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World Day Against Child Labour 2021

Author: Glencore | Date: 11/06/2021

According to estimates by the International Labour Organization, almost 100 million children have been removed from child labour over the past 20 years. But there are still about 152 million children who are victims of child labour today.

To finally end child labour through collective efforts, 2021 has been designated the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

The progress that has been made to reduce the incidence of child labour since the turn of the century has been far too slow. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the level of child labour is increasing for the first time in over twenty years. The vast majority of child labour occurs in the agricultural sector, but the services and industrial sector, which includes mining, also have to tackle this issue.

As one of the world’s largest natural resource companies, Glencore operates in some of the regions where child labour is particularly prevalent, including Africa. This risk is also present in our supply chains, as well as the risks of forced labour, modern slavery, and other labour standards violations

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where we have major cobalt operations, we are frequently confronted with the issue of child labour associated to artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). 

While Glencore does not process, buy or trade ASM material, we believe that legal ASM can play an important and sustainable role in the DRC economy when carried out responsibly and transparently. It goes without saying that we do not tolerate any form of child, forced, or compulsory labour  anywhere in our business or our supply chain.

But we are also convinced that the answer to ending child labour is not withdrawing from countries and regions where the problem exists. We firmly believe that to tackle the issue on a global level, investment is needed to improve the socio-economic situation locally. 

Glencore wants to be part of the solution. That is why we joined the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) in August 2020. The FCA’s mission is to positively transform ASM in the DRC and work towards eliminating child labour. Through its partners in the DRC, the FCA aims to tackle long-standing challenges within the ASM sector. Its objectives include achieving a child-labour free Kolwezi, supporting the professionalisation of ASM through the adoption of responsible mining practices, and identifying and supporting alternative livelihoods to help increase incomes and reduce poverty.

On 10 June 2021, the FCA announced the start of its child labour remediation programme. Together with the London Metal Exchange (LME), the FCA has established a funding partnership to improve schooling infrastructure.

Our African operations are also doing their part and are working hard to tackle the socio-economic disparities, often worsened by Covid-19, that lead to a higher prevalence of child labour in places like the DRC.

We have for many years supported a summer camp programme in Kolwezi that enables parents to continue working while their children participate in a wide range of recreational and educational activities. Due to the pandemic and consequent government restrictions, we were not able to organise our usual summer camp in 2020. Instead, we purchased school supplies, including school bags, uniforms, and exercise books for 10,300 children to help alleviate the strain on family finances. And we are looking to resuming the summer camp as soon as the situation allows.

In addition, our team in DRC established four youth kiosks in communities close to our operations. These kiosks aim to enable young persons from the community to reflect on issues that affect them and find innovative solutions, and they also support with the organisation of cultural and sports activities. For instance, KCC organised four health walk sessions with a total of 431 attendees. 

Youth kiosk workshop on malaria prevention (left), and community street cleaning initiative organised by our youth kiosk in Kapata (right)

Another important issue to help end child labour is support offered to orphans and children with special needs. We are proud to have been part of building the ‘’Maison Kwetu’’, an orphanage with a capacity of 130 beds in the Kanina suburb of Kolwezi.

A rallying cry for renewing efforts to end all child labour

By helping to tackle the socio-economic root causes of child labour, and offering children today better opportunities from academic education to skills development, we can support our host communities in diversifying their economies.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ending all forms of child labour by 2025 is clear. While there has been progress in the past, the pandemic has shown us just how fragile these achievements are, especially in regions that depend on demand for natural resources. This makes clear that the only way forward is through collaboration across the entire supply chain as well as industries to protect children from exploitation. 

Find out more about how we fulfil our commitment to respect human rights in accordance with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organisation Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the UNDGPs and the UN Global Compact here.