Somehow my blogs seem to follow the same style, about how a supposed ‘amenity’, such as water that was previously discussed, isn’t actually available to all residents of our planet. In this case it is human rights which again many individuals seem to be deprived of.
A WBCSD session followed United Nations guiding principles and we had the opportunity to hear from one of their employees, who explored the ways in which companies use the 30 Human Rights Articles. A horrifying discovery for me in this session was the amount of examples that flout article 4, an individual’s freedom from slavery. Shockingly, the session highlighted how, although slavery is now illegal on every nation on earth, over 21 million people worldwide are forced into labour, with over a quarter of this figure being individuals under the age of 18 (http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_181961/lang–it/index.htm).
Forced labour particular impacts the world’s most vulnerable and excluded groups of people within society; women, migrants, children and indigenous people are targeted as they often have little alternatives, creating a cycle of poverty, dependency and unhappiness for an extremely large number of individuals. The majority of today’s slavery also occurs in labour intensive industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and construction often due to a lack of education and other jobs available as well as economies being dependant on cheap labour in order to maintain profit margins.
A slightly stereotypical but general perspective of the Western World is that they are less effected by a specific issue if it does not directly impact their life. However, aforementioned research has also proven that slavery still exists in 162 countries worldwide, with over 7% of the victims of slavery being from North America and Europe. The close proximity of such a shocking issue is a real eye opener for many people, causing the global interest in stopping forced labour to rise exponentially in the last decade which has been desperately needed for too long.
It could also be said that companies are choosing to get more involved in this movement for their own self-interest, as it helps them to maintain a positive image for their consumers and increase sales. However, I believe that the situation is at such a critical point that it doesn’t matter why companies are getting involved, it is just hugely important that they are. Businesses are beginning to form partnerships with organisations of activists, advocates and supporters of Human Rights to develop ways of combatting this enormous issue.
This needs to be done by implementing more strategies to improve awareness of the severity of the situation, with the ultimate goal being to have every company from all over the world on the same page and ensure they are working collectively to boycott all factories and primary service providers that fail to achieve all aspects of a fair working environment for their employees.
Realising how common this problem is has made me re-evaluate how privileged and lucky I am to have education available and have the opportunity to find an area that interests me and pursue it, as so many others around the world just like me do not. Consequently, I want to push myself as much as possible to achieve in life and hopefully help combat the inequality and lack of rights that many people are suffering from today.