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ILO Violence and Harassment Convention will enter into force in June 2021

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Guy Ryder and Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan. Photo: ILO

Fiji has become the second country to ratify the ILO’s Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190)  , after Uruguay  did so on 12 June . With the deposit of this second ratification, the Convention will enter into force on 25 June 2021.

Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva, deposited the ratification instrument with ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, in a virtual ceremony.

“This ratification is a testament of the Government’s commitment to equality as is enshrined in the Fijian Constitution, and ratification is also consistent with Fiji`s membership of the Human Rights Council. Ratification of Convention 190 demonstrates Fiji’s willingness to lead the way in committing to international standards and best practices,” said Ambassador Khan.

“This Convention is timely and highly applicable to address real challenges in the world of work today such as violence, harassment and intimidation. We note in particular the inclusivity of the Convention. It purports to protect and empower all those who are the subject of bullying and harassment at work, including women. The Convention encompasses the intersectionality of the sources of discrimination, thus encompassing the reality of the lives of many workers,” she added.

Adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2019 , Convention No. 190 is a landmark instrument. It is the first international labour standard to address violence and harassment in the world of work. Together with Recommendation No. 206 , it provides a common framework for action and a unique opportunity to shape a future of work based on dignity and respect. The Convention affirms that everyone has the right to a world of work free from violence and harassment. It includes the first international definition of violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence.

The Convention recognizes that violence and harassment in the world of work “can constitute a human rights violation or abuse…is a threat to equal opportunities, is unacceptable and incompatible with decent work.” It defines “violence and harassment” as behaviours, practices or threats “that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm.” It reminds member States that they have a responsibility to promote a “general environment of zero tolerance”.

“I am extremely pleased to receive this instrument of ratification, which bears witness to the commitment of the Government of Fiji to combatting violence and harassment in all its forms in the world of work. I note in addition that this ratification was unanimously approved by the Fijian Parliament on 28 May 2020,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

“This ratification marks an important step towards the achievement of decent work, particularly in these unprecedented times in which the world is struggling to overcome and recover from a global pandemic. In times of crisis and economic insecurity, the risk of violence and harassment escalates, as has been so evident during this devastating pandemic. Violence and harassment is unacceptable at any time; it is clear that Convention No. 190 has a crucial role to play, whether in times of prosperity or during times of crisis. For a human-centred response and recovery, free from violence and harassment in the world of work, Convention No. 190 provides a clear and practical roadmap,” added Ryder.

Fiji has also ratified the Protocol of 2002 to the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (P. 155),  becoming the 13th country  worldwide to do so.

The Protocol recognizes the important role of reliable statistical data in achieving progress on occupational safety and health. In particular, it reinforces the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155)  ratified by Fiji in 2008 regarding recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases as well as the publication of national statistics. These two instruments serve as a blueprint, along with the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187) , for setting up and implementing comprehensive national occupational safety and health systems, based on prevention and continuous improvement.

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Environment

Exploring financing opportunities for forest landscape restoration

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For centuries, world’s forests have been cleared and removed for agricultural or other land uses, often resulting in degraded lands found in almost every country today. As global population increases and climate change threatens ecosystems worldwide, there is an urgent need for more sustainable management of land to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

As a process of restoring degraded lands and retrieving their economic and environmental productivity, forest landscape restoration is a promising way to achieve desalination of the soils and reduced wind and water erosion.  It also helps filtering drinking water and raising the level of groundwater in restored areas and the storage of carbon dioxide in the newly accumulated biomass. 

So far, countries in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia pledged to restore close to 3 million hectares of degraded land under the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to restore 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, which also count under the ECCA30, a regional initiative to restore 30 million hectares by 2030 in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Countries interested in forest landscape restoration commonly cite the lack of funding as a major impediment for its implementation. This is a particularly acute issue in the light of current COVID-19 outbreak, as funding priorities are expected to shift towards the economic recovery and strengthening and re-building of healthcare systems. 

To address the commonly asked question: “what are sources of financing forest landscape restoration?”, the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section, in cooperation with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), hosted a webinar where representatives of donor countries and key international institutions informed countries interested in forest landscape restoration about existing sources of funding.  

Speaking on behalf of the Federal German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Dr. Michael Krause-Besan, IKI Secretariat,  introduced the International Climate Initiative (IKI) project portfolio supporting forest landscape restoration efforts in ODA eligible countries, available through large-scale programmes and thematic/country calls.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) also offers long term financing opportunities under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, informed Mr. Marc Dumas-Johansen. Another potential source of funding presented at the webinar was the Global Environment Facility (GEF), that already dedicated around $350 million in grants towards restoration purposes in its current funding cycle (2018-2022). This info is available in the presentation: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/timber/meetings/2020/20200716/U.Apel_GEF_Sources_of_financning_GEF.pdf.

Speaking on behalf of GEF, Mr. Ulrich Apel underlined that an active pledge under the Bonn Challenge represents an important selection criterion for funding restoration and will be taken into account during the next funding cycle. Mr. Stephen Hart from the European Investment Bank illustrated the financing opportunities for biodiversity and climate adaptation for businesses and cities using Nature-based Solutions, through the bank’s Natural Capital Financing Facility.

In their conclusions, speakers underlined the diversity of financing mechanisms and sources of finance, and the importance of linking restoration efforts to national objectives in order to access finance from climate, biodiversity, sustainable development and the private sector.

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ADB to Help Boost Farm Incomes in the Philippines with $400 Million Loan

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $400 million policy-based loan to support reforms by the Philippine government aimed at raising the productivity and competitiveness of the country’s agriculture sector and significantly reducing poverty in rural areas.

The Competitive and Inclusive Agriculture Development Program, Subprogram 1, will  help the government expand economic opportunities in the farm sector by implementing trade policy and regulatory reforms, enhancing public services and finance to the sector, and expanding social protection to rural families.

“The Philippines has made tremendous strides in reducing the national poverty rate, but rural poverty remains high because of low productivity and limited crop diversification,” said ADB Vice-President Ahmed M. Saeed. “This loan will support the government’s comprehensive suite of policy and regulatory reforms, resolving institutional weaknesses in land and water management, expanding agricultural financing to boost productivity, and extending the social safety net to unserved and underserved rural families.”

The agriculture industry employs a quarter of the country’s labor force. But the sector lags behind counterparts in other Southeast Asian countries in productivity growth and competitiveness. Poverty rates in rural Philippines remains high, as do child malnutrition and stunting. The government has identified agriculture as a priority area for reform under its coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic economic recovery program, as it seeks to ensure food security and reduce poverty in the country.

Among the government reforms under the Competitive and Inclusive Agriculture Development Program, Subprogram 1, is the passage of the 2019 Rice Tariffication Act and the various measures it provides. The new law removed quantitative restrictions on rice imports and replaced them with a pure tariff system. Using collected duties on imported rice, the government set up the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund to strengthen the rice industry in line with the Philippine Rice Industry Roadmap. The government is also initiating additional reforms in land and water resources, including irrigation investments.

Other reforms supported by the loan include additional assistance to farmers making the transition towards higher value crops and those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include unconditional cash grants and the Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers to provide zero-interest loans to more than 160,000 small farmers. The program also expands the government’s pre-school feeding programs to families to reduce malnutrition and stunting.

The new loan will be complemented by upcoming investments to enhance flood risk management in major river basins, improve irrigation efficiency, and promote agro-enterprise development.

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Human Rights

Somalia: Draft law a ‘major setback’ for victims of sexual violence

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A girl stands in a camp for displaced people, in Mogadishu, the capital. She was attacked and beaten following a food distribution (file). © UNICEF/Kate Holt

The UN official working to end rape during wartime is urging authorities in Somalia to scrap a proposed law that allows for child marriage, among other “very disturbing provisions”.

Pramila Patten, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, wants the Somali Federal Parliament to withdraw the Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill as it breaches international and regional standards relating to rape and other forms of sexual violence.

“If adopted, it would not only represent a major setback for victims of sexual violence in Somalia but would also delay the delisting of any of Somalia’s armed forces from the Secretary-General’s annual report to the Security Council”, she said.

Ms. Patten recalled that Somalia signed a 2013 Joint Communiqué with the UN, pledging to strengthen laws on sexual violence, and the draft law falls short of stated obligations and commitments.

‘Serious breaches’ – UN rights chief

The UN High Commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, on Monday called for legislators not to enact the law, saying that provisions in the draft “constitute serious breaches of international human rights norms and standards.”

The rights chief said that if passed, it would represent “a serious step backwards for the rights of victims of sexual violence in Somalia, in particular women and girls”, as well as sending a worrying signal to other States in the region.

Flaws in Draft Bill

The Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill contains substantive and procedural provisions “which grossly contravene international human rights law and standards to which Somalia is a party, and which would represent a major setback in the fight against sexual violence in Somalia and across the globe”, Ms. Patten said in a statement.

They include flawed definitions of offences, a lack of clearly defined terms, as well as inadequate protection of victims, witnesses and accused.

In addition to the provision that allows minors to marry based on reproductive maturity, independent of age, “it also establishes criminal penalties for forced marriage only if a woman is ‘strongly’ forced into the marriage without the knowledge and consent of her family.”

Act on 2018 Bill

Ms. Patten expressed hope that the Somali Government would instead reintroduce another draft law from 2018 that is centred on survivors.

The Sexual Offences Bill was developed following five years of wide-ranging consultations with women, civil society, and the international community, she recalled.

It was unanimously endorsed by the Somali Council of Ministers and sent to Parliament.

“Special Representative Patten deplores that in 2019, in a process that may have deviated from established law and legislative procedures, the Sexual Offences Bill was returned to Cabinet by the Speaker of the House of the People requesting Cabinet to make several substantive amendments,” the statement said.

“Although, in response, 15 Members of the House of the People brought a motion requesting the return of the Cabinet-approved Sexual Offences Bill to Parliament for first reading, the motion was not considered.”

Ms. Patten has joined others in Somalia and across the globe who are requesting that the Government take immediate action to reintroduce the Bill.

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