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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                        (Little Rock, Arkansas)
For Immediate Release                                     August 6, 1999


Yesterday, I sent to the United States Senate for advice and consent to ratification International Labor Organization Convention Number 182, the "Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor."

Around the world, tens of millions of children are deprived of their childhood and subjected to the worst forms of child labor - slavery; forced or compulsory labor, including forced recruitment for use in armed conflict; prostitution; pornography; use for illicit activities; and other forms of harmful and unsafe work. Education, not hard labor, is ultimately the path to a better life for families and a stronger economy in the countries affected. But too often, very young children are denied an education and forced into abusive and exploitative work that poses immediate risks of harm and can also perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

Convention Number 182 was adopted unanimously by all the government, labor, and business delegates to the ILO Conference at its 87th session in Geneva on June 17, 1999. The Convention will establish a widely recognized international standard for the protection of children against the worst forms of child labor. During my visit to the ILO Conference in June, I urged other nations to ratify the convention. The United States should do so as well.

Under the leadership of Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, the U.S. helped to shape a Convention that can be widely ratified. A tripartite panel of American government, labor and business representatives has reviewed the Convention and concluded that the United States can ratify the convention without changing our laws or regulations. Under the Convention, the United States and all ratifying nations accept a basic obligation to "take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, as a matter of urgency."

By ratifying Convention Number 182, the Senate will make clear our resolve that no child should be subjected to slavery, prostitution, or pornography, used for drug activities, or work under conditions likely to harm their health, safety, or morals. I urge the United States Senate to support this convention to demonstrate our commitment and enhance our ability to help lead the world in eliminating the worst forms of child labor. I thank Senator Tom Harkin for his continuing leadership in the fight to eliminate abusive child labor. I look forward to working with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Leadership to advance this convention toward ratification.