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December 23, 2020

ARISE: How BanQu and JTI are working together to end child labor

Children in a classroom raise their hands

Childhood is precious, and children deserve to enjoy their formative years rather than toil them away in factories and mines. Unfortunately, child labor is a real problem throughout the modern world.

The ARISE initiative was created to reduce and ultimately end child labor worldwide. ARISE was founded in 2011 as a key initiative of Japan Tobacco International (JPI), which seeks to farm tobacco leaf without involving child labor in any form. The program brought together governments and tobacco-growing communities to form solutions that have both precision and breadth.

By helping families acquire economic power, children are less likely to be used as bargaining chips in a system that’s stacked against impoverished families. Some of the ARISE program’s points of focus have been providing education for poor families in underdeveloped parts of the world and providing necessary training that lets people move upward financially, despite the circumstances in which they grew up.

ARISE has adopted the International Labour Organization’s definition for the term child labor. Defining the issue is just the first step in creating standards that can be applied globally. Beyond that, the program looks at the root causes of child labor and seeks solutions that address the actual issue and not just its effects.

Now, BanQu and ARISE are working together to solve the problem of child labor.

Child labor is a complex issue

Ending child labor is not as simple as simply telling people not to do it, or even creating legislation that makes it illegal. There are three key factors that JTI has identified in the battle to end child labor:

Respect for human rights

Child labor is a human rights violation, and this aspect of the conversation should not be ignored. ARISE aligns with internationally recognized rulebooks such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to ensure human rights are at the very core of their initiative.

Improved social and environmental impact

Crops should be grown safely and sustainably. There needs to be long-term planning that considers whether crops will still be healthy in future decades, or if there’s a risk that the workforce could be whittled away by accidents caused by poor safety policies. When people are scraping by just to make ends meet, they’re put in a position where they must prioritize short-term sustenance over long-term strategy. With financial empowerment comes the freedom to plan long-term.

Good corporate governance and business standards

Businesses that need raw materials have an ethical responsibility to oversee the production of those materials to some extent. Of course, without transparency in supply chains, it can be all too easy to hide inhumane business practices behind the veil of anonymity. More transparent supply chains allow the laborers at the beginning of the chain to be recognized in this economy, which allows business practices to be monitored with more efficiency.

A holistic approach

The problem of child labor is a complicated one, which means solving it requires holistic thinking and a multi-faceted approach. ARISE is tackling this issue from three angles:

Education and raised awareness

Providing children with education opportunities not only gives them an alternative to working, it also brightens their future by teaching them the skills they need to climb the economic ladder. On top of education, raising awareness of the issues at hand is essential, especially in the first world. It can be too easy to ignore the implications of buying a product for its convenience without thinking about the consequences of that convenience. Helping consumers understand that they have a say in whether they purchase ethically produced goods is crucial to seeing these initiatives work at a global level.

Socio-economic empowerment

When people have very little power in the modern economic system, they can become trapped in vicious cycles of abuse that span generations. Putting economic power into their hands allows them to break these cycles and climb out of poverty.

Legal and regulatory guidelines

Legal standards are effective when they’re built off the two factors mentioned above: education and economic empowerment. When laborers are educated and empowered financially, it gives businesses more incentive to ensure they are following the letter of the law, and it gives laborers more power to have their voices heard when they spot potential compliance issues.

Working toward a solution

As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts to the machinery of child labor, and any initiative that seeks to fix it must go in with an understanding of that. Solving a problem this complex and far-reaching requires collaboration between several independent agencies, businesses, and communities. When various facets are isolated from one another, it makes enforcement difficult. When all these communities, businesses, and governments are working together, the result is collaborative solutions that benefit everyone.

Thankfully, advances in technology make collaboration at this scale not only possible, but easy to build the foundations for. This is where BanQu enters the equation.

BanQu’s blockchain technology brings transparency to the supply chain, which allows all these independent communities to communicate and collaborate with one another. With transparency comes financial empowerment for impoverished laborers, as they can now ensure they are getting paid fairly for the labor they provide. On top of that, this transparency allows businesses to monitor their own sustainability metrics, and to verify that they’re operating both sustainably and ethically.

One specific piece of technology that emerged from this initiative is BanQu’s Child Labor Monitoring System (CLMS), which gives watchdog groups more insight into trouble areas and creates data that can be vital in getting to the root of the problem of child labor.

The CLMS project was given a six-month testing period in Brazil and Malawi, which provided conclusive results. A digitized monitoring system is effective at locating children who might be at risk of exposure to child labor. It allows school attendance to be verified, and it creates data that can help pinpoint the exact community initiatives that will bring about the most effective social change.

After great success in initial trials, the project has been rolled out in Tanzania and Zambia.

Conclusion

Child labor is a problem without an easy, simple solution. That said, much progress is being made thanks to the combination of social initiatives and emerging technology. ARISE and BanQu are working together to analyze the challenges involved with ending child labor, and to address those with modern solutions.

We believe a brighter future is in store.

BanQu creates blockchain solutions for some of the modern world's biggest challenges, such as supply chain transparency and identity platforms for impoverished populations. We believe that with blockchain's bright future, world poverty can become a thing of the past.

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