Businesses must help prevent and monitor the use of trafficked labour in their supply chains, a United Nations independent expert stressed today, urging enterprises to do their part to protect human rights.
“Trafficking in persons is a global phenomenon which crosses borders, markets and industries,” the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, said at an international expert meeting in Ankara, Turkey.
“In today’s globalized world,” she added, “the risks of human trafficking in supply chains are significant throughout economic sectors and affect all States, whether as source, transit or destination countries.”
Over 20 specialists on human trafficking, business and human rights from international organizations, trade unions and non-governmental organizations gathered at the international meeting – which was convened by Ms. Ezeilo – to share information on trends and good practices to address trafficking and reach concrete proposals to protect the human rights of trafficked persons.
According to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Ms. Ezeilo noted that supply chains in the global economy are often complex and involve multiple layers of sub-contractors, which hampers the monitoring and reporting process. However, she emphasized that both governments and businesses must increase their efforts to ensure human rights are respected.
“States have the primary obligation to protect against human rights violations, such as trafficking, committed by third parties including business enterprises, but businesses must also respect human rights,” she said, recalling the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity.
Businesses are uniquely positioned to prevent or mitigate any risk of trafficking in the supply chains, the Special Rapporteur noted, adding that the connections between these two are often not well understood.
“Businesses cannot shy away from tackling this issue not only because it amounts to human rights violations, but also because it creates reputational and financial risks to their operations,” she said. “However, the solution to the problem of human trafficking in supply chains lies beyond the reach of any single stakeholder.”
Partnerships between governments, businesses, the media and the public in general, must be formed to raise awareness of this issue, she stated, adding that through a multi-faceted approach, governments can put in place policy measures to combat trafficking, businesses can increase their efforts to prevent this activity, and consumers and the media can shape corporate and governments’ behaviour.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs like Ms. Ezeilo, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.