geneva in June 2001. He raised the issue of bonded labour in the course of the discussion at the plenary session of the conference where he put forward a number of practical measures to address this specific problem. The Minister of State's proposals received the strong support of the majority of his EU member state colleagues. Mr. Juan Somavia, the Director-General of the ILO made specific reference to Minister of State's call for special measures to deal with the problems of bonded labour.

The EU put forward a resolution at the 57th session of the Commission on Human Rights, which called on all states to render concrete their commitments to eliminate child labour in it's worst form, and especially where interferes with the child's education, health or development and, in this regard, to consider ratifying ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour. Ireland is actively calling for the issue of child soldiers to be raised at the current session of the Commission on Human Rights.

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