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Businesses must eradicate human trafficking from their supply chains - UN expert

GENEVA (8 June 2017) – Businesses must be more effective in their action to prevent and combat human trafficking. Workers’ voices must be heard in voluntary schemes set up within industries to tackle labour abuse and human trafficking, a UN human rights expert has said.

In her latest report, Special Rapporteur Maria Grazia Giammarinaro tells the Human Rights Council: : “It is crucial that multi-stakeholders and industry-based initiatives continue to improve the effectiveness of voluntary standards aimed at banning human trafficking and forced labour from their supply chains.”

During the preparation of her report, the expert engaged with such initiatives, giving advice about new ways to make voluntary schemes more effective, and prevent tragedies such as those occurred in some countries in which many workers in situation of forced labour and trafficking died in factories, as it happened in the case of Rana Plaza.

“High-risk practices should be identified everywhere, and businesses should ask sub- contractors to change such practices, under penalty of the termination of contracts.”

“Guaranteeing a voice for workers is of critical importance, and when independent auditors are involved, it is crucial that they have the resources they need to gather workers’ feedback and the skills to spot high-risk practices which make it possible for trafficking to take place.” 

 Businesses’ initiatives include labelling companies complying with voluntary standards, and therefore they enable consumers to choose companies with a clean record on trafficking and labour abuses.

Ms. Giammarinaro also highlighted the importance of raising awareness among relevant parties about the issue of human trafficking and the kind of practices which enable it to exist. Without this awareness, it would be impossible to establish standards to measure firms’ performance in preventing and addressing trafficking, she noted.

The Special Rapporteur called on all companies to respect human rights and eradicate human trafficking and forced labour, and praised the “fruitful and open” dialogue with the representatives of the multi-stakeholder initiatives, industry coalitions and auditing firms, which had enabled her to analyse the current challenges and produce her report.

The Special Rapporteur suggested there was a need for States to establish frameworks to protect workers from labour exploitation and to set out clear expectations for businesses.

“Voluntary standards alone are not sufficient to transform business models,” she said. “Achieving the transformation that is necessary will require innovative approaches including enhanced collaboration with governments.”

She will present her full report to the Human Rights Council on Thursday 9 June 2017.

Ms. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (Italy) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014, to promote the prevention of trafficking in persons in all its forms, and to encourage measures to uphold and protect the human rights of victims. Ms. Giammarinaro has been a Judge since 1991. She served as a Pre-Trial Judge at the Criminal Court of Rome, and currently serves as a Judge in the Civil Court of Rome. She was the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of the OSCE, and served in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security in Brussels, where she was responsible for combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. She drafted the EU Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. 

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For further information and media requests, please contact Clara Pascual de Vargas (+41 22 917 93 41 / cpascualdevargas@ohchr.org), Selma Vadala (+41 22 917 9108 / svadala@ohchr.org) or write to srtrafficking@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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