With Public and Private Sectors at Odds, Traffickers Win

 

The world’s workforce has never been more mobile - from the gardener in California to the banker in Singapore. Whether it’s the dishwasher in Rome or the designer in London, we recognize human ambition is on the move; everyone – skilled or unskilled, with work permits or without – is seeking an identical goal: how to deploy their talents in those markets that reward them best.

Simple economics trigger those journeys that start with a dream of a better life and can result in enormous collective benefits for countries of both origin and destination when done in a safe and orderly way.  

But as we mark the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, we also are reminded, sadly, that migrants are too often exposed to disproportionate risks of exploitation and abuse when looking for better employment opportunities away from home.

Every year, millions of migrants are trafficked within and across borders and find themselves trapped in forced labour. In some cases, men and women are coerced into work, enduring violence, threats or psychological manipulation. Often, they find themselves indebted via unfair recruitment processes or employment conditions, all the while facing enormous pressures from their families and communities who may have gone into debt themselves, just to start their job search.

Other forms of exploitation are only slightly more benign – having to toil under dangerous conditions, settling for menial wages, facing hidden deductions and unreasonable restrictions during both work and non-work hours. These abuses, too, harm migrants and violate their rights. 

These types of abuse can occur all along an industry’s supply chain and can be easily concealed among layers of sub-contractors. As consumers, while constantly looking for low-cost goods and cheaper services, we are obligated to consider the workers who make the products we desire and the services we need.  

Trafficking in persons exists today in every country and every economic sector. Whether the business is coffee, clothing or construction, this much is clear: no workplace or community is immune to human trafficking. 

It is so pervasive it can only be tackled with a global, all-hands approach. Consumers, especially, must join their governments, their local business community and work together to demand that decent work standards are met. We must all insist that supply chains are free from human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

We are already seeing signs of change. A growing number of companies are taking action in their supply chains; more governments are developing new policies and regulatory mechanisms for greater business accountability. Civil society also plays a critical role in advocating for migrants’ rights and ensuring they have access to the protection and assistance services they need. 

One famous example: as recently as 2015 the world became aware of widespread abuse of workers in Southeast Asia fishing grounds. Hundreds of workers laboured in virtual slavery. Governments often lacked the means to enforce protection norms, which many employers learned to ignore.

That is beginning to change. Consumers and large retailers, aware of the negative impact of supply chain abuse, now demand more transparency. And so do governments, passing new laws requiring greater accountability from the multinational merchants that market seafood. 

While these positive trends are encouraging, much more needs to be done. Today, I will focus on a key challenge, which I see as the next frontier in supply chain engagement: mobilizing the private sector to ensure that migrants who have been wronged receive the remedy and justice they deserve. 

Beyond strengthening their due diligence, companies can and must take responsibility for harm perpetrated against their workers and ensure that all possible steps are taken to assist victims of trafficking in their recovery – which they can do by working closely with governments, civil society organizations, international organizations, and the victims themselves. States bear the primary responsibility to address human trafficking and protect trafficked victims. By establishing stronger connections between private sector and public efforts to help victims of trafficking, together we can do the work of rebuilding broken lives.

Earlier this year IOM, the UN Migration Agency, launched a set of practical guidelines for companies to address this challenge. In line with the United Nations’ “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” Framework, IOM’s Remediation Guidelines describe the many avenues that businesses can take to offer remediation to victims of exploitation, in partnership with local State and non-State actors.

These routes include facilitating access to victim services and support systems such as medical or psychosocial care; relocating victims to new job environments; offering voluntary return to countries of origin; support for recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration where possible. Businesses should also ensure they have established feedback loops so that they can continually improve reporting mechanisms, protection for whistle-blowers, and prevention of further harm. 

More and more companies are coming together to address the risks they face in supply chains, but remediation for victims of trafficking remains a new area of work for the private sector. We must therefore redouble our efforts to ensure that support for victims of trafficking becomes a key pillar in our work.

IOM’s Remediation Guidelines for Victims of Human Trafficking in Extended Mineral Supply Chains can be accessed here.  

 

By William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General. 

 


Internal displacement, extractive transnational corporations and the protection of rights of affected communities

Internal displacement, extractive transnational corporations and the protection of rights of affected communities
Categoria: Environmental Migration
Autor: Guest Contributor

 

The export of raw materials, hydrocarbons, and minerals occupy a prominent place in Latin America’s economic model. However, due to the extraction characteristics of some of these resources, environmental conflicts appear in several places around the continent (see details here). According to the UNDP, migration and displacement appear as a result of conflicts due to the activity of extractive industries. In the words of said organization:

"For many developing countries, mineral extraction continues to be an important economic engine with the potential to improve the results of human development, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When properly managed, mining can create jobs, foster innovation and bring investment and infrastructure to a scale that changes the game in the long term. However, if handled badly, mining can also lead to environmental degradation, displaced populations and an increase in inequality. " (Read more here)

In 1998, the United Nations established the guiding principles of internal displacement to address the protection needs of internally displaced persons. These principles include, among others, the prohibition of arbitrary displacement "in cases of large-scale development projects, which are not justified by a superior or primordial public interest". Although the IACHR has gathered information on the relationship between extractive interests and the displacement of persons, by 2016, in Latin America, only Mexico, Colombia and Peru had adopted laws on internal displacement, and only Guatemala had adopted policies on internal displacement. (see map).

In October 2018, however, a new tool relevant to the discussion appeared, with the release of the first draft of the legally binding international instrument on transnational corporations and other companies with respect to human rights, developed by a working group of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and described in resolution 26/9.

This tool is important because it refers specifically to internally displaced persons and migrants - without excluding their involvement in other parts of the text - as groups that must be given special attention in consultations (Article 9, point g.) and on the impact of the projects (article 15, point 5 of the implementation). This is significant given that one of the great consequences of the extractive transnationals is the displacement of people due to the repercussions on their economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Due to their political, social and environmental characteristics, Mexico and Central America have historically represented geostrategic value for the extraction of multiple natural resources. Mining for obtaining different materials, hydroelectric production and extensive agricultural crops (pineapple and palm, for example, the latter representing an important agrofuel) are some of the main industries related to environmental conflicts, causing potential displacement phenomena in the region. 

In this context, it’s important to ask what the displaced people of these territories can do to defend their rights. From the OHCHR draft, four relevant elements can be emphasized for the protection of people’s rights in displacement situations due to the involvement of transnational corporations in their environment:

· Address the legal process without economic cost, since there is a consensus on the need to address the lack of resources of affected communities that request the protection of their rights. Civil society campaigns recommend that once there are sufficient indications that a person is a victim of a human rights violation, the costs of the process to that person are exempted and he or she is not obliged to indemnify the corporate counterpart in case of acquittal. The economic support by the States towards the victims when carrying out legal proceedings of this nature is contemplated in the draft of the OHCHR (Article 8, point 6).

· Creating group processes is necessary, since the legal processes of protection of rights benefit from a collective approach when dealing with the issue of displacement, due to the characteristics of the impact of extractive industries in the communities. This way, it is possible to avoid opening several cases that can become discordant, reduce costs for the State and pool the victims’ resources. The draft accepts and includes the rights of victims both individually and in groups (article 6, point 1, article 8, points 1 and 2, article 12).

· Procure due diligence in the processes, allowing the displaced victims access to the necessary documentation with the cooperation of all parties. At the end of a process, if a displaced person victim of transnationals wins the case, it’s important that the reparation (economic, moral or otherwise) is given within a reasonable time. The impact of both the dispossession of land and the legal process affects several aspects of the victim’s daily life (food, family and community relations, economic activity, physical and mental health) so restoring their original conditions must be a priority for effective justice. OHCHR’s draft refers to cooperation as a function of the national implementation mechanisms of the binding instrument; for example, when responding to inquiries from victims, companies and the general public, or when sending recommendations to improve the implementation of the binding instrument itself (article 3, point 2, detail a. and b.)

· Find an integral solution to the problem, because even when processes are carried out collaboratively (previous point), these are usually long, which may cause the victim to consider agreements that are not integral solutions to their problem in order to resolve it in less time. This type of outcome can also be seen by the company as a simpler way to access land while improving their public reputation, which constitutes a serious antecedent when evaluating the impact of extractive companies, which is minimized. According to OHCHR’s draft, the victims have the right to "a) Restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition for victims; b) Environmental remediation and ecological restoration when appropriate, including coverage of expenses for relocation of victims, and replacement of community facilities."