Rene Wadlow

Guest Blogger

Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation on and problem-solving in economic and social issues.

Let My Children Go: World Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Universal Children's Day Celebration in Civilian Protection Site Juba, South Sudan

12 June is a red letter day on the UN agenda of events as the World Day Against Child Labor.  It marks the 12 June arrival in 1998 of hundreds of children in Geneva, part of the Global March against Child Labour that had crossed a 100 countries to present their plight to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

“We are hurting, and you can help us” was their message to the assembled International Labor Conference which meets each year in Geneva in June.  One year later, in June, the ILO had drafted ILO Convention N° 182 on child labor which 165 States have now ratified — the fastest ratification rate in the ILO’s  history.

ILO Convention N°182 sets out in article 3 the worst forms of child labor to be banned:

a)  all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

b)  the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;

c)  the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;

d)  work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Syria: Chemical Weapon Use, Destruction of Children, The Ethical Vacuum

Syrian children in a doorway (UN photo)

The Association of World Citizens calls for the re-affirmation of humanitarian international law. It is a call to the soldiers and militia members in armed conflicts to refuse orders to violate humanitarian international law by refusing to use weapons outlawed by international treaties such as chemical weapons, land mines,  cluster munitions or any weapon to attack civilians, especially children and women. We must defend all who use their individual conscience to refuse to follow orders to violate humanitarian international law.

At the heart of this growing phenomenon of mass violence and social disintegration is a crisis of values.  Perhaps the most fundamental loss a society can suffer is the collapse of its own value system.  Many societies exposed to protracted conflicts have seen their community values radically undermined if not shattered altogether.  This has given rise to an ethical vacuum, a setting in which international standards are ignored with impunity and where local value systems have lost their sway.  Olara Otunnu, then Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Report to U.N. General Assembly, 1998

The attack on Khan Sheikhoon in Idib Province of Syria on 4 April 2017 raises at least two essential issues concerning humanitarian international law and the protection of children in times of armed conflict.

​Robert Muller (11 Mar 1923 – 20 Sep 2010): Crossing Frontiers for Reconciliation

Robert Muller (1923-2010). Personal photo from Association of World Citizens
“The time has come for the implementation of a spiritual vision of the world’s affairs. The entire planet must elevate itself into the spiritual, cosmic throbbing of the universe.”— Robert Muller
Robert Muller, whose birth anniversary we mark on 11 March, was the former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Service of the United Nations, and, after his retirement, he served as Honorary President of the Association of World Citizens. He was brought up in Alsace-Lorraine still marked by the results of the First World War.   As a young man, he joined the French Resistance movement during the Second World War when Alsace-Lorraine had been re-annexed by Germany. At the end of the War, he earned a Doctorate in Law and Economics at the University of Strasbourg. Strasbourg was to become the city symbolic of French-German reconciliation and is today home of the European Parliament.

Determined to work for peace having seen the destructive impact of war, he joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1948 where he worked primarily on economic and social issues. For many years, he was the Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. His work with ECOSOC brought him into close contact with NGOs whose work he always encouraged