<< Previous: Chapter 2 // Executive Orders
Table of Contents - International Laws
Treaties and Conventions
The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)38
Treaty signed by the U.S. on December 2, 1999
The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention was adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 1999 as ILO Convention No. 182. By ratifying this convention, a country commits itself to taking immediate action to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, trafficking, and forced labor. All ILO member states signed this convention as of August 4, 2020.
UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol)39
Treaty signed by the U.S. on December 13, 2000
The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (also referred to as the Trafficking Protocol or U.N. TIP Protocol) is a protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. It is one of three Palermo protocols.
The protocol was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2000 and entered into force on December 25, 2003. It has been ratified by 178 parties as of April 2022.40
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is responsible for implementing the protocol. UNODC helps states draft laws and create comprehensive national anti-human trafficking strategies and assists with resources needed to implement them.
The protocol commits states to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, protect and assist victims of trafficking, and promote cooperation among states to meet these objectives.
Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings41
Applicable of multinational corporations with a presence in Europe
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings is a comprehensive treaty focused on protecting victims of trafficking and safeguarding their rights. It also aims at preventing trafficking and prosecuting traffickers. The convention applies to all forms of human trafficking.
To ensure effective implementation of the convention’s provisions, there is a monitoring mechanism. This mechanism is composed of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings,42 a multidisciplinary panel of 15 independent experts and the Committee of the Parties to the Convention.
Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA43
Applicable to multinational corporations with a presence in Europe
The directive provides binding legislation to prevent trafficking, prosecute criminals effectively, and better protect the victims in line with the highest European standards. It takes a victim-centered approach, including a gender perspective, to cover actions in areas such as criminal law provisions, prosecution of offenders, victims’ support and victims’ rights in criminal proceedings, prevention, and monitoring its implementation.
United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights44
Ratified by the U.S.
On June 16, 2011, the U.N. Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), making the framework the first corporate human rights responsibility initiative to be endorsed by the U.N.
The UNGPs is an instrument consisting of 31 principles that implements the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
The UNGPs encompass three pillars outlining how states and businesses should implement the framework:
- The state duty to protect human rights
- The corporate responsibility to respect human rights
- Access to remedies for victims of business-related abuses
ILO Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, P02945
The U.S. has not ratified this treaty
The Forced Labour Convention, the full title is the Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour, 1930 (No. 29),46 is one of eight ILO fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The convention’s purpose is to suppress the use of forced labor in all its forms regardless of the nature of the work or the sector of activity in which it may be performed. The convention was adopted in Geneva on June 28, 1930, and became effective on May 1, 1932.
The convention was supplemented by the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957,47 which canceled a number of exceptions in the 1930 convention, such as punishing strikes and holding certain political views.
In 2014, the ILO agreed to adopt a protocol and a recommendation that supplements the 1930 convention (as amended)48 and complements existing international instruments by providing specific guidance on effective measures to be taken to eliminate all forms of forced labor.
The Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930,49 is a legally binding instrument that requires states to take measures regarding prevention, protection, and remedy in giving effect to the convention’s obligation to suppress forced labor. It supplements the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)50 so that only ILO member states that have ratified the convention can ratify this protocol. The convention itself remains open for ratification.
The Forced Labour (Supplementary Measures) Recommendation, 2014 (No. 203)51 provides nonbinding practical guidance in the areas of prevention, protection of victims and their access to justice and remedies, enforcement, and international cooperation. It supplements both the protocol and the convention.
U.N. Sustainable Development Goals52
Ratified by the U.S.
In September 2015, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” to be achieved by 2030. Each of these goals has targets that are in part outcomes based.
SDG 8 is defined as the following: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”53 SDG 8 includes Target 8.7, which says that nations should “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”54
SDG 16 is defined as the following: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effectiveness, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.”55 Target 16.2 calls for the nations to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.”56
International Supply Chain Due Diligence Laws and European Union Proposal
The U.K.’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires certain companies doing business in the U.K. to produce a “slavery and human trafficking statement”57 disclosing their efforts to ensure that their supply chains are free from slavery and human trafficking. The U.K.’s mandatory due diligence and reporting obligations provided a road map for other countries, including Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, to enact their own supply chain due diligence laws. A pending proposal for corporate sustainability due diligence is pending before the European Parliament. Multinational employers with operations in these designated countries and in the EU bloc may be subject to these laws.
Under the U.K. Modern Slavery Act 2015,58 organizations conducting business in the U.K. with worldwide revenues of at least £36 million (approximately US$50 million) are required under Section 54 to publish a transparency statement describing the steps they have taken in the last financial year to ensure that their business and supply chains are free from modern slavery and human trafficking. The obligation applies to financial years ending on or after March 31, 2016, and transparency statements are required to be published as soon as reasonably practicable after, ideally within six months of the financial year-end.
On January 22, 2019, the U.K. published a second interim report59 on the transparency in supply chains provisions.
The U.K. government committed to strengthening Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act60 by gathering views on proposed measures intended to increase transparency and compliance, improve reporting quality, and extend the scope of the legislation. Comments were submitted by September 17, 2019.
In early July 2020, the U.K. implemented the Global Human Rights sanction regime61 targeting individuals and organizations around the world that are involved in serious human rights violations or abuses. On September 22, 2020, the U.K. Home Office published its response62 to the 2019 Transparency in Supply Chains Consultation. Following this action, the U.K. government launched an online central registry of statements published in compliance with requirements under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
Following the Home Office’s 2020 response to the 2019 Transparency in Supply Chains Consultation, the U.K. government launched an online central registry63 of statements published in compliance with requirements under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
On February 7, 2017, the lower house of the Dutch Parliament and on May 14, 2019, the Dutch Senate adopted a law64 to require companies selling or delivering goods or services to Dutch end-users to conduct due diligence regarding whether child labor is occurring in their operations or in supply chains. If so, companies must set forth a plan of action to combat it and issue a due diligence statement on their investigation and plan of action. The law imposes criminal sanctions for failure to perform due diligence. To ease compliance burdens, the law is expected to enter into force in mid-2022 and contains a five-year transition period.
The Australian Modern Slavery Act 201865 required effective January 1, 2019, that businesses and other organizations with a minimum annual consolidated revenue of US$100 million report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, any actions they have taken to assess and address those risks, and the effectiveness of their response. Smaller businesses can report voluntarily.
On June 11, 2021, the German Federal Government adopted the Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG),66 which will enter into force on January 1, 2023.
Starting January 1, 2023, the act applies to companies with a head office or branch office in Germany that have 3,000 or more employees. From 2024 onward, the act applies to companies with 1,000 or more employees.
These companies have two years to set up compliance procedures to monitor and stop abuses within their supply chains and must create an alert system to third parties and victims to safely report any abuse.
Due diligence obligations would apply to a corporation’s direct suppliers, not to indirect suppliers. For indirect suppliers, companies would only have to carry out a risk analysis if they have “proven knowledge” of human rights violations.
Companies with annual revenues of more than 400 million euros (US$484 million) that fail to meet the requirements could face fines up to 2% of annual sales. Offenders could also be excluded from public contracts for up to three years.
After Switzerland voted against adoption of the Swiss Responsible Business Initiative,67 which would have imposed liability on businesses, a counter-proposal68 introducing new reporting and due diligence obligations entered into effect.
The final version of the ordinance was published on December 31, 2021, and entered into force on January 1, 2022. There is a one-year transition period for compliance purposes.
Among other things, the counter-proposal provides for due diligence and reporting obligations in dealing with conflict minerals and the avoidance of child labor.
Companies with their registered office, head office, or principal place of business in Switzerland that import or process tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold containing minerals or metals from conflict or high-risk areas or that offer products or services for which there is reasonable suspicion that they were manufactured or provided using child labor are considered covered entities. The counter-proposal includes exemptions from the due diligence requirements for small and medium-size enterprises and for low-risk enterprises in the field of child labor.
As part of its due diligence obligations, an enterprise is required to establish a supply chain policy as the ordinance requires such businesses to establish a traceability system for child labor and conflict minerals.
These enterprises must prepare an annual report discussing their compliance with these obligations. The first report is due in 2024.
On June 10, 2021, the Norwegian Parliament adopted the Transparency Act,69 which will require companies doing business in Norway to (1) regularly conduct human rights due diligence, (2) publish an annual human rights statement, and (3) respond to third-party requests for information regarding the adverse impacts of human rights violations. The Norwegian government announced that the act will take effect on July 1, 2022.
The act will apply to “larger companies” as defined in Section 1–5 of the Accounting Act, i.e., public limited companies, listed companies, and other accounting entities.
Also covered are companies that meet at least two of the following three conditions:
- No less than 50 full-time employees (or equivalent annual man-hours)
- Over 70 Norwegian krone (US$7.94 million) in sales revenue
- Over 35 Norwegian krone (US$3.97 million) in balance sheet total
The act will apply to large enterprises domiciled in Norway that provide goods and services and foreign large enterprises that provide goods and services in Norway.
These businesses are required to implement and carry out a human rights due diligence process to both identify and act upon actual and potential human rights risks for workers in their own operations and throughout their supply chains. They are obligated to publish an annual report on their due diligence assessments on their website no later than June 30 each year.
The act provides that citizens are entitled to ask for information from companies upon written request. Firms would be required to provide information on how they address actual and potential adverse impacts that have been identified through the due diligence assessment within a specified time. Companies may deny such requests if the request doesn’t provide a sufficient basis for identifying concerns, is clearly unreasonable, or is related to personal or competitive data.
The Norwegian Consumer Agency is given a duty to provide guidance and is responsible for enforcement.
>> Up Next: Chapter 4 // The Proposal