Although widely frowned upon and in spite of measures to combat the shameful practices of child trafficking and child labour, it is worrying to note that die-hard traffickers continue to ply their trade with no regard for the law or life. Cases of trafficking in children have become so commonplace that we have come to think of them as a normal occurrence. In order to avoid such situations, the authorities must do their duty and respond severely to traffickers, creating a hostile environment for them in the hope that they will stop hijacking the future of thousands of children.
Parliament, by virtue of its constitutional powers, has the legal means to attain that goal by establishing or reshaping an appropriate framework that upholds regional and international standards and harmonizes strategies with other stakeholders. This results in targeted and coordinated action, and ultimately coming a step closer to eliminating child trafficking and labour.
The IPU has made the fight against child trafficking/labour a top priority. It has partnered with the OECD/Sahel and West Africa Group, with funding from the Belgian Government, to tackle child labour in West African cocoa plantations. This project provides insights on the problem of child labour in general. It seeks to: encourage ratification of regional and international instruments on human trafficking and the worst forms of child labour; put in place appropriate legal mechanisms throughout the process that take into consideration the human rights of the victims of trafficking, prohibit the recruitment of children for purposes of economic exploitation and crack down on traffickers; and set up a parliamentary body tasked with monitoring, following up and evaluating implementation.
To achieve those goals, activities such as national and regional seminars and field visits have been planned. One such event was the Cotonou Conference, held from 26 to 28 May 2010. The Cotonou Declaration serves as a roadmap for parliamentary action. It has also guided the national seminars that have taken place subsequently in Burkina Faso on 21 and 22 September 2010, in Togo on 23 and 24 November 2010 and in Gabon on 27 and 28 April 2011.
Together with the major stakeholders attending the national seminars, parliamentarians and parliamentary staff examined the problem and sought to identify specificities in their respective countries with a view to formulating an appropriate parliamentary response. Their discussions gave rise to national action plans that provide for legislative, institutional, administrative and social reforms tailored to each country’s needs. In Burkina Faso, for example, there will be a review of the 1976 decree on apprenticeship contracts and the 1964 law governing the circulation of minors. In Togo, the national action plan calls for re-examining law no. 2007-017 of 6 July 2007 on the Children’s Code and in Gabon, law no. 009/2004 of 22 September 2004 on preventing and combating child trafficking and labour and the Code governing public procurement will be held up to scrutiny.
Through these targeted and powerful actions, parliaments intend to make a significant contribution to efforts to mobilize against child trafficking and labour.