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Human Rights

Act now to stamp out child labour by 2025

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A woman watches children working at a stone quarry, Zambia. (file) IRIN/M. Deghati

Effective action and strong leadership are essential to end child labour by 2025, the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday.

Qu Dongyu, the FAO Director-General, was among UN agency chiefs addressing the opening of the Global Solutions Forum on child labour.  
The two-day virtual meeting aims to identify and expand solutions to stamp out the practice, a serious violation of human rights, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Millions worldwide affected

Some 160 million boys and girls worldwide, almost one in 10, are forced into work. The majority, 112 million, or around 70 per cent, work in crop production, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture. 

But with the 2025 deadline fast approaching, Mr. Qu stressed that effective action and “strong and coherent leadership from agri-food stakeholders across the globe, is critical”.

Child labour is a serious violation of human rights, FAO explained.  It deprives boys and girls of their childhood, their potential and dignity, while also being harmful to their physical and mental development.

Although not all work carried out by children is considered child labour, much of it is not age-appropriate, the agency said, and many vulnerable families, especially in rural areas, have no choice. 

‘A moral responsibility’

Contributing factors include low family incomes, few livelihood alternatives, limited access to education, inadequate labour-saving technologies, and traditional attitudes surrounding children’s participation in agriculture.  The COVID-19 pandemic has added to these issues.

Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian social reformer and co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Malala Yousafzai, spoke about the devastating impacts.

“Nothing is as brutal as the death of a child’s dream,” said Mr. Satyarthi, who campaigned against child labour in his homeland. “We should feel the moral responsibility that we have to fulfil the dreams of these children.”

The Global Solutions Forum is being held in the context of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.  It brings together representatives from various sectors, including government ministries, farmers’ organizations, workers’ groups, and development banks, businesses, as well as children, youth advocates, and former child labourers.

Prolonging poverty

The event is organized by FAO alongside sister UN agency, the International Labour Organization (ILO), together with the International

Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture (IPCCLA) and Alliance 8.7, a global initiative against forced labour.

In his remarks to the forum, Guy Ryder, the ILO Director General, underlined that child labour did not have to continue indefinitely.

“Child labour is not an escape road from poverty, it actually prolongs poverty; it makes poverty intergenerational. We have to help people out of this vicious circle of poverty and that’s not an easy task,” he said.

Focus on rural families

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, outlined some of the solutions, which involve providing income support for vulnerable families, better healthcare and education, and expanding social and child protection.

“If we want to make a difference in ending child labour, this is where we need to focus significant efforts: in rural areas, with families, where agriculture is an important source of livelihoods,” she stressed.

Participants also heard from Pope Francis, whose message was delivered by Monsignor Fernando Chica Arellano, Ambassador of the Holy See.

“Protecting children means decisive measures to support smallholder farmers, so that they are not obliged to send their children into the fields in order to increase their incomes, which, being so low, do not allow vulnerable farming families to maintain their households with dignity,” he read.

FAO is promoting efforts to boost the incomes of rural families so that they can send their children to school rather than have them work. 

For example, the agency is supporting the governments of Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Lebanon, Mali, Niger, Malawi, Pakistan, Uganda and Tanzania, in addressing child labour as an integral part of national agricultural policies.

Human Rights

Workers with HIV-AIDS continue to face stigma, discrimination

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“Myths and misconceptions” about HIV and AIDS continue to fuel stigma and discrimination in the workplace, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Tuesday. 

Despite some improvement in people’s tolerance to the disease in the more than 40 years since the AIDS epidemic began, a survey of 55,000 people in 50 countries found that only one in two people knew that HIV cannot be transmitted by sharing a bathroom. 

“It is shocking that, 40 years into the HIV and AIDS epidemic, myths and misconceptions are still so widespread,” said Chidi King, head of ILO’s Gender, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Branch.

Wake-up call 

A lack of basic facts about how HIV is transmitted is fuelling stigma and discrimination. This survey is a wake-up call to reinvigorate HIV prevention and education programmes; the world of work has a key role to play.” 

Stigma and discrimination in the workplace marginalize people, pushing those with HIV into poverty, Ms. King maintained. 

Working with opinion poll company Gallup, the ILO Global HIV Discrimination in the World of Work Survey reveals that discriminatory attitudes are fuelled by a lack of knowledge about HIV transmission. 

At the end of 2020, approximately 38 million people globally were living with HIV, with 1.5 million newly infected that year, and approximately 680,000 people dying from AIDS- related illnesses, according to the survey. Despite progress made on combating stigma, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the situation. 

Care burdens 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly pushed back some of the efforts, some of the progress that had been made towards eradicating HIV, and there is an even more urgent need now to double those efforts,” Ms. King said. 

“In terms of the impact on people affected by HIV, not only people living with HIV but people who may be looking after somebody with HIV…care burdens have increased during the pandemic due to the non-availability of certain services, therefore seeing a disproportionate impact in relation to women in particular, and in some instances, girls as well.” 

Asia and Pacific in spotlight 

The survey noted that the lowest tolerance for working directly with people with HIV was found in Asia and the Pacific, followed by the Middle East and North Africa. 

The regions with the most positive attitudes were Eastern and Southern Africa, where almost 90 per cent of respondents said they would be comfortable working directly with people with HIV. 

Higher educational levels were also associated with positive attitudes towards working with those living with HIV

The report also offered a number of recommendations, including implementation of HIV programmes to increase awareness of modes of transmission and to improving the legal and policy environment around HIV to protect rights of workers. 

“The workplace has a key role in this education,” Ms. King told journalists in Geneva. “Workers and employers certainly have a role to play. Social dialogue is a key mechanism through which they can craft policies and materials and products in order to raise awareness, ensuring that recruitment policies do not discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS. Governments also have a role to play in terms of broader engagement.” 

Confronting inequalities and ending discrimination is critical to ending AIDS, the report said, particularly during the ongoing COVID pandemic.  

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Human Rights

Russian mining giant builds new settlement for indigenous peoples

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The FPIC procedure, first used in Russia by the Norilsk Nickel mining company, has entered a new stage. A second round of consultations with residents of the Arctic workers’ village of Tukhard (in the Taimyr Dolgano-Nenets District of the Krasnoyarsk Territory) took place. The company reported in a press release.

In October 2021, it was reported that FPIC procedure was started.

At the gathering of residents in the framework of the second round, the issues of consent of the residents of the village to the procedure for obtaining FPIC, as well as the formation of a body for making collective decisions of the residents of Tukhard (Council of Representatives) were brought up. The gathering was attended by 78 residents of the village and tundra reindeer herders.

Tukhard was established as a temporary residence for shift workers producing gas in the area in 1970th, and the development of the village did not provide for the creation of any infrastructure. Due to the lack of possible infrastructure development, taking care of the quality of life, safety and health, the company operating in this region – Norilsk Nickel, offered residents the opportunity to choose a better option for life.

Independent international experts invited by the organizer of the procedure, the Interregional Public Organization for the Protection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “KMNSOYUZ”, took part in the meetings with residents. Among them are Alexey Tsykarev, a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Corporate Advisor to the World Bank on Indigenous Issues, author of the current World Bank policies on indigenous peoples’ rights Navin K. Rai, lawyers in the field of protecting the rights of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation Mikhail Todyshev and Antonina Gorbunova. The procedure was advised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya and other experts.

Dr. Navin Rai, who is visiting the Taimyr Peninsula as an Independent Expert for drafting the Indigenous Peoples Policy, noted that “the indigenous peoples of Tukhard, including those families who practice reindeer herding in the tundra, are currently negotiating with the Norilsk Nickel Company the specific parameters for the proposed physical relocation.” He underlined that “the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) requires that these indigenous peoples have the right to say “no.” However, the result of the negotiations may result in an outcome that is acceptable to both the indigenous peoples and the Company.”

During the gathering, a Council of representatives of the inhabitants of the village of Tukhard was formed, consisting of 7 people. It included both those who in the future wish to move to other settlements, and those who wish to continue their life in Tukhard. The Council also includes reindeer herders who live on a permanent basis in the tundra. Taking into account the interests of reindeer herders who are registered in Tukhard but do not have a permanent place of residence in the village is one of the main requirements of international experts.

The next round of FPIC negotiations is expected in the first quarter of 2022.

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Human Rights

Violence against refugee women surged in 2020

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One in five refugee or internally displaced women have faced sexual violence, and the situation continues to worsen globally, the UN refugee agency, (UNHCR), said on Thursday.

On the 30th anniversary of the campaign for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the UN agency said that there’s been a global surge in domestic violence, child marriages, trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse since March.

“A lethal mix of confinement, deepening poverty and economic duress is unleashing a renewed wave of violence against refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls”, UNHCR said in a statement.

Grassroots solutions

To tackle the crisis, the UN agency has called for funding to be scaled up for grassroots projects that focus on prevention and helping victims of gender-based violence.

These include the Myanmar Ethnic Women(’s) Refugee Organization where refugee women have joined forces to overcome abuse, reinforcing their role as strong protectors of their families and communities.

For victim Deborah, who lives in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, violence against women at home was considered a family problem.

“I felt ashamed to share my experience with other people,” she said. “I was afraid they would say it was my fault.”

Through her work with the community-based organization, Deborah met other women suffering in silence, and when she was invited to help devise and lead a project to support refugee women affected by gender-based violence (GBV), she accepted.

COVID-19 link

UNHCR highlighted that the need for such local, refugee-led projects has become even greater during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns have taken away refugees’ often precarious livelihoods, heightening tensions in households and making it more difficult for international agencies to deliver support services.

UNHCR issued the alert after recording increases in gender-based violence in at least 27 countries.

In the Central African Republic it warned that one gender-based violence incident is recorded every hour.

And in Colombia, similar incidents affecting Venezuelan refugees and migrants have increased by 40 per cent over the first three- quarters of the year, the agency noted.

The financial stress of COVID-19 and a lack of food in households during the pandemic has put women at greater risk from violence at the hands of their partners, UNHCR reported.

This is the case on the Thai-Myanmar border, where refugee women who were already running support services and safe houses for survivors of gender-based violence asked the UN agency for funding, to provide food to families who had lost work owing to the pandemic’s economic impact.  

Reaffirming its own commitment to addressing gender-based violence across its operations, UNHCR launched an institution-wide policy on GBV prevention, risk mitigation and response, in October.

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