The World Movement of Working Children and Youth

The movements of working children and youth are not only networked at a local, national and continental level. Meanwhile there are also rudiments of a world movement – their common demands are formulated in the "10 points of Kundapur". Three intercontinental meetings have taken place since 1996. So far it has not been possible to organise further intercontinental meetings, but there is continuous communication between the movements in the continents of the Global South and with support groups in Europe.

Local, national and continental networking of the movements

Democratically elected delegates of the movements of working children and youth meet every one or two years at national and international meetings to exchange their experiences, to study the living situation of working children in other parts of their country or in other countries of their continent, to formulate common demands and proposals and to discuss actions and strategies. The children's meetings are often accompanied by meetings of adult supporters. In Africa and Latin America there is a continental coordination office each, in Asia a transnational organisation is missing so far although there have been several attempts to build one.

Since the mid-1990s, children's movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America have been trying to maintain contact and exchange experiences across continents. In November and December 1996, the first intercontinental meeting took place in the South Indian city of Kundapur. 34 delegates from 33 countries attended. After 14 days of intensive discussion they agreed on ten common demands. Since then, these "10 Points of Kundapur" have been regarded as the most important manifesto of working children across national and cultural borders:

  1. We want recognition for our initiatives, suggestions and organization processes.

  2. We are against the boycott of products made by children.

  3. We want respect and safety for our work.

  4. We want an education with methods adequate to our situation.

  5. We want professional training suited for our context.

  6. We want to have access to a good health system.

  7. We want to be consulted for any decision that affects us, whether local, national or international.

  8. We want a fight to be initiated against the reasons that are at the origin of our situation and first of all poverty.

  9. We want more initiatives in rural areas so that children don’t have to go to the city.

  10. We are against the exploitation of our labour, but we are in favour of a dignifying job with a schedule suited for our education and spare time.

Meetings at intercontinental level

Since the first intercontinental meeting in Kundapur, there have been numerous meetings on the individual continents, and there are rudiments of a World Movement of Working Children, which sees itself as part of the globalisation-critical movement. With the support of ProNATs and ItaliaNATs, a second world meeting with 30 delegates from 22 different countries was held in Berlin in April and May 2004. The movement had deliberately chosen a European capital city as the venue: The people and especially the politicians in the North should finally realise that the working children can speak for themselves and want to have a say in all matters concerning them.

The movements united in the World Movement oppose the international ban on child labour and instead call for a differentiated assessment and improvement of the conditions under which children work. Their common goal is a world without poverty, exploitation, discrimination and oppression in which children are free to decide whether and how they want to work. Those who work should be able to do so in dignity. Therefore, the World Movement demands the right for all children to live in humane conditions, to be respected as subjects with their own opinions and needs, and to receive free, qualified and true-to-life education. Indeed, during the World Meeting in Berlin, the children's movement succeeded for the first time in reaching a wider public in the Global North, and the media response was enormous.

Within ten years, further nodes in the network have emerged. A third World Meeting in October 2006 in Siena, Italy, was to further advance the building of the world movement, the foundations of which had been laid in the two previous meetings. An intercontinental coordination for the world movement of NATs was decided. The idea was discussed to create an import label for goods from "fair child labour" and an action plan for the future was compiled. Towards the end of this meeting the movement decided to celebrate from now on the 9th of December as "World Day of the Working Children" as an alternative to the 12th of June, which the ILO has chosen as the "International Day against Child Labour". The Kundapur Declaration of 9 December 1996 is considered the beginning of the World Movement of Working Children.

Since the third World Meeting in Siena, communication and mutual support between the movements across continents has been organised mainly via the Internet. In October 2017, over 250 representatives of the movements of working children and youth, academics and representatives of child rights NGOs and social movements from four continents met in La Paz (Bolivia) at the "International Forum: Public Policy with Working Children and Youth - Perspectives and Experiences from the Global South".

Other activities

On the occasion of the ILO's Global Child Labour Conference, which took place on 10 and 11 May 2010 in The Hague (Netherlands), the World Movement organised a counter-conference with the support of ProNATs and other European solidarity groups on the ground. At this conference it was criticised that the ILO still denies working children the right to participate in the ILO conferences and in ILO bodies with a seat and vote. Protest actions took place in front of the conference building, which met with a great public response. Before the ILO's Global Child Labour Conference, which took place in Buenos Aires (Argentina) from 14 to 16 November 2017, the movements took part in an initiative by various NGOs (terre des hommes, Kindernothilfe, Save the Children Canada, etc.) aimed at making the voices of working children heard. The motto of this initiative was: "It's time to talk! “. At this ILO conference, working children were again denied the opportunity to participate. The Latin American and Caribbean Children's Movement (MOLACNATs) then filed a complaint with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child against the violation of their participation rights.

Delegates of the movements of working children also took part in several world congresses on children's rights, such as Barcelona in 2007, San Juan (Argentina) in 2011, Puebla (Mexico) in 2014 and Asunción (Paraguay) in 2016.

From 25 May to 4 June 2015, a delegation from MOLACNATs, supported by BélgicaNATs, ProNATs and the Bolivian Ambassador to the EU, visited Brussels, Bonn and Geneva to lobby for international support for a new law on children and youth in Bolivia. In Brussels, an event in the European Parliament was held with the support of the Spanish political group PODEMOS, as well as meetings with representatives of the European Commission, the ILO, NGOs and pupils from several schools. In Bonn, a delegate from Bolivia and a delegate from Paraguay attended a conference on Bolivian law organized by Kindernothilfe and terre des hommes. In Geneva, talks were held with representatives of ILO-IPEC and several NGOs, but the delegates were once again denied the opportunity to speak at the ILO General Assembly which was taking place at the same time.

Since 2018, the working children's movements have been working together to recognise children as "human rights defenders" within the UN system. They are calling for direct participation in UN bodies and for better protection and support for their work on the rights of children in emergency situations, especially in armed conflicts, children of indigenous communities and children on flight. Some movements have also been involved in the activities of the global climate movement "Fridays for Future" since mid-2019.

Since April 2020, working children's movements in Africa, Latin America and India have been sharing their experiences during the Corona pandemic and advising each other on how to protect themselves and counter the severe consequences of the pandemic for themselves and their families. Some movements criticise in particular the fact that governments are failing to take account of working children in their actions and are leaving them to their fate. They also point out that the pandemic is not an unavoidable natural phenomenon, but was caused by the ruthless exploitation of non-human nature.

Updated: 14.12.2020