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Sleiman: Fight child labor by tackling poverty.

Summary: President Michel Sleiman called Thursday for fighting child labor by addressing the roots of poverty and adopting legislation to improve social welfare.

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman called Thursday for fighting child labor by addressing the roots of poverty and adopting legislation to improve social welfare.

"Our children don't want much from us," the president told dignitaries and members of the press at the launch of a national plan to eradicate child labor.

"Our children want to live a normal, peaceful life in an environment that protects them from oppression. They want a family that supports them and shields them from domestic violence, and schools that teach moral principles, just as they want us to clear the snipers from the few playgrounds they have," he said at the event in Bbda Palace.

Sleiman went on to say fighting child labor requires combating "poverty and need -- the direct causes of child labor."

Sleiman made the remarks while presiding over the launch of the $23 million National Action Plan to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor by 2016. The conference was also attended by key figures, such as caretaker Labor Minister Salim Jreissati, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, caretaker Information Minister Walid Daouk, caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi and caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, as well as other religious and political figures.

Sleiman stressed that combating child labor was a multifaceted undertaking that touched on numerous aspects of Lebanese society, as it arises from economic and social disparities.

"The problems affecting children did not come from nowhere, rather they are the inevitable results of political, security, educational, social and economic factors that make up our society," he said.

The National Action Plan lays out a road map to end child labor in Lebanon by 2016. Child labor typically entails the use of children in hazardous work, forced labor, trafficking and sexual exploitation, illicit activities and armed conflict. Sleiman said the plan was ambitious and would require coordination from numerous ministries and civil society organizations and strict enforcement.

"The most important practical translation of this plan rests on activating social welfare networks, to confront the problems that a substantial number of citizens suffer from," Sleiman said.

Accordingly, Sleiman called on the Parliament to pass key legislation, currently "stuck in drawers," that seeks to improve social policies. These included laws addressing wage rates, domestic violence, rights for the disabled and domestic workers, elderly care, optional insurance and social security, health care, retirement, rehabilitating prisoners and rights for women.

The plan was prepared by the National Steering Committee Against Child Labor, under the patronage of the Labor Ministry and with support from the International Labor Organization.

"There are indications that in recent years, the scale and incidence of child labor and its worst forms have been on the rise in Lebanon due to the deteriorating socio-economic conditions and the ongoing Syrian conflict, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of children," ILO's regional director, Nada al-Nashif, said.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Nov 8, 2013
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