Challenging Heights petitions AfCFTA over human trafficking – MyJoyOnline.com

Challenging Heights, a non-governmental organization (NGO), has filed a petition in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) over human trafficking and modern-day slavery in the supply chains of companies participating in the AfCFTA.

The petition was submitted to the AfCFTA Secretary-General through the AfCFTA Secretariat, urging the organization to address human rights issues, particularly human trafficking, modern slavery, forced labor, and disruption of the company’s supply and value chains. extent of other human rights abuses in

Challenging Heights says this is to avoid the risks of international product sanctions, as well as enhance international consumer and investment confidence in participating companies under the AfCFTA agreement.

The organization’s chief executive officer, James Kofi Annan, says there are currently an estimated 49.6 million people in modern slavery globally, generating more than US$150 billion annually.

James Kofi Annan, CEO of Challenging Heights

Modern slavery, he implies, is prevalent in Africa, affecting more than 27.6 million people (in Africa alone) on any given day, and more than 3.3 million children (ILO, 2022).

background

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 1948) sought to guarantee the rights of all people in the world. Since the declaration, the United Nations has established several protocols and funds to address the issues of human rights violations globally.

About 12 years ago, the United Nations published the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN, 2011). The guiding principles include three fundamental pillars: protect, respect and remedy, detailing concrete and actionable steps for governments and companies to take to meet their obligations to protect human rights in company operations, and if human rights are violated. If so, provide treatment.

Globally, a lot of efforts have been made to address the issue of human trafficking and modern slavery. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Goal 8.7, set out to “eliminate forced labour, take immediate and effective measures to end modern slavery and human trafficking, and ensure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor” including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and ending child labor in all its forms by 2025.

Various countries and states have passed various laws and regulations that address human trafficking and modern slavery, ranging from victim protection to supply chain issues related to modern slavery. Forced labor has been made a crime in the United States. Forced labor is defined in the United States Code, section 1589, as “knowingly providing or obtaining the labor or services of a person by the use of force, threat of force, physical restraint, or fraud.” This law obliges the US State Department of Labor to blacklist products that are tainted with forced labor.

For example, the California Transparency in Supply Chain Act (2012) requires all retailers and manufacturers doing business in California with $100 million or more in profit to disclose the risks of human trafficking and modern slavery in their supply chains. I have to inform the general public. The legislation makes it possible for consumers to learn about companies’ efforts to address the issues of human trafficking and modern slavery in their supply chains and gives consumers the chance to be more responsible in their purchasing decisions.

California’s modern slavery law is similar to the UK’s Modern Slavery Act (2015), which mandates companies to publish efforts to address modern slavery and human trafficking. The Australian Modern Slavery Act (2018) places a responsibility on Australia’s domestic and foreign companies to address issues within their supply chains or face severe sanctions. Currently, the EU is discussing new legislation aimed at comprehensively addressing issues of human rights due diligence, including human trafficking and modern slavery in business supply chains.

The laws of all these superpower countries have many implications for businesses and products in Africa, as the requirements of the laws include first-, second-, third- and, in some cases, fourth-level due diligence requirements.

Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

James Kofi Annan, CEO of Challenging Heights, says that many members of the African Union, and for that matter the AfCFTA, have established human trafficking laws that address human trafficking from the perspective of the victims. However, there are wide differences between human trafficking and modern slavery laws established in African countries. So far, there is no law in Africa that mandates African businesses to address issues of human trafficking and modern-day slavery in their supply chains. Furthermore, he indicates that there is no comprehensive system within the business community to identify and address the issues of human trafficking and modern-day slavery within business value chains.

Obviously, today’s business environment is a complex supply chain mechanism that goes beyond a single country or even a single continent. Businesses conducted in Ghana, Nigeria, or any other part of Africa have their value chains deeply linked to those of Europe, Asia, America, Australia, etc. due to factors such as raw material sourcing, financing arrangements, investments, equipment requirements , and so on. In fact, due diligence laws passed in the Americas, Europe, Asia, or Australia inevitably affect businesses in Africa because of the complexities of human resources, supply chains, and the reach of laws at all levels.

There are several global private and intergovernmental initiatives that aim to help the private sector address the issues of modern slavery in their supply chains and as part of doing responsible business. The Bali Process is an international governmental initiative established two decades ago that brought together 49 countries around the world to foster cooperation toward addressing modern slavery through policy and regulatory reforms and corporate social responsibility . The Khartoum Process, established ten years ago, is an intergovernmental initiative that aims to address the flow of modern slavery from Africa to the Gulf countries. The United Nations-backed New York-based Global Financial Sector Commission, which was deeply involved in Challenging Heights, produced a report that brought the global financial sector together, and created a blueprint that comprehensively protects the financial sector from human trafficking and modern slavery. Allows to help address from. Their work resulted in the establishment of the Finance Against Slavery and Trafficking Initiative (FAST Initiative), of which Challenging Heights is a founding board member.

James Kofi Annan said: “Therefore, the AfCFTA has an opportunity to leverage existing national and international regulations and initiatives, with obligations on participating companies to address human trafficking and modern slavery in their supply chains.” will provide.” “As the AfCFTA is young, such a concurrent initiative would provide a business cultural environment that would assist participating products with a clean image to enter markets where they would face blacklisting or weakened consumer confidence.”

He further said that investors from all over the world are investing in responsible businesses. The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) group, with 7,000 member investors and corporate signatories representing businesses in 135 countries, is the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative, whose members address issues of concern to investors in the global business environment Let’s underline – human rights, and environment.

“International initiatives like this have resulted in international banks being forced to lend to responsible and hardworking companies.” Consumers are looking for responsible companies that are addressing issues of due diligence before making consumption decisions. “The need for the AfCFTA to help members resolve supply chain issues cannot be over-emphasized,” he added.

The petition challenges that the AfCFTA has established an initiative that obliges its members to approve corporate policies that address supply chain issues as well as their own internal human rights issues. The organization is also requesting that AfCFTA begin negotiations with the governments of member countries to pass punitive company/product due diligence legislation.

Challenging Heights ultimately urges the AfCFTA to set up a unit to monitor compliance and that the unit work with member countries to pass due diligence legislation.

Challenging Heights, with many years of national and international advocacy experience and years of involvement in the said international initiatives, is ready and able to support the AfCFTA in these directions.

The NGO, officially established in 2005, works to protect human rights, especially for the protection of victims of forced labor, human trafficking and modern slavery. Since its inception, the organization has rescued over 1,800 children from human trafficking and modern slavery, supported over 4,000 women and over 4,000 youth, and has been part of several successful advocacy efforts in Ghana and abroad .

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