Work with Bangladesh
The UN and the US have urged the international buyers and clothing brands to work with the Bangladesh government and all stakeholders to improve working conditions in the country's garment sector.
Their call came following a building collapse on the outskirts of Dhaka that left hundreds dead and wounded.
“The international brands sourcing from Bangladesh have a responsibility to conduct human rights with due diligence to identify and address their own impacts on human rights,” said Pavel Sulyandziga.
Sulyandziga currently heads the five-strong United Nations Working Group on business and human rights.
“If they are linked with negative impacts on human rights through their suppliers, they have the responsibility to exercise their leverage as buyers to try to effect change,” he said in a statement of UN News Centre early yesterday.
While the United States noted that the tragedy at Rana Plaza once again underscores the urgent need for government, owners, buyers, and labour organisations to work together to improve labour safety and lives of working people in Bangladesh.
The State Department, the Department of Labour and the Office of the US Trade Representative at a conference call in Washington on Wednesday urged the US buyers to coordinate efforts with each other and with the Bangladesh government and the BGMEA, as well as civil society and labour groups, on factory safety and fire initiatives, including helping pay for independent safety and fire inspectors.
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O Blake, and Special Representative for International Labour Affairs Barbara Shailor, who represented the State Department at the conference, also reviewed how the private sector can assist in these vital ongoing efforts.
Blake and Shailor encouraged the buyers to communicate their concerns about labour conditions to the BGMEA and the Bangladeshi government, and to urge immediate passage of the labour law amendments to lay the basis for establishment of an International Labour Organisation and International Finance Corporation Better Work Programme.
“The growth of Bangladesh's export sector does not come at the expense of safe and healthy working conditions or fundamental labour rights,” said the media note issued by the Office of the Spokesperson in Washington, DC on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the UN Working Group stressed that the Bangladesh government has the duty to protect human rights from violations by business actors, and that it must take action to ensure a thorough investigation of how the affected factories were allowed to operate, bring those responsible to account, ensure reparations for victims, and take strong action to improve protection for workers' rights.
“We strongly urge international clothing brands sourcing from Bangladesh to address human rights risks in their supply chains with the involvement of workers, other relevant stakeholders, and human rights experts, and to share publicly what they are doing to mitigate their risks,” Sulyandziga said.
He urged brands to address how buyer behaviour and pricing strategies may prevent investments in safer factories and living wages for workers, and called on the international garment sector to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.