Webinar Series: 10 Years Protecting Freedom of Assembly and Association Worldwide

rule of law, Solidarity Center, International Lawyers Assisting Workers network, ILAWDate: Friday, July 17, 2020

Time: 9:00-10:30 a.m. New York

A discussion moderated by the Solidarity Center’s Jeffrey Vogt with Clément Voule, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, to discuss the report he presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the 10th anniversary of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR FoAA). Speakers include ILO Freedom of Association Branch Chief, Karen Curtis; Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers’ Union Legal Consultant Lakmali Hemachandra; and Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions President Peter Mutasa.

French and Spanish simultaneous interpretation will be provided.

Registration in advance is required.

Global Retailers Call for Action on Labor Issues in Bangladesh

A new briefing from the Solidarity Center detailed the intimidation, arrests and firing that followed the garment worker walk-out in December. The Solidarity Center warned that the “broad crackdown on garment workers, union leaders and worker rights activists in Bangladesh marks a troubling escalation of workers to silence garment workers.”

Join Us Live Online for Freedoms on the Move!

Join Us Live Online for Freedoms on the Move!

Join Solidarity Center and CIVICUS Friday, October 18, at 3 p.m. EST for the launch of a new report, Freedoms on the Move: The Civic Space of Migrant Workers and Refugees, by CIVICUS and the Solidarity Center. Participants at the event will share findings and recommendations on civic space barriers for migrants and refugees.

Click here to see the event on Facebook Live.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants Felipe Gonzalez Morales will join other civil society activists to discuss how they are advancing freedom of association, expression and assembly for migrant workers and refugees. Panelists also include:

  • Griet Cattaert, International Labor Organization
  • Crispin Hernandez, Workers’ Center of Central New York
  • Neha Misra, Solidarity Center

Monami Maulik at the Global Coalition on Migration will moderate.

As globalization and the search for decent work push workers to migrate far from their homes, and as war and economic crises force millions across borders, there is limited data on whether and how migrant workers and refugees are able to exercise their fundamental civic freedoms.

Through two in depth surveys, one of migrant workers and another of refugees, Freedoms on the Move also explores the factors that make migrant workers and refugees more likely to try to assert their rights, the circumstances that make them more vulnerable to violations and abuses, and the perpetrators and enablers of denials of their rights.

Freedoms on the Move is an urgent call to action for unions and civil society advocating for civic freedoms in their countries. As the report states:

“International human rights law does not limit civil and political rights to citizens. Like everyone else, migrant workers and refuges should be able to enjoy the key civic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. For migrant workers and refugees, these freedoms offer protection against discrimination, marginalization and scapegoating, which commonly affect them in their host or destination countries. When the rights to association, peaceful assembly and expression are open to migrant workers and refugees, they can organize and act to uphold their interests in their workplaces and communities, influence public opinion and hold public officials accountable.”

Stop back to access the full report on October 10, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates!

Thailand Migrant Rights Leader Wins Human Rights Award

Thailand Migrant Rights Leader Wins Human Rights Award

Suthasinee Kaewleklai, coordinator for Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) in Thailand, recently was honored for her work by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT).

Suthasinee Kaewleklai, MWRN coordinator, recently was honored for her work by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT). Credit: Solidarity Center/Robert Pajkovski

“Migrant workers are among the most vulnerable and abused workers in every country,” says Kaewleklai. “Worker rights are human rights, and migrant workers are entitled to fundamental rights without discrimination, including the freedom of association and collective bargaining. We will fight shoulder to shoulder with our sisters and brothers.”

Kaewleklai received the award during an NHRCT seminar last week, held in conjunction with International Women’s Day to honor women human rights defenders. The nonprofit MWRN, a Solidarity Center partner, has provided a crucial bridge between workers and access to legal redress for unpaid wages, occupational injuries and other forms of workplace abuse since it was founded in 2009.

“Whether they are protecting rights in the judicial process, fighting against impunity for rights violations, protecting democratic freedoms and the rights of communities and migrant workers, or fighting for freedom of expression, equality and the reduction of gender biases, their courageous stories are models and inspirations for future generations to learn and remember,” Angkana Neelapaijit, National Human Rights commissioner, said during the award ceremony.

Risking Physical, Verbal Assaults to Support Workers

Kaewleklai, a long-time trade unionist, began championing worker rights in the 1990s, when she worked at a factory in the Rangsit district, north of Bangkok. A co-founder of the factory’s union, she and other workers successfully challenged their employer’s refusal to regularly pay wages, and she successfully took legal action after the employer fired her and other union activists.

She later worked as coordinator for the Thai Labor Solidarity Committee, another Solidarity Center partner, and has championed the issues of working women, successfully campaigning to make International Women’s Day a national holiday.

At the MWRN, Kaewleklai advocates for the rights of migrant workers to form unions, negotiate with their employers for better working conditions, and urging lawmakers to ratify International Labor Organization standards on freedom of association and collective bargaining. She has helped migrant workers on chicken farms and elsewhere recover unpaid wages and attain safe working conditions.

She repeatedly has been verbally threatened, physically attacked and put under surveillance by state and non-state actors for her work to protect and promote labor rights and the rights of migrant workers. Currently, Kaewleklai, along with 14 migrant workers and other human rights defenders, is challenging criminal and civil charges filed by the poultry company, Thammakaset Company, following her advocacy on behalf of the company’s underpaid migrant workers.

Despite rulings by authorities and the courts against Thammakaset—including a January Supreme Court decision upholding a lower court ruling ordering Thammakaset to pay $53,600 to 14 former migrant workers for violations of the Labor Protection Act—the company continues to pursue charges against Kaewleklai and the others. Human rights defenders believe the charges are part of a strategy to harass human rights defenders and migrant worker rights advocates.

UN Report: Freedom of Association Key to Democracy

UN Report: Freedom of Association Key to Democracy

Freedom of peaceful assembly and association lie at the core of any functioning democratic system, according to a report by the new Annalisa Ciampi, the new United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

“It is the combination of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of association that strengthens responsive democratic governance systems and ensures the full and meaningful exercise of the right to participate in public affairs,” writes Ciampi in her first report to the UN General Assembly.

Annalisa Ciampi, UN Special Rapporteur, human rights, unions, Solidarity Center

Annalisa Ciampi’s first report as UN Special Rapporteur finds that worker rights go hand in hand with democratic development. Credit: UN

Ciampi, whose three-year term as Special Rapporteur began May 1, is an attorney and a professor of International Law at the University of Verona in Italy, and a visiting professor of European Human Rights Law at the Monash University Prato Center in Italy.

Worker rights go hand in hand with democratic development, according to the report, with the Special Rapporteur emphasizing “the mutually reinforcing relationship between freedom of peaceful assembly and of association … and democracy and development.”

(Ciampi is moderating an October 17 panel, “Expanding Space within the United Nations,” an event co-sponsored by the Solidarity Center. The side event at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York City will bring together national representatives, UN bodies and civil society representatives to discuss strategies to more effectively promote and protect civic space in the UN system through the development of responsive and inclusive UN mechanisms and processes.)

Trade union rights are covered under the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur and exist in numerous international standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Unions have been working together with other civil society groups to highlight global restrictions on freedom of association and assembly.

In the new report, “Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association,” Ciampi also outlines topics for upcoming reports, which include looking at how the rights to assembly and association are exercised in the context of multilateral institutions, and examining practices that promote and protect the right to form unions.

Ciampi plans to take an active role in strategic litigation cases before national, regional and international courts in cases relating to freedom of peaceful association and of assembly.

“As the Special Rapporteur previously reported, ‘workers face considerable opposition, harassment, stigmatization and even physical attacks’ in the exercise of these fundamental rights,” says Solidarity Center Legal Director Jeff Vogt.

“We welcome the commitment of Prof. Ciampi to use the legal authority of her office to intervene in support of workers’ rights in domestic litigation. Such interventions not only works to provide a remedy to workers, but also builds positive jurisprudence on the right to freedom of association.”

Previous UN Reports Examined Broad Range of Worker Rights Issues

Ciampi takes over from Maina Kiai, whose six-year term as Special Rapporteur saw a broad range of reports on the status of freedom of association in an era of global closing civic space. Among them, “The Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association in the Workplace” found that without assembly and association rights, including the right to strike, workers have little leverage to change the conditions that entrench poverty, fuel inequality and limit democracy. Further, the report stated that discrimination, abuse and relegation to jobs at the bottom of the global economy undermine women workers’ ability to join and form organizations that defend their interests. Previous reports on freedom of association and assembly also looked at worker rights to form unions in countries such as South Korea, Chile and Kazakhstan, and examined issues that include the right to freedom of assembly and association in the context of elections and business.

A Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or country situation. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association includes studying trends, developments and challenges in relation to the exercise of these rights; making recommendations on ensuring their promotion and protection; and reporting on their violation, as well as on discrimination, threats or use of violence, harassment, persecution, intimidation or reprisals directed at those exercising these rights.

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