Unless governments act now, millions of the world’s most vulnerable people could be pushed into contemporary forms of slavery and other exploitation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a UN independent human rights expert has said. The warning comes from UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, who presented his first report to a virtual session of the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday.
Mr. Obokata said although States may view the dismantling of labour rights as a “quick fix” for the increasing pressure on business brought on by the ensuing global economic recession, this will come at a “high price”. He particularly called for accountability for businesses that exploit vulnerable workers producing, processing and providing medicine, medical equipment or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the pandemic. “Labour rights must be upheld and social protection ensured across all economic sectors,” he stressed. “States must ensure that in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one is left behind and pushed into slavery-like practices.”
Relatedly, governments are being called to spend more on development, both at home and abroad, and to listen to communities most in need. The appeal was made by the UN independent human rights expert on the right to development, Saad Alfarargi, who also presented his annual report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. Mr. Alfarargi pointed out that development finance was already lagging prior to the pandemic, which has added an additional strain, particularly on the budgets of developing countries.
He urged authorities to increase assistance to developing countries, to institute progressive tax systems as means to bridge resource gaps, and to include communities in decision-making that affects them. Mr. Alfarargi said communities across the globe report that they are not being involved as decision makers from the start of discussions surrounding which development projects to finance. On the contrary, he added, development banks, governments and companies often propose projects without their input. He called on decision-makers to create and budget for inclusive consultation processes in line with the central promise of the UN’s sustainable development agenda to leave no one behind.
Source: The UN