A vigil tonight at the United Nations kicks off events around the world body’s broad new 17-point agenda that aims in part to end extreme poverty, eradicate hunger and ensure clean water and sanitation. The 193 UN member states have debated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over past three years and in coming days likely will commit to work toward achieving them by 2030.
The 17 goals include 169 targets, an ambitious agenda whose success will depend upon governments and civil society working together, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. But fundamental to the entire plan is Goal No. 8, “Decent Work and Economic Growth,” says Shawna Bader-Blau, Solidarity Center executive director.
“Pernicious economic and social inequality is most obvious where the rights of working people are most denied,” Bader-Blau wrote in a recent Huffington Post article. “And no effort to mitigate inequality within and among countries will succeed without a committed movement to protect and bolster those rights.”
Key Goals in Decent Work and Economic Growth
Decent Work and Economic Growth includes the following key goals:
- By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.
- By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training.
- Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms.
Another critical target is protecting worker rights and promoting safe and secure working environments for all workers, “including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.”
“People should not have to leave their human rights at the border when they migrate,” Bader-Blau said this week on the Kojo Nnamdi radio show in Washington, D.C.
Gender Equality Essential for Broad-Based Prosperity
Achieving gender equality, Goal No. 5, also is essential to attaining broad-based prosperity. A new study released today estimates that tackling gender inequality and boosting women’s job opportunities could add $12 trillion to the annual gross domestic product (GNP).
The “Gender Equality” goal includes as one of its top targets the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private sphere—a scourge that is prevalent even in the workplace, where 30 percent to 40 percent of workers report gender-based violence, a figure that rises to 90 percent in some jobs.
Building accountable institutions and ensuring access to justice (Goal No. 16 and Goal No. 17), and implementing social protections systems, one of the targets of Goal No. 1, also are essential components of the new 15-year plan.
The SDGs replace the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which included halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education by 2015.
The U.S. State Department’s decision to downgrade Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela in its 2014 Trafficking in Persons report “should compel (those governments) and other countries with serious human trafficking problems to step up their efforts to fight this horrific human rights crime,” says Melysa Sperber, director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST). The Solidarity Center is one of 11 ATEST member organizations.
The three countries were among seven on the department’s “Tier 2 Watch List,” a designation that indicates governments do not fully comply with the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. The other four countries—Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad and Maldives—were upgraded to “Tier 2.” The Solidarity Center works with partners in Thailand and Malaysia to address forced labor and human trafficking.
By law, countries on the “Tier 2 Watch List” must be moved to another tier after two years. Human rights organizations and worker advocates had also called for Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad and Maldives to be downgraded to “Tier 3,” a designation that makes the countries liable to sanctions, which could include the withholding or withdrawal of U.S. non-humanitarian and non-trade-related assistance.
More than 20 million people are victims of human trafficking, which includes labor and sex trafficking, according to the Trafficking in Persons report. Forty-four countries are on the “Tier 2 Watch List,” including Bahrain, Cambodia, Haiti, Morocco, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ukraine. Among the 23 countries on Tier 3, the lowest ranking, are Algeria, North Korea, Libya, Russia and Uzbekistan.
A coalition of anti-trafficking groups, including the Solidarity Center, applauded the State Department’s decision to maintain Uzbekistan on Tier 3. According to the report, Uzbekistan’s “government-compelled forced labor of men, women, and children remains endemic during the annual cotton harvest….There were reports that some children aged 15 to 17 faced expulsion from school for refusing to pick cotton.”
Illegal profits from forced labor account for $51 billion per year, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). The Trafficking in Persons report highlights the high incidence of forced labor in the fishing and mining industries.
Fifty-one narratives in the report identify abuses in the fishing industry, including “men that are enslaved out on the boats out at sea” and in seafood packing, said Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
“We’ve also seen forced labor in mining noted in the narratives of 46 countries and zero prosecutions or convictions around the world, including diamond mining in North Africa and gold mining in Peru, CdeBaca said at a briefing on the report’s release Friday.
The Trafficking in Persons report, which has been issued annually for 14 years, covers 188 countries and “is a critical tool in the global fight against modern slavery and puts necessary pressure on governments to take a hard look at their efforts to stop human trafficking,” said Polaris Project CEO Bradley Myles.