Launch of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work
Credit: ILO via Flickr
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
Credit:Sandro Weltin via Council of Europe
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.
Palais des Nations, Geneva
Credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré via Flickr
In the month of July, various universal and regional bodies 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. Three United Nations treaty bodies will meet in July to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to civil and political rights, the rights of women, and the prevention of torture. Further, civil society can register this month to participate in the sessions of two treaty bodies that will meet in August to engage with States regarding their obligations related to racial discrimination and the rights of persons with disabilities, respectively. The UN Human Rights Council and several of its working groups will be in session to review communications, thematic reports, and country-specific reports; select individuals to serve as special procedure mandate holders; and convene several panel discussions on the human rights of women, internally displaced persons, and on technical cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will hold its annual session. Two UN special procedures will conduct country visits focusing on human rights and transnational corporations, and on the human rights situation in the Republic of Korea.
Regionally, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) may hear one case related to the prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens, and the European Committee of Social Rights and Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will be in session.
The UN treaty body sessions, the public hearings of the European Court, and the hearings of the Inter-American Court, may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, and the Inter-American Court’s website or Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland
Credit: Tom Page via Wikimedia Commons
On May 21, 2018, Qatar acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which will both come into force for the State in August. [HRW: Treaties] Qatar’s accession to these conventions included both formal reservations on articles to which Qatar will not consider itself bound by as well as statements by Qatar indicating how the government will interpret certain provisions, in accordance with Islamic Sharia law, the national constitution, and other national laws. Civil society has expressed concern at these reservations and statements, particularly as they relate to limitations on women’s rights and migrant workers’ rights. [HRW: Treaties] Including these most recent accessions, Qatar is now a party to nine United Nations conventions, obliging the State to guarantee the rights to equal protection and non-discrimination, among other rights. See OHCHR, Ratification Status for Qatar. Read more
Dalia Leinarte, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) recently published a general recommendation on the adoption of a gender-based approach on the prevention of and response to climate change and environmental disasters. See Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, General Recommendation No. 37: Gender-related dimensions of disaster-risk reduction in the context of climate change, UN Doc. CEDAW/C/GC/37, 9 February 2018. The General Recommendation provides guidance to States on fully implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in the context of climate change and disasters; under the Convention, States parties have both general obligations to ensure gender equality as well as specific obligations to guarantee rights that may be negatively affected by climate change and natural disasters. See id. at para. 10. The General Recommendation warns that pre-existing gender inequalities are aggravated following a disaster and women become more susceptible to gender-based violence, but States parties must still guarantee the rights enumerated in the Convention. See id. at paras. 3, 10. The General Recommendation is one of several recent developments on international standards at the intersection of human rights and the environment; notably the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment recently called for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment at the universal level, and published guidance on children’s rights and the environment. [OHCHR Press Release] Read more
Council of Europe
Credit: Council of Europe via Wikimedia Commons
On January 24, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) published its 2017 conclusions regarding 33 States’ implementation of the European Social Charter’s provisions related to health, social security, and social protection, and found 175 instances of non-conformity out of 486 situations examined. [ECSR Press Release] Additionally, the ECSR was unable to adequately assess the situation in 83 cases due to lack of information. [ECSR Press Release] The ECSR emphasized the need for States to implement measures to improve workplace safety, maternal and infant mortality, social security benefits, and policies addressing poverty and social exclusion. See ECSR, European Social Charter Social Rights Monitoring 2017: Health, Social Security and Social Protection (2018), 1. The ECSR noted positive developments regarding the framework and adoption of measures with respect to health and safety at work as well as the extension of social security benefits with regards to healthcare and disability. See id. Three States (Greece, Iceland, and Luxembourg) failed to submit their reports on time for review by the ECSR; conclusions on those States will be issued at a later date in 2018. See id.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights holds a thematic hearing.
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 reports, country visits, and thematic and contentious hearings. Two United Nations treaty bodies will continue their sessions that began in November on issues concerning racial discrimination and torture. Ten United Nations special procedures mandate holders and groups of experts will conduct country visits across five continents in December, and one UN group of experts will hold sessions. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will continue its session and hold thematic hearings on specific human rights issues in the United States and Canada. The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will hold sessions, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear two cases related to the right to assistance of counsel and the application of Islamic law in national courts, respectively.
The UN treaty bodies’ sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The IACHR sessions may be viewed on its YouTube channel. The ECtHR hearings may be viewed on its webcast.
To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more
Demonstrations in Athens, Greece in 2011
Credit: Kotsolis via Wikimedia Commons
In a recently published decision, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) found that Greece’s legislation enacted between 2010 and 2014 in response to the economic crisis violated the rights to work, to just conditions of work, to fair pay, to protection for children and young persons against hazards, and to participate in decision making processes on working conditions established in the 1961 European Social Charter (1961 Charter) and the 1988 Additional Protocol. See ECSR, Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) v. Greece, Complaint No. 111/2014, Merits, 23 March 2017. The Council of Europe’s (COE) Committee of Ministers adopted a resolution on July 5, 2017, that led to the publication of the ECSR’s merits decision in Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) v. Greece. [COE Press Release] Greece argued that the legislation was necessary to ensure that Greece remained in the Eurozone by stimulating growth and job creation. See Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) v. Greece, 23 March 2017, para. 49. The ECSR took account of the scale and severity of the economic and financial crisis that led to the adoption of the legislation at issue; however, it nevertheless concluded that none of the restrictions to social rights imposed via the legislation were permissible under articles 30 (derogations in time of war or public emergency) or 31 (restrictions to rights permitted under the Charter) of the Social Charter, resulting in several violations. See id. at paras. 93, 246-250. Read more
High level event on “Partnerships to End Forced Labour in Global Chains,” co-organized by the ILO
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Last week following the World Day against Child Labor, India ratified two International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions that seek to eliminate child labor, and Thailand ratified one ILO Convention that prohibits labor discrimination. [ILO Press Release: India; ILO Press Release: Thailand; UN News Centre] The first convention India ratified, the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), requires that States parties set a minimum age for children to work in any occupation and provides particular requirements for hazardous work. The second convention India ratified, the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), requires that States parties take concrete steps to prevent child participation in the most harmful categories of labor, including slavery, forced labor, trafficking, child prostitution, and particularly hazardous work, among others. Thailand ratified the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) (Employment Discrimination Convention), which requires States parties to develop, promote, and practice national policies that ensure equal opportunity and treatment in employment.
All three conventions are included in the ILO’s eight fundamental conventions, which the ILO believes provide a framework for striving for the remaining rights at work. The ILO aims to achieve universal ratification of the fundamental conventions, and according to the ILO, only 129 ratifications are left to achieve that goal. See ILO, Conventions and Recommendations. Only six States have yet to ratify the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, which has accumulated ratifications at a rate faster than any other ILO Convention. [ILO Press Release: India] India has now ratified four of the eight fundamental conventions, and Thailand has ratified five of eight. See ILO, Ratifications of fundamental Conventions by country. Read more