SEC Adopts Reporting Rule to Help with Human Rights Issues Concerning Conflict Minerals

The primary mission of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is to protect investors from unfair or unscrupulous practices. Last week, however, the SEC did something remarkable: It agreed to adopt a rule with the goal of diminishing the human rights consequences of business practices.

The SEC voted by a narrow 3-2 margin to require companies that use so-called “conflict minerals”—metals like gold, tantalum, tin, and tungsten which end up in a wide array of products like cell phones, computers and other electronic devices—to file reports about the use of minerals that have been fueling violent conflict and abetting widespread social abuses like the use of child soldiers. The rules were mandated under section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and targeted towards minerals extracted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighboring countries.

Although two commissioners debated whether the SEC’s core mission of protecting investors should be expanded in this way, they agreed that conflict in the DRC and neighboring countries is a pressing problem and that warring groups are using profits from mineral extraction to engage in armed conflict and a wide variety of human rights abuses. Commissioners Troy Paredes and Daniel Gallagher voted against adopting the rule, arguing that there was no clear evidence that the reporting requirement would help solve civil rights abuses and that the SEC had no jurisdiction to tackle human rights problems. Gallagher complained that the SEC’s proposed rule had no exemptions for small businesses and said the reporting requirements might be overly burdensome.

SEC chair Mary Schapiro joined commissioners Luis Aguilar and Elise Walter in voting for adopting the reporting rule. The three commissioners were quick to point out that the SEC was under a congressional mandate to implement the provisions and that the humanitarian crisis in sub-Saharan Africa is severe and required action.

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Nigeria: Rehabilitating Victims of Human Trafficking, Child Labor

28 August 2012 [from]


Linda Eroke writes on efforts by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Department for Equal Opportunities (DEO), Italy to rehabilitate victims of human trafficking and child labour

All over the world, trafficking in human beings has been recognised as not only a serious crime, but an abuse of individual’s human rights. According to the United Nations (UN), it is one of the fastest growing areas of international criminal activity, as it often involves a number of different crimes, spanning different countries and involving an increasing number of victims.

Trafficking can be compared to modern day form of slavery because it involves the exploitation of people through force, coercion, threat and deception. It also has consequences not only for the victims but also for their families and the nations involved.

Victims of human trafficking require assistance in order to regain their confidence because of the physical and psychological trauma they experience in the hands of traffickers and this involves medical help, psychological support, legal assistance, shelter and everyday care.

Establishing a National Referral Mechanism

It is against this backdrop that International Labour Organisation (ILO) is working with the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) and other relevant actors to establish a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) that will cater for the needs of victims of human trafficking and forced labour.

NRM is a comprehensive system of cooperation between governmental and non-governmental agencies involved in promoting human rights and combating human trafficking based on common and internationally recognised standards of activity.

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Child Labor Advocates Come Together for Three Days of Sharing and Strategizing

 The world’s child labor advocacy community does not gather together very often, but it did just that Sunday, July 28 through Monday, July 30, here in Washington for an international conference on agricultural child labor. More than 60 percent of the 215 million child laborers globally work in farms and fields–if you’re trying to solve the puzzle that child labor presents, agricultural child labor is the biggest piece of that puzzle and should not be ignored. Children who work in agriculture are exposed to pesticides and hazardous equipment like machetes. If you’ve ever seen a seven- or eight-year-old opening a cocoa pod with a machete, you know what kinds of dangers children are exposed to on farms internationally.

The Global March Against Child Labor, a world-wide network of civil society groups, teacher unions, and trade unions, organized the conference with logistical support from the Child Labor Coalition (CLC)–co-chaired by NCL and the American Federation of Teachers–and CLC members, especially the Solidarity Center and the International Labor Rights Forum. About 150 representatives from 40 different countries attended all or part of the three-day event, about half of those were from developing countries like Ghana, the Ivory Coast, and the Philippines with endemic child labor problems.

Senator Harkin (Iowa-D), the congressional champion who has led a many-year crusade to reduce child labor, opened the conference with a speech that urged attendees to work to remove the “worst forms of child labor”—the types of child labor that harm physical, mental, or moral well-being of a child worker. After the speech, the senator stayed for the rest of the morning to soak up as much of the conference as he could. For the advocacy community, it was a powerful statement of support and concern.

Kailash Satyarthi, founder and leader of the Global March and a Nobel Prize nominee, expressed frustration at the slow progress in eliminating the worst forms of child labor. He reminded attendees that the 2016 deadline to eliminate worst forms of child labor set by the international community is fast approaching and we still do not have a strategic child labor elimination plan for each country. Satyarthi also demanded that multinational corporations stop hiding behind modest corporate social responsibility initiatives and seriously confront the huge child labor problems in their supply chains.

CLC member and filmmaker Len Morris of Media Voices for Children agreed, telling conference participants that the corporate sectors responsible for many child laborers— cocoa, cotton, and tobacco—could eliminate child labor from their supply chains in a year or two if they really wanted to. Money and resources, said Morris, are the key. Companies simply must be willing to commit enough financial resources to adequately confront these difficult problems.

The conference featured a number of leaders in the fight to keep kids in school and out of exploitative child labor, including Constance Thomas of the International Labor Organization’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor, Fred van Leeuwen of Education International, Geronimo Venegas, president of the IUF Agricultural Trade Group, Mauro Vieria, Ambassador of Brazil, Tim Ryan of the Solidarity Center, and many others working on the front lines of child labor remediation.

The difficulties of eradicating child labor proved a steady theme for conference participants. U.S. presenters Norma Flores Lopez of the Children in the Fields Campaign and  Zama Coursen-Neff of Human Rights Watch noted the very disappointing withdrawal of occupational child safety rules  for agriculture by the Department of Labor and the White House in April. One child labor advocate who works on agricultural child labor issues in West Africa was stunned to learn that the U.S. has its own problem with child labor in agriculture and was having similar difficulties reducing its dependence on child workers.

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Philippines Becomes Second Country to Ratify Domestic Workers Convention (HRW Press Release)

For Immediate Release [Human Rights Watch Press Release, 8/6/12]

(Manila, August 6, 2012) – The Philippines’ ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention will bring the groundbreaking international treaty into legal force, promising better working conditions and key labor protections for millions of domestic workers, Human Rights Watch said today. The convention takes effect one year after the second ratification.

The Philippine Senate ratified the instrument today; President Benigno Aquino III signed it on May 18, 2012, following the treaty’s first ratification, by Uruguay, on April 30.

“The Philippines’ ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention means that basic labor rights for domestic workers are finally becoming a reality,” said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “As the treaty goes into effect, millions of women and girls will have the chance for better working conditions and better lives.”

The Domestic Workers Convention sets the first global standards for the estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide, the vast majority of whom are women and girls. Domestic workers face a wide range of serious abuses and labor exploitation, including excessive working hours without rest, non-payment of wages, forced confinement, physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and trafficking. Under the treaty, domestic workers are entitled to protections available to other workers, including weekly days off, limits to hours of work, and minimum wage and social security coverage. The convention also obliges governments to protect domestic workers from violence and abuse, and to prevent child labor in domestic work.

The Philippines has approximately two million domestic workers at home and millions more abroad. Remittances from Filipino migrant domestic workers, mostly women, constitute a significant source of the country’s foreign exchange. Filipinos working abroad send home over US$20 billion per year.

Migrant domestic workers are often at heightened risk of exploitation due to excessive recruitment fees, language barriers, and national policies that link workers’ immigration status to individual employers. Human Rights Watch has documented abuses against Filipino migrant domestic workers in Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, including beatings, confiscation of passports, confinement to the home, overlong working hours with no days off, and in some cases, months or years of unpaid wages.

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