Child Soldiers and Compromise

By Claire Fraise, Arianna Chen, and Guadalupe Gonzalez

After wrapping up on the topic of child soldiers, the delegates of UNICEF moved on to discussing child labor.

“Deeply appalled that 168 million people are qualified as child laborers…” was a working paper’s preambulatory clause obtained by the Press Corps delegates.

The paper proposed by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and by the Syrian Arab Republic called on curbing child labor by reducing poverty. The delegate from Syria proposed minimum wages for refugees. Ideally, this would allow families to adequately provide for themselves and their loved ones. “Syria is against child labor,” the delegate stated, “but they are currently not doing anything about it. They have bigger fish to fry.”

The delegate of Tuvalu, on the other hand, said his country had been attempting to do something about the child labor laws. Tuvalu wanted to establish some kind of punishment laws in the UN for countries that would able to help abolish the current child labor laws but failed to do so. Tuvalu hoped to reach out to them without force.

Operation CLAY (Child Labor Abolition for the Youth) called on NGOs to fund the construction of schools and community centers in order to curtail child labor at its root. “The heart of the problem is the inability of certain families to provide for their children,” said a sponsor of the paper. “Helping families means helping kids.” The International Monetary Fund specifically will help fund countries that lack the resources needed, the delegate representing Tuvalu said.

One of the paper’s signatories, the delegate of Israel, highlighted the difficulty of having opinions that differ from that of his country. “Israel is for child labor, but I am not,” he said. Representing a country “whose views differ from [the delegate's] is difficult. Sometimes, I let my opinions bleed into my country’s. I want to reform Israel.”

The delegate of North Korea believed that child labor was “essential to a strong economy.” China, contrastingly, believed that it was not. Evidently, a solid compromise will be hard to attain.

While the papers proposed good ideas, many of the clauses were not specific. It is one thing to call for better education; it is another thing to explain how to achieve it. This is a common pitfall of Model UN committees. Nobody is going to disagree if the claims are too general. The heart of the debate lies in the specificities and so does the start of any real change.