The International Labour Organization (ILO) assists its member states in promoting rights at work, encouraging decent employment opportunities, enhancing social protection and strengthening tripartite dialogue in handling work-related issues. By becoming a member of ILO in 2015, the Cook Islands have since received technical and advisory services, seminars, workshops, training and fellowships.
Most recent was an invitation for the tripartite partners (Cook Islands Workers Association-CIWA, Chamber of Commerce-COC and Government) to attend the Pacific Regional Consultation on Alliance 8.7. Alliance 8.7 is a coalition calling on to governments to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour and child labour in all its forms by 2025. ILO recently published 2016 figures indicating that 152 million children were engaged in child labour across the world. About 73 million of those children are working in hazardous sectors that directly endangers their health, safety and moral development. Regional figures indicate Africa as having the highest percentage of child labour with 72 million children. Asia pacific region ranks the second highest with 62 million children affected by child labour. 4.3 million Children are also victim of forced labour and forced marriage.
Such a situation cannot and must not continue and ILO’s continued support to member states to fulfil their obligations to respect, promote and to realize the fundamental principles and rights at work. Eradicating child labour and ensuring that all children are in quality education, and that young people receive the training they need to fulfil their productive and creative potential, will contribute to ending poverty, to stronger economies and to a better future for all. Ending forced labour, in all its forms, means that workers will not be robbed of their dignity nor their right to freely-chosen employment.
ILO Convention 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour is close to becoming the first ILO instrument to be universally ratified. Only 6 countries out of the 187 member states of ILO have not yet ratified this convention and 5 of those, including the Cook Islands, are here in the pacific region. Following the workshop, the ILO Director for the Pacific region, Mr. Donglin Li, personally visited the Cook Islands to encourage our Government and social partners to join the global effort against child labour. Ratifying the Convention 182, he says, is a demonstration of our political commitment and good will to take precautionary measures against the worst forms of child labour ever happening to the children of the Cook Islands.
As this was his first country visit, Mr. Donglin Li presented his credentials to the Minister Albert Nicholas as well as to the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Teariki Heather. He engaged into meetings with the Solicitor General, Acting HOM of INTAFF and representatives of CIWA and CoC. During the ILO visit, Mr. Donglin Li’s team also organized a workshop at Crown Beach, which was opened by Hon. Albert Nicholas. In his address speech to the participants, the Minister gave a brief overview of the local context and the challenges faced by our workers and employers, amongst which youth employment and climate change being critical factors affecting the world of work in our region.
Together with the Acting HOM of INTAFF, Mr. Paul Allsworth, Mr. Donglin Li introduced the work of the ILO in the Cook Islands on television and discussed the future collaboration between ILO and the Cook Islands for the upcoming two years. A legal review of the Employment Relations Act is being finalized with the aim to bring our national legislation up to ILO standards. In addition, the Cook Islands will be signing a Decent Work Country Program (DWCP), which is a country specific and practical document that defines intended results to be achieved at the country level and elaborative strategies to achieve them and measure progress.
Without doubt, the Cook Islands is working towards achieving Decent Work standards nationally. The journey is long but with the support of the ILO, all can be achieved in due time, for the greater wellbeing and prosperity of the people of the Cook Islands.
from left – Min INTAFF Acting Secretary Mr Paul Allsworth, Minister Albert Nicholas, ILO Director Mr Donglin Li.