Cablegate: Updated Child Labor Information

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

B. 03 KINSHASA 2100

1. Summary. The GDRC has made nominal efforts to comply with
international calls for child labor reform. The resulting
legislation provides a proper framework to fight the worst
forms of child labor. However, a lack of financing,
personnel, transparency, and government follow-through has
left the status quo relatively unaltered. As long as the
DRC's socioeconomic climate provides numerous incentives for
and few alternatives to exploitative child labor, such
practices will continue in the DRC. End Summary.


2. The GDRC ratified ILO Convention 182 on March 28, 2001.
On October 16, 2002, the GDRC passed law 015/2002, which
mandated sweeping changes to the DRC's labor codes,
especially relating to child labor. The law also called for
the establishment of a national committee on child labor to
coordinate the GDRC's fight against the worst forms of child
exploitation. (Note. National Labor Commission (NLC)
approval and various ministerial decrees are still required
before law 015/2002 can go into effect. In the meantime, the
national committee on child labor has been established, but
has yet to be integrated into ministry-level policy work or
conferred any investigative or punitive powers. End Note.)

3. In addition to the establishment of the national committee
on child labor, technical highlights of law 015/2002 include:

--Establishment of a minimum age for employment, including
apprenticeships, of 15 years.

--Definition of the worst forms of child labors as: a) all
forms of slavery or slavery-like conditions, including
trafficking of children, mandatory or forced labor, and
forced military enrollment; b) use or recruitment of a child
for prostitution, the production of pornography, or
pornographic perfomances; c) work that might prejudice the
child's health, security, dignity, or morality; and d) the
use of children for illicit activities, especially in drug
production or trafficking.

--Establishment of a penalty of six months imprisonment and a
fine of FC 30,000 (about USD 80) for each count of a child
labor conviction.

4. Comment. A legal framework to fight the worst forms of
child labor has been established in the DRC. However, intial
high-level support for actual reform has waned. Law 015/2002
is significant, but packs little punch without NLC approval
and ministerial backing. GDRC sources claim that the NLC and
ministries of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family are
"reviewing" the legislation. End Comment.


5. The DRC Ministry of Labor investigates child labor abuses
through its Inspection Generale du Travail (General Labor
Inspection Service). There are currently no inspectors
specifically devoted to child labor, but the Ministry of
Labor plans to create group of specialized child labor
inspectors in its decree pursuant to law 015/2002.

6. No specific information is available on the number of
labor inspectors employed by the GDRC. (Comment. No
specific information is available on the number of employees
in most GDRC offices. This is due to the general haziness of
the civil service payroll, which has not been audited since
shortly after independence. Many employees work without pay,
and many receive pay without working. End Comment.)

7. Child labor complaints are currently handled by the DRC's
penal courts. This responsibility is set to be transferred
to the national commission on child labor once it is approved
by the NLC. (Comment. Child labor law enforcement
mechanisms often fall prey to the DRC's endemic corruption.
Shifting authority from one inspection body to another will
have little effect without an attendant increase in financing
and accountability. End Comment.)


8. In recent months, the GDRC and the Congolese Armed Forces
(FARDC) have demobilized large numbers of child soldiers,
implemented procedures for the issuance of official
demobilization certificates, and carefully considered the
needs of children associated with armed groups in the
planning and implementation of the World Bank-funded national
disarmament, demobilization and reinsertion (DDR) program.
The GDRC has also cooperated with MONUC investigations into
cases of abuse against children, particularly child soldiers
and children in prostitution. However, there is much work
left to be done throughout the country. There are still a
significant number of child soldiers within the ranks of the
FARDC, a large number of girls engage in prostitution in
order to earn money to survive, and an unknown number of
children work in artisinal mining. In addition, in areas not
under central GDRC control, including parts of North and
South Kivu provinces and the Ituri district of Province
Orientale, the forcible recruitment of children by rebel
groups continues.

9. Compulsory education to age 15 is offical policy in the
DRC, but, in practice, education is available only to those
who can afford it. UNDP statistics indicate a primary school
enrollment rate of 35 percent and a secondary school rate of
12 percent as of 2001/2002. Children in the DRC receive an
average of 4.3 years of schooling. (Comment. Most families
who can afford to send children to school choose to send
their male child(ren), presumably in the belief that they
will have a better chance of obtaining future employment.
This results in a severe gap in education levels between
males and females in the DRC. End Comment.)


10. The DRC has largely fulfilled the statutory requirements
for compliance with ILO Convention 182. Enforcement,
however, is lax due to institutionalized corruption and
bureaucratic disorganization. Nevertheless, the DRC has made
progress in sensistizing its population to child labor
issues. International pressure, work with MONUC's child
protection program, and the presence of various children's
rights NGOs have laid a foundation for more effective
implementation of existing laws as bureacratic competency
increases and economic conditions improve.

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