The International Labour Organization (ILO) has launched two projects in Pakistan, funded by the EU and Inditex, aimed at eliminating child and forced labour and promoting workers rights in the country’s cotton, textile and garment industries.

The projects were outlined at a three-day strategic planning workshop in Islamabad last month with ILO constituents, key partners and stakeholders. They will focus on: the elimination of child labour and forced labour in the cotton, textile and garment value chains funded by the European Union (EU); and promoting fundamental principles and rights at work (FPRW) in the cotton supply chain, funded by Inditex.

Representing Inditex, Usman Aslam, sustainability manager for Pakistan, said the partnership between the ILO and Inditex was forged to improve FPRW in the cotton supply chain and to promote more investment from the private sector on the issues.

He added that the project would be for the government, workers’ and employers’ organisations, including businesses, to work better together on the issues and promote decent work in the supply chain.

Anne Kofoed, team leader for Education & Governance, Delegation of the European Union Pakistan highlighted that the workshop was an important milestone for the new EU-funded project that would be implemented by the ILO over the next four years, as it allowed in gathering informed views of stakeholders on the activities foreseen in the project.

She added that child labour and forced labour issues were addressed as part of the SDGs in the context of sustainable development in the EU trade policy. She further elaborated that the EU had supported ILO in the implementation of two phases of combating abusive forms of child labour previously as well and was glad to see that this project has built upon the learnings and lessons of previous experiences.

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Meanwhile, Belinda Chanda, officer in charge for the ILO country office in Pakistan said the two interventions were designed within the context of Pakistan’s third ‘Decent Work Country Program 2016-2020’ and in particular, Priority 1 on “Promoting Decent Work in the Rural Economy” and Priority 3 on “Promoting International Labour Standards Compliance through Social Dialogue.

Chanda said the intention of the consultative workshop was to draw on the experience and expertise of the stakeholders to tailor interventions, responding to the country’s concern of addressing child and bonded labour in the cotton, textile and readymade garment supply chains.

The participants identified challenges related to child and forced labour and other FPRW in the cotton, textile and garment value chains. The priority districts, major stakeholders and time scoping for the two projects were also discussed and identified.

They unanimously validated the outcomes of the two interventions and proposed major outputs and interventions for the two projects. Based on the outcomes of the workshop, work-plans for the two projects would be redefined in delivering the desired results.