Entries by CLC Member

CLC Joins other NGOs in Applauding Downgrade of Thailand in 2014 Trafficking Report Rankings

Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry regarding Thailand’s downgrade in the 2014 TIP Report Publication Date: June 20, 2014 Dear Secretary Kerry: We write today to applaud the U.S. State Department’s decision to downgrade Thailand to Tier 3 in the 2014 Global Trafficking in Persons Report. This decision is justified and an important step in international efforts to persuade the Royal Thai Government to begin making the difficult, but necessary, changes needed to bring themselves into compliance with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. We also believe the Tier 3 ranking, as well as the research and recommendations contained in the report, will be an important informational tool for international and Thai institutions, companies and investors that continue to press Thai authorities to move beyond their current approach. It comes at an opportune time. In the last year, reports from, CNN, BBC, Reuters, The Associated Press and The Guardian have drawn unprecedented attention to the issue. To truly make sufficient progress in addressing human trafficking, the Thai Government should implement reforms in the areas highlighted both in the 2013 TIP Report and our last letter to you. These reforms have been repeatedly recommended by the U.S. State Department, other governments, NGOs, trade unions, and international bodies: improving victim identification and protection; fighting corruption; reforming immigration policies; […]

Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch: Putting 10-Year-olds to Work Doesn’t Solve Poverty

The Bolivian Congress passed a misguided bill last week that would allow children as young as 10 to work legally. If President Morales signs the bill into law, Bolivia will become the only country in the world with a legal employment age so low. Supporters of the bill argue that children in Bolivia need to work out of economic necessity and lowering the working age can help address extreme poverty. But child labor isn’t a solution to poverty – research shows it perpetuates it. Children who work are more likely to miss out on school and end up in a lifetime of low-wage work. Bolivia’s bill includes certain “safeguards,” such as parental consent and the voluntary participation of children. But “voluntary” consent means little in the case of a 10-year-old. In my research, I’ve found that young children are rarely able to resist family pressure to go to work. A young girl I interviewed in Morocco, for example, endured beatings from her employer and worked extreme hours because she felt obliged to help her family. The bill also states that work by young children should not interfere with their education. But studies show that, even when working children have access to school, their education suffers. Children who work are often too tired to complete their homework or maintain regular attendance, […]

CLC Member Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch: Will the US Be the Last Country to Ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child?

  As the children’s rights advocate for Human Rights Watch, one of the questions I’m asked most frequently is why the US has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Currently, only two other countries – South Sudan and Somalia – have yet to ratify the convention, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. But the US is now in danger of becoming a club of one. Last Wednesday, South Sudan’s parliament voted to ratify the convention. The same day – the 24th anniversary of the convention – Somalia’s president pledged that his country would ratify it soon. South Sudan and Somalia have some reasonable excuses for not having ratified the child rights convention more quickly. South Sudan gained independence only two years ago, and Somalia has struggled for more than two decades to establish a functioning government. The US has no such defense. One of the biggest barriers to US ratification is an aggressive misinformation campaign by “parental rights” organizations, claiming that the convention will undermine American families. These groups have promoted ludicrous scenarios of what will happen if the US ratifies the convention, saying parents will be put in prison if they fail to vaccinate their child, that children will be forced to sing songs about the United Nations in school, and that children will have […]

Brazil Child Labor Conference Plenary Statement by CLC Member Jo Becker Urges Three Actions

[Jo Becker delivered the following speech October 9, 2013 at the III Global Conference on Child Labor in Brasilia, Brazil]. I’m pleased to be able to speak on behalf of Human Rights Watch. Over the last decade, we have documented child labor in more than 25 countries, in all regions of the world. In hundreds of interviews, we have seen how these children put their health, their educations, their safety and sometimes their lives at risk. We have met children harvesting sugarcane who have gashes on their legs from sharp machetes; children picking tobacco who suffer nicotine poisoning; children who have climbed into deep mining shafts for gold, only to have them collapse; and child domestic workers who travel long distances from their families, only to be beaten and sexually abused by their employers. We welcome the progress that has been made in reducing the numbers of children in child labor, including its worst forms. However, we are deeply concerned about the 168 million children who are still engaged in child labor, including the 85 million who are in hazardous conditions. In particular, we want to highlight three situations: 1)      Child domestic workers: The new ILO report finds that child labor rates are going down, with one exception – the numbers of child domestic workers increased by over 1 million […]

CLC International Issues Committee Chair Judy Gearhart Addresses Child Labor at the III Global Conference on Child Labor in Brazil

[The CLC’s Judy Gearhart delivered the following speech during the plenary session October 9th at the III Global Conference on Child Labor in Brazil:]     I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on behalf of my organization, the International Labor Rights Forum and as a representative of the US Child Labor Coalition, where I chair the international issues committee. Brothers and sisters in the fight against child labor, we are making progress, but the progress is not enough. There are still 168 million child laborers; 85 million of them toiling under hazardous conditions. I want to congratulate Brazil on its progress in reducing the incidence of child labor. Fifteen years ago I had the good fortune to organize a conference on labor standards and corporate accountability in Sao Paulo. We were lucky to have Oded Grajew, the founder of Abrinq Foundation and a leader in the fight against child labor in Brazil. He spoke eloquently and with commitment about how reducing child labor in Brazil would require reducing inequality as well. Today, we see progress in Brazil in both the reduction of inequality and the reduction of child labor. Sadly, this is not the case in my country, the US, where inequality has been increasing since the 1970s, and we are still not able to push through basic […]

CLC Co-Chair Dr. Lorretta Johnson’s Plenary Speech at the Brazil Child Labor Conference

Dr. Johnson (far right) pictured here with CLC members Jackie Starr, Norma Flores Lopez, Judy Gearhart, and Reid Maki (left to right) Child labor advocates from around the world were allowed to give four-minute plenary speeches during the 2013 Brazil Child Labor conference. Three members of the CLC gave speeches: Dr. Lorretta Johnson, Judy Gearhart, and Jo Becker. The latter two will be posted here in the coming days. Hello, everyone! My name is Dr. Lorretta Johnson, secretary-treasurer for the American Federation of Teachers. I’m also co-chair for the Child Labor Coalition, an organization dedicated to stopping the exploitation of children in the workforce around the world. Today, as we all know, millions of children are being pushed, pulled, prodded, or worse into the labor force. There are children making bricks under the searing sun in Pakistan… There are children who manufacture clothing in dangerous factories over in Bangladesh… There are children who are forced to pick cotton in Uzbekistan… There are children forced to perform as sex workers in places like Thailand, the Philippines, and Cambodia… And even in the United States, we have hundreds of thousands of children being exploited as farmworkers and agricultural labor. At the American Federation of Teachers, we believe every child deserves a future. We believe in a quality education for all children, regardless […]

AFT News Release: AFT and Jamaica Teachers’ Association Launch Anti-Trafficking Project

OCHO RIOS, Jamaica—As the number of reported cases of child trafficking increases exponentially in Jamaica and in the United States, the American Federation of Teachers and the Jamaica Teachers’ Association announced today a joint anti-trafficking project to address the issue in both countries. The pilot project—drawing on materials to be developed by the AFT and the JTA, non-governmental organizations, governments, community groups and others—will raise awareness among students about the dangers of trafficking for forced labor or sexual exploitation, will provide educators with resources to identify children who might be at risk, and will harness community resources to try to protect those children and advocate in schools, government agencies, legislative bodies and other venues on behalf of survivors on behalf of survivors. The International Labor Organization estimates there are nearly 5.5 million children worldwide involved in trafficking. A recent study found that from 2006-2010, 4,870 children in Jamaica were reported missing—70 percent of them girls. Nearly 60 percent did not return home. The U.S. State Department, the ILO and Amnesty International have found that trafficking of children from rural areas into tourist areas for sexual exploitation is a serious problem in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. The U.S. Justice Department estimates that as many as 300,000 U.S. children are at risk of being trafficked. “Teachers have a powerful role to […]

Human Rights Watch’s Jo Becker: The U.S. Can Do More to Keep Children Off the Battlefield

[This blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post on 10/04/2012] President Barack Obama announced on Friday that, for the second year in a row, it was withholding portions of U.S. military assistance from the Democratic Republic of Congo because of its continued use of child soldiers. The U.S. also said it wouldn’t train a Congolese light infantry battalion until Congo signed an action plan with the United Nations to end its use of child soldiers. U.S. officials have repeatedly urged the Congolese government to address the issue. The pressure seems to be working. After seven years of foot-dragging, today Congo finally signed the U.N. plan, which will require Congo to end child recruitment, demobilize children in its forces and allow U.N. verification visits to its barracks. For years, Congo has ranked among the worst countries for child soldiers. At the height of the conflict there, the U.N. estimated that as many as 30,000 children were participating in the war. Today, hundreds each year are still recruited in eastern Congo, by both government and rebel forces. Children who have escaped or been released often fear they will be forced into service again. The U.S. has withheld assistance from Congo under a landmark law, the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which prohibits U.S. military assistance to governments using child soldiers. In contrast it […]