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Monthly Archives: May 2013

The ROI on CSR

Concerns about workers’ safety in the garment industry have spurred collective protest against several deadly factory fires and the recent building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Subsequent responses from the Bangladeshi government, the international community and retailers highlight the difficulty in seeking accountability for tragedies which ensue from a failure to develop, implement and enforce measures that ensure employee protection.

Faced with warnings of “financial repercussions from consumers, damage to their stock value or sustained public protests if they do not adopt stricter garment manufacturing standards,” some global clothing retailers, such as the United Colors of Benetton, initially denied any role in factory production of their products. Walt Disney left Bangladesh completely after the November fire, discontinuing production of branded merchandise. Other companies directly affected by the most recent building collapse focused instead on compensation and long-term financial aid for victims. The marred reputation of garment production in Bangladesh has complicated corporate public relations even for companies, like H&M, not directly involved in the Rana Plaza collapse, but part of the industry. In response to concerns about the potential economic vacuum resulting from this swift corporate exodus, the Bangladeshi government closed several garment factories for inspection, opened the door for garment worker trade unions and is considering plans to increase the minimum wage in this industry. (more…)

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Extended misery: punishing victims

April proved to be a trying month for the UK Government’s relationship with Europe on the issue of human trafficking.  The deadline for the implementation of Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims was in mid-April and, as organisations such as ECPAT have been advocating, the Government is continuing to fail to put in place adequate measures to protect victims of trafficking from prosecution.  The Directive establishes minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in human trafficking and seeks to improve the protection of victims.  An examination of recent cases before the Court of Appeal have shown that implicit in the UK’s approach to this issue is the fact that victims are not being identified at an early enough stage in the criminal justice process. (more…)

Exploiting age: the risk of ignoring agency

In the shadow of recent child exploitation cases in the UK, policymakers have turned their attention to a spate of issues affecting vulnerable children, as Jeni Page highlighted in her post on children residing in state care homes. In conjunction, violence and exploitation experienced by teenagers is becoming more visible. Consideration has been given to an expanded definition of domestic violence, which now includes teenagers, in recognition of the types of partner violence they face, as well as the failings of the child protection system to older children. Recently, a High Court ruling, in HC (A Child,), R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Anor [2013] EWHC 982 (Admin) (25 April 2013) addressed the practice of treating 17-year-old child suspects as adults in police stations. It also addressed the refusal by the Secretary of State to amend the relevant Police Code that enabled this treatment, despite the fact that such treatment is inconsistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and s.11 of the Children Act 2004, which recognizes the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of those under 18.

Violence tends to be categorically experienced by children or adults, lacking an examination of the continuity of the experience of violence across age. But the problems of vulnerable children are not always clearly demarcated by age or type of abuse, complicating risk management and protection. Tension exists in distinguishing between children and adults, especially as this relates to their roles as victims and perpetrators. For instance, regarding the child protection system, the Education Select Committee reported, “childcare professionals needed to understand that a teenager could be a vulnerable ‘child in need’ just as much as a young child.” And, in recognizing the disconnect between child protection and immigration policies, “trafficked children found in criminal settings must always be treated as victims and children first, and not just as criminals”. (more…)

The bias in counter-trafficking data and need for improved data collection: reflections on trafficking onto fishing boats

This week we welcome guest contributor Paul Buckley, who weighs in on human trafficking data collection. Mr. Buckley is the Regional Technical Specialist for the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP). UNIAP was established in 2000 with a central focus on human trafficking and a mandate to facilitate a stronger and more coordinated response to human trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Two critical problems remain in efforts to combat human trafficking: the weak evidence base on the scale of the phenomena, and systems to monitor the dynamics and flows of trafficking patterns. Much of the research currently available on prevalence and patterns can be misleading when presented without the context or caveats that often accompany detailed presentation of the data. Further, data is often taken from methodologies that are not intended to infer estimates. For example, media reports have often reported that 79% of trafficking is for sexual exploitation, based on the ‘Global Report on Trafficking in Persons’ by UNODC; rarely adding the report’s caveat that the data is of victims identified by state authorities and of convicted traffickers. With the majority of victims and traffickers not identified, the picture often presented is likely to be biased. Clarity on the problems of human trafficking, and therefore the remedies, can only come from improved data collection on the dynamics of the phenomena, and the profiles of the victims and the perpetrators. There are some strong efforts to address these issues, such as research by the Nexus Institute, the ILO’s Special Action Programme on Forced Labour, and the IOM’s Counter-Trafficking Division. However, the resources channelled to such efforts remain limited in the face of the knowledge gap they are trying to address. (more…)

Nice work, if you can get it

As the financial crisis in the UK becomes further entrenched, so young people face increased difficulties in accessing the labour market.  In March 2013, the BBC reported that the number of young people aged 16-24 without a job rose from 945,000 to 993,000 over just three months, taking the youth unemployment rate to 21.2%.  Professor Lynda Gratton of the London Business School, commented that

[of the] hordes of school and university leavers [who] enter into the global job market, the majority will become entangled in the financially draining, emotionally scarring, labyrinthine battle for employment.

She argued that “left untreated, youth unemployment is an issue set to destabilise fragile economies, become a breeding ground for extremism, and leave a generation permanently scarred.”  A bleak picture indeed. (more…)