In a new report, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances has laid out 15 principles to guide States and businesses in preventing and remedying workers’ exposure to toxics. [OHCHR Press Release] In September 2019, the Special Rapporteur, Baskut Tuncak, presented the principles to the UN Human Rights Council, which adopted a resolution calling on States and non-State actors to implement them. See UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 42/21, Protection of the rights of workers exposed to hazardous substances and wastes, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/42/21, 8 October 2019. The principles center workers’ human rights, and emphasize that both States and employers must act to prevent workers’ exposure to toxic substances, that these obligations extend beyond national borders, and that workers’ access to information and to effective remedies are critically important. See Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, UN Doc. A/HRC/42/41, 17 July 2019. The report, which is the culmination of 25 years of work under the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, is grounded in and builds on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, International Labour Organization conventions, and multilateral agreements on toxic wastes. See id. at paras. 8, 12.
Category Archives: economic, social & cultural rights
In a landmark decision, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has found Paraguay responsible for failing to protect individuals from severe environmental contamination by large-scale farms’ use of illegal chemicals, in violation of the State’s international obligations to protect the rights to life and respect for private and family life and the home. [OHCHR Press Release: Paraguay] While regional human rights bodies have recognized the link between pollution and enjoyment of human rights, this decision marks a first for the Human Right Committee, which oversees implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which 173 States are party. [OHCHR Press Release: Paraguay] Other relevant developments include a new partnership between the UN Environmental Programme and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights seeking to strengthen global environmental protection efforts and increase protections for environmental activists. [NYTimes; OHCHR Press Release: UNEP]
The International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted an “unprecedented Convention and accompanying Recommendation” during its June 2019 meeting, setting new global obligations and outlining measures for ILO Member States to take in addressing violence and harassment in the context of work. [ILO Press Release: Conference] The Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019, a legally binding instrument, covers violence and harassment, including on the basis of gender, in all sectors of the economy and all work-related activities, and expressly indicates that such violence or harassment may amount to human rights violations. [ILO Press Release: Conference] It requires States to implement legislation, training, monitoring, and avenues of redress and support in order to prevent and remedy these practices; it also calls on States to address the particular needs of vulnerable groups and those impacted by domestic violence. See Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019, arts. 6-11. The Convention represents the first new legally binding instrument adopted by the Labour Conference since 2011, when it adopted the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189). [ILO Press Release: Convention] The Convention will enter into force one year after two ILO Member States ratify it, and will come into force for States parties one year after their ratification. See Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019, art. 14.
The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) has held Bulgaria responsible for Roma women’s inferior access to reproductive healthcare in public hospitals, specifically during pregnancy and childbirth. [ECSR Press Release] In a unanimous merits decision, the Committee found that Bulgaria’s failure to take proactive steps—including by addressing the much lower levels of health insurance coverage among Roma women, barriers to maternal care such as a lack of translation services, and significantly higher infant and maternal mortality rates—constituted a violation of the rights to health and non-discrimination under the Revised European Social Charte (the “Charter“). See ECSR, European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Bulgaria, Complaint No. 151/2017, Merits, 5 December 2018. While the complaint also alleged that Roma women are routinely segregated in maternity wards, the ECSR ultimately determined there was insufficient evidence that this is a systemic practice. See id. at para. 93. In 2008, the ECSR found Bulgaria responsible for related gaps in access to healthcare services and worse health status among the Roma population; according to the more recent decision, the situation has not seen any improvement since then. See ECSR, European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Bulgaria, Complaint No. 46/2007, Merits, 3 December 2008; ERRC v. Bulgaria, 5 December 2018, paras. 56, 85.
In recent years, international advocacy has contributed to increased awareness of forced sterilization as a human rights violation, including as a result of our work at the International Justice Resource Center (IJRC). Around the world, healthcare providers and others continue to sterilize people without their informed consent, most often targeting those who are Indigenous, living with HIV, are persons with disabilities, or who experience discrimination on other grounds. Just this month, IJRC advanced our partners’ advocacy on this issue at the 63rd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and Human Rights Watch published a report on involuntary sterilization of transgender persons in Japan. The past three years have also seen judgments from regional human rights courts on forced sterilization and important statements from other bodies. This post details the results of advocacy before regional and United Nations human rights bodies, summarizing the growing body of recommendations, statements, and judgments that more fully define forced sterilization as a human rights violation and guide governments in addressing this harmful practice.
In March, various universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will review States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies and two pre-sessional working groups will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding economic, social, and cultural rights; women’s rights; civil and political rights; and the rights of persons with disabilities. The Human Rights Council will continue holding one of its three regular sessions. Two UN special rapporteurs will conduct country visits in March, and the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent will be in session. Of the regional bodies, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), and the European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR) will be holding public sessions.
The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the AfCHPR and IACtHR may be viewed via the AfCHPR’s YouTube page and IACtHR’s Vimeo page, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
In February, various universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will review States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies and one pre-sessional working group will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding children’s rights; the prevention of torture; economic, social and cultural rights; and the rights of women. The Human Rights Council will be holding one of its three regular sessions and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States. One UN special rapporteur and one UN working group will conduct country visits in February, and three UN working groups will hold sessions. Of the regional bodies, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will be holding public sessions.
The UN treaty body and UPR sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the IACtHR, the IACHR, and the European Court may be viewed via the IACtHR’s Vimeo page, the IACHR’s website, and the European Court’s website, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more
In a new report, the International Labor Organization (ILO) proposes a “human-centred agenda for the future of work,” advocating bold action to reduce inequalities and uncertainties in employment by increasing education, training, and support programs; solidifying workers’ rights and protections; and, expanding investment in decent and sustainable work. See ILO, Work for a Brighter Future (2019). The report urges governments to seize opportunities presented by technology, the green economy, and demographic changes. Its key recommendations include instituting: a “universal labour guarantee” that includes a right to an adequate living wage regardless of employment situation; lifelong social protection; lifelong educational and training opportunities; gender equality initiatives; and new private investment incentives to benefit historically excluded or under protected workers. The report was prepared by ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work and released on January 22, marking the beginning of ILO’s centenary year. [ILO Press Release] The report will be presented and debated at the Centenary International Labor Conference in June 2019. See ILO, Work for a Brighter Future. at 55.
The ILO report’s release came the day after the United Nations Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights published new Guiding Principles on Human Rights Impact Assessments of Economic Reforms to assist stakeholders in assessing the impact of economic policies and ensuring that these are anchored in human rights standards. [OHCHR] According to the Independent Expert, “The thrust of the Guiding Principles is that States cannot shy away from their human rights obligations in economic policy making at all times, even in times of economic crisis.” [OHCHR] Both publications reflect broader efforts at the international level to advance labor rights and the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights in a comprehensive manner that is centered in human rights. Read more
The European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR) has, for the first time, addressed the collective bargaining rights of self-employed workers, holding that a pre-2017 Irish ban on collective bargaining by freelance journalists, voice-over actors, and session musicians violated the European Social Charter. See ECSR, Irish Congress of Trade Unions v. Ireland, Complaint No.123/2016, Merits, 12 December 2018, para. 35. In view of a subsequent amendment to the Irish law at issue, the ECSR also concluded that the current situation does not constitute a violation. Nevertheless, the ECSR took the opportunity to clarify the status of workers like these artists and writers, and to confirm that the self-employed cannot be categorically excluded from collective bargaining.
In December, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Two United Nations treaty bodies will continue reviewing States’ progress, with regard to the elimination of torture and racial discrimination, in sessions that began last month. Four UN special procedures will conduct country visits in December, and two UN working groups will hold sessions.
Regionally, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be holding public sessions.
The UN treaty body sessions, the public hearings of the IACHR, and the AfCHPR’s public hearings may be watched via UN Web TV, the IACHR’s website or Vimeo page, and the African Court’s YouTube channel, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more