EU and Human Rights…


Child Labour, Business and human rights

The report underlines that 2015 has been a year of challenges for the EU and the international community at large,eu it describes the EU human rights approach to conflicts and crisis, how the EU addresses the main human rights and democracy challenges worldwide, and how human rights are mainstreamed throughout EU external policies, including trade and development cooperation. The EU reaffirmed its strong commitment to ensuring every child is protected from child labour including its worst forms and stressed the importance of eradicating the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict including child soldiers.

Annual report on human rights and democracy in the world in 2015

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COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS ON CHILD LABOUR
Foreign Affairs Council, 20 June 2016

Introduction

1. On the occasion of World Day against Child Labour, June 12, the Council reaffirms its strong commitment to the elimination of child labour, recalling the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015 – 2019, [detail] the Council Conclusions on Child Labour (2010), the EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child and the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict.

2. The Council welcomes the near-universal ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ILO Conventions No 138 on Minimum Age and No 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and continues to strive for universal ratification and implementation, including through dialogue with third countries.

3. 2016 marks the deadline by which the worst forms of child labour should have been eliminated according to the Roadmap adopted in The Hague in 2010 [detail] and reaffirmed in the Brasília Declaration on Child Labour [detail] adopted in 2013.The Council expresses its deep concern that this target will not be met despite positive downward estimates in recent years and calls for renewed action, particularly focusing on children belonging to vulnerable groups or in particularly difficult situations.

4. The Council reaffirms the urgency to eliminate the worst forms of child labour and underlines the importance of a child-rights based approach [ A child rights based approach furthers the realisation of the rights of the child as set out in the UN CRC by developing the capacity of duty bearers to meet their obligations and the capacity of rights holders to claim their rights, guided by the General Principles of the UNCRC, namely, non-discrimination, best interests of the child, child survival and development and child participation. ] to inform and guide all actions to eliminate child labour. Action is most effective and sustainable when it is embedded within comprehensive action plans and programmes to eliminate all forms of child labour, including through integrated area-based, sector-based programmes and value chain approaches. In this respect, the Council encourages the Commission to ensure coherence and complementarity between its education and child labour-oriented development programmes and to ensure mainstreaming in other sectors such as decent work, responsible business, vocational training and education, agriculture, manufacturing and mining as well as facilitating school-to-work transition and decent work for youth. Delivering on social protection floors and quality education are key factors contributing to a decline in child labour. In addition, it is relevant to recognize that child labour and forced labour are closely linked and frequently occur in similar contexts and sectors.

5. The Council welcomes the 2014-2020 Global Public Goods and Challenges (GPGC) programme [detail] of the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) [detail] In particular under the Human Development objectives, the programme aims at tackling child labour, in particular its worst forms, in a comprehensive and integrated manner.

The Impact of Conflicts and Crises

6. Conflicts and humanitarian crises have increased the number of children at risk of exploitation, including in the labour market. The Council encourages the High Representative and the Commission to propose additional measures to address this urgent issue, including as part of the comprehensive approach to conflicts and crises and their root causes. Furthermore, the Council is particularly concerned about the increasing number of children, many of them unaccompanied, engaged in large scale migratory flows and the current refugee crisis, including as a result of forced displacement. These children are even more vulnerable to trafficking, all kinds of exploitation, including labour exploitation and other child rights violations.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

7. The Council reaffirms its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Council encourages the High Representative and the Commission to explore how the EU can step up its contribution to the realisation of SDG target 8.7 which calls for measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms. In line with this, the Council reaffirms its commitment to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, including child soldiers.

Trade and Global Value Chains

8. The Council encourages the Commission, in line with its ‘Trade for All: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’7 [detail]
strategy, to continue exploring ways to use more effectively the trade instruments of the European Union, including the Generalised Scheme of Preferences and Free Trade Agreements to combat child labour.

9. The Council acknowledges the important role of workers’ and employers’ organisations and civil society, and welcomes the various new and ongoing public-private partnerships to address child labour and respect for the rights of the child in global value chains, and the various initiatives to improve responsible business conduct. The Council recognises that the private sector has a significant role to play in protecting children from exploitation and harm and recalls the importance of the Council Conclusions on Business and Human Rights (adoption date). The Council also recalls its Conclusions of 12 May 2016 on “The EU and Responsible Global Value Chains”, and affirms the importance of multi-stakeholder cooperation in combating child labour. The Council welcomes the various tools that can inform corporate due diligence to combat child labour such as the ‘ILO-IOE Child Labour Guidance Tool for Business’ and the UNICEF ‘Children’s Rights and Business Principles’. The Council encourages all businesses to engage with platforms focusing on eliminating child labour from global value chains, such as the ILO’s Child Labour Platform.

10. The Council encourages the Commission to explore the possibility of integrating child labour due diligence into its procurement policies and to consider the usefulness of providing guidance to Member States on such due diligence.

External Policy

11. The Council invites the High Representative, the Commission and Member States to encourage and support partner countries to adopt and implement National Action Plans to tackle child labour in its multi-dimensions. Combatting child labour should be mainstreamed in National Action Plans on all relevant policies and sectors. In addition, the adoption and review of Hazardous Work Lists and implementation of corrective measures in accordance with Article 4 of ILO Convention No 182 and the establishment of regional strategies to tackle trans-border forms of child labour, which is of particular importance to the protection of vulnerable migrant children, should be encouraged and supported.

12. The Council encourages the Commission to support partner countries to develop and strengthen the collection and dissemination of more and better national statistics and information on children in employment, both in the formal and informal economies, with data disaggregated preferably by occupation and industry, gender, age, origin and income so as to enhance their visibility and help better design and implement public policies to prevent and eradicate child labour and to raise awareness among stakeholders on the consequences of child labour. There is also a need to further support policy-oriented research to better understand which policies contribute to a reduction in child labour.

International Cooperation

13. The Council stresses the need for strengthened partnerships between the United Nations agencies, in particular UNICEF and the ILO, and among regional organisations, based on complementarity of and within their respective mandates, to mount a sustained effort to decrease rates of child labour across sectors and regions and to support governments in taking appropriate measures to meet target 8.7 of the SDGs.

14. The Council welcomes the attention given by the 105th International Labour conference to decent work in Global supply chains and employment and decent work for peace, security and resilience. It supports the outcome of these discussions which are of particular relevance to the prevention of child labour, including in crisis situations.

15. The Council encourages active preparation for and participation in 4th Global Conference on Child Labour to take place in Argentina in 2017.

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COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS ON BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Foreign Affairs Council, 20 June 2016

Introduction

1. This month marks the fifth anniversary of the unanimous adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Council strongly supports the UN Guiding Principles. Their implementation supports and promotes human rights, and is good for all, reducing risks for people and business. The Council also supports the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, and acknowledges the importance of the UN Global Compact and ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility.

2. The Council expresses its full support for the valuable work of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. The Council stresses that the EU will continue to cooperate with and support the work of the Working Group, including the yearly UN Forum and regional fora on Business and Human Rights. These offer valuable opportunities at a global level for further building awareness of, and advocating for, implementation of the Guiding Principles.

3. The Council emphasises the significant role that business should play in helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The EU recognises that corporate respect for human rights and its embedding in corporate operations and value and supply chains is indispensable to sustainable development. and achieving the SDGs. All partnerships in implementing the SDGs should be built on respect for human rights and responsible business conduct.

4. The Council recalls its Conclusions on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015 – 2019 of 20 June 2015 [detail] , in which the EU and its member States committed to actions to make advances on business and human rights. The Council also recalls its Conclusions of 12 May 2016 on Responsible Global Value Chains and on Child Labour [8833/16 and 10244/16, respectively. 10254/16] .

Implementing the UN Guiding Principles

5. EU Member States have taken the lead internationally on developing and adopting National Action Plans (NAPs) to implement the Guiding Principles or integrating the UN Guiding Principles into national CSR Strategies. The Council recalls the Member States’ commitment in this regard. [detail] The Council encourages the Commission and the EEAS to promote peer learning on business and human rights, including cross regional peer learning.

6. The Council welcomes the Commission’s intention to launch an EU Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct in 2016. This Action Plan should address the implementation of the Guiding Principles, including with regard to due diligence and access to remedy, and provide an overall policy framework. The Council furthermore encourages the Commission to enhance the implementation of due diligence and to foster dialogue and cooperation amongst all relevant public and private stakeholders.

7. The Council recalls the global consensus reached on the UN Guiding Principles five years ago and stresses that any possible further steps regarding the international legal framework for business and human rights at UN level must be inclusive, firmly rooted in the UN Guiding Principles and address all types of companies.

Promoting Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights

8. The Council calls on all business enterprises, both transnational and domestic, to comply with the UN Guiding Principles, the ILO Tripartite Declaration and the OECD Guidelines, inter alia by integrating human rights due diligence into their operations to better identify, prevent and mitigate human rights risks.

9. The Council underlines the critical role of business transparency in enabling markets to recognise, incentivise and reward respect for human rights by companies, recognising the close linkage with other areas within the responsible business agenda e.g. private sector development and anti-corruption and anti-trafficking policies. The Council notes in this regard the contribution of the EU Directive on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by certain large companies and groups, and looks forward to the non-binding guidelines on methodology for reporting non-financial information which the Commission is developing for proposed use by companies in their reporting.

10. The Council is committed to policy coherence and underlines the importance of incorporating human rights in impact assessments for EU sectoral policies such as trade and development cooperation. Similarly, the Council calls on the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to ensure human rights compliance in their programme support and that their grievance mechanisms operate in line with the UN Guiding Principles.

11. The Council encourages EU Institutions and Member States to address their responsibilities as commercial actors (e.g. in public procurement) and when supporting or partnering with businesses (e.g. through export credit, trade promotion, or subsidies for the private sector). The Council calls on the Commission to consider what support can be provided to public authorities covered by the revised EU Procurement Directives, through tools and guidance for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, the OECD Guidelines and the ILO Tripartite Declaration.

Access to remedy

12. The Council recalls that access to effective remedies for victims of business-related human rights abuses is of crucial importance and should be addressed in National Action Plans. The Council acknowledges that further progress on this third pillar of the Guiding Principles is necessary.

13. The Council calls on the Commission to address remedies in the forthcoming EU Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct, including at EU legislative level as appropriate, and to consider providing guidance to Member States in this regard.

14. The Council requests the EU Fundamental Rights Agency to issue an expert opinion on possible avenues to lower barriers for access to remedy at the EU level, taking into account existing EU legal instruments and competences at EU and Member States’ levels.

15. The Council welcomes the recent adoption of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation on Human Rights and Business with a particular focus on access to remedy. The Council encourages the EU Institutions and Member States to implement this recommendation.

16. The Council welcomes the initiative [detail] on enhancing accountability and access to remedy of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the High Commissioner’s recent report: “Improving accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse” in this regard, recognising that the initiative may provide best practices that can be implemented at EU and Member State level, including on improved cooperation between states in cross-border cases. The Council undertakes to provide the necessary support and contributions to the OHCHR in this regard. The Council calls on Member States to consider this initiative including when adopting or updating National Action Plans, encompassing concrete measures aimed at improving redress mechanisms.

17. The Council encourages Member States which have implemented the OECD Guidelines to further enhance the effectiveness of their National Contact Points (NCPs). The Council encourages these Member States to promote peer reviews and learning on the functioning and performance of NCPs. The Council calls on the Commission and Member States to actively participate in the OECD’s efforts to strengthen the capacity of NCPs within the EU and in the EU’s partner countries. The Council encourages EU companies to establish operational-level grievance mechanisms, or create joint grievance initiatives between companies.

External policy

18. The Council underlines the importance of EU institutions and Member States continuing to raise the UN Guiding Principles and work to enhance government ownership in contacts with third countries including in political dialogues. The Council stresses the importance of EU and Member States’ support including through capacity building to third countries and regions, involving civil society, for the development of Action Plans on business and human rights.

19. The Council recognises the importance of building capacity both within EU Delegations and Member States’ embassies to work effectively on business and human rights issues, including supporting human rights defenders working on corporate accountability and providing guidance to companies on the Guiding Principles. The Council invites the High Representative and the Commission to develop the necessary tools for EU Delegations to help meet these needs, including through building on the support and best practices of Member States.

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Related (Trade Unions’ point of view) :

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