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Côte d’Ivoire: UN expert hails progress to end child labour, urges action to address root causes of exploitation

17 November 2023

ABIDJAN (17 November 2023) – A UN expert today welcomed steps taken by Côte d’Ivoire to eliminate child labour and trafficking in persons but urged the Government and businesses to do more to address the root causes of labour and sexual exploitation.

Ending a 12-day visit to the country, Tomoya Obokata, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, in a statement commended the Government for the strong legal and institutional frameworks on trafficking in persons and child labour. At the same time, he urged the authorities to increase its efforts to reduce poverty and inequality which lay the ground for all forms of exploitation.

“I commend Côte d’Ivoire for its solid legal and institutional architecture on child labour and trafficking in persons. But the Government needs to do more to lift people, including in rural areas, out of poverty, promote the economic empowerment of women and ensure access to decent work, particularly for young people,” the expert said.

During his visit, Obokata met with Government officials; the national human rights institution; victims of labour and sexual exploitation including children; workers; trade unions; civil society organisations; employers and businesses; members of the diplomatic community; UN agencies and other international organisations.

“Despite the efforts undertaken, I was informed that instances of child labour persist in various sectors of the economy including agriculture, domestic work, street vending and in artisanal gold mining. I am also concerned about the fate of girls who have either been trafficked from countries in the region for the purpose of sexual exploitation or who are subject to forced and early marriage in the country,” Obokata said.

Other concerns include insufficient wages, absence of contracts, and a lack of access to education, healthcare and social security. Significant environmental degradation resulting from gold mining and deforestation linked to the agro-industry were further concerns raised with the Special Rapporteur, as well as precarious working conditions in the informal economy which makes up over 90 per cent of total employment in Côte d’Ivoire.

During his visit, the expert witnessed the important work of civil society organisations supporting young people, women, and children, including victims of exploitation and persons with disabilities.

“I call on the Government to involve workers in decisions affecting them, ensure that a living wage is paid to agricultural and other workers, strengthen labour inspection by allocating sufficient human and financial resources, eliminate corruption and prioritise children’s access to free quality education as a means of preventing contemporary forms of slavery,” Obokata said.

“Frontline organisations should be supported to enhance victims assistance, protection and rehabilitation and there is also a need to strengthen oversight and human rights due diligence measures for businesses operating in the country,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur will present a report on his visit to the Human Rights Council in September 2024.

Mr. Tomoya Obokata was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery in March 2020. Mr. Obokata is a Japanese scholar of international law and human rights, specialising in transnational organised crime, human trafficking and modern slavery. He currently serves as Professor of International Human Rights Law at York Law School and previously taught at Keele University, Queen's University Belfast and Dundee University (all in the United Kingdom Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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