Earlier this month, I participated in the Pre-session on the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography – a forum to listen and respond to the Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the US’s performance in its treaty obligations. It was humbling to be permitted to speak on behalf of experts in the field and those affected by the systemic failures of the child protection system in the United States, specifically regarding child labor trafficking.
It was incredibly motivating to listen to Katherine Kaufka Walts (CHRC) and Faiza Mathon-Mathieu (ECPAT-USA) as they spoke with barely a pause about the issues facing victims of child trafficking, issues which are encompassed in approximately a dozen legal specialties. Although I have been researching issues related to child labor trafficking for a year, it reinforced the complexity of subject matter and how essential it is to have people parsing through murky political waters to find solutions.
The visit also demonstrated how leaders throughout the world are confronting the same problem of how to provide for children’s human rights in the face of dwindling political will and priority shifts. Although it is easy enough to persuade people that children should not be engaged in forced labor, treating the funding of these efforts as an urgent necessity is another endeavor.
Whether it’s providing children with trained attorneys and advocates, funding services and meaningful research, or ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the US can do better. And funding quality initiatives to both investigate businesses prone to using child labor and recognize forced criminality as a form of child labor trafficking, is inevitably the only way to effectively combat long-term poverty and crime. The next step is to make more members of the public as well as policymakers aware of missing links in providing for the best interests of children, because it is up to them to participate in our political process where children cannot.