Thursday, 27 September 2007

Protesters unite around the world against EU's unfair Free Trade Deals

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the start of negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and the ACP (African, Caribbean & Pacific) countries. Thousands of campaigners, workers, farmers and activists from across Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific will take part in coordinated events on September 27th to protest against the proposed EPAs. The protesters argue that free trade deals along the lines proposed by the European Union would destroy livelihoods and the environment and undermine future development and regional integration. They are calling on national Parliaments and Governments, as well as EU institutions, to abandon the draft EPAs that are now on the table.

The protesters also demand that the European Commission (EC) stops threatening to raise import tariffs on ACP products and cut development aid to the ACP countries if they do not sign EPAs by the end of the year. They insist that the EC ensures that ACP exports to the EU are not disrupted, and consider interim measures such as an enhanced version of the EU's preferential market access scheme known as GSP+. In ACP countries, Governments are urged to resist EU bullying tactics and to make sure that farmers', workers' and consumers' interests are defended.

More than 200 organisations in over 40 countries organise events in dozens of cities across the EU and ACP. Campaigners will march in Port-au-Prince, Dakar, Nairobi, and Bamako. In St Vincent activists will attend a Stop EPAs concert, and meetings with Government officials will be held simultaneously in Ouagadougou, Copenhagen, Kampala, London and many other cities. In Brussels a protest will take place in front of DG Trade offices. Marc Maes of the Brussels-based NGO coalition 11.11.11 said: "The EU has put forward draft texts in all 6 EPAs regions. These texts, which are almost identical, have little development content but instead reflect the EU's interests and trade approaches. They fail to fulfil the development goals the EPAs were supposed to meet." Tetteh Hormeku of the Third World Network Africa, based in Accra, Ghana said: "The EU's use of pressure on ACP countries is not acceptable, nor does it make sense: imposed EPAs will definitely not reflect ACP interests and concerns."

For more information please go to >>> www.epa2007.org

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Trade unions condemn World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2008’

‘Doing Business’, the World Bank’s highest-circulation annual publication released this week, has once again come under fire from trade unions for its baseless assertion that elimination of workers’ protection rules creates higher economic growth and job creation. In a new study released today by the ITUC and Global Unions, the international trade union movement criticizes the section on ‘Employing Workers’, which insists that removing limits on work time, reducing minimum wages, abolishing workers’ recourse against unjust dismissal and eliminating requirement of advance notice for mass dismissals are the best path for economic growth, and ranks countries in accordance with their performance on these criteria. “Doing Business 2008 gives better marks for ‘Employing Workers’ to Afghanistan, Georgia, Haiti, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea simply because they have deregulated labour markets, than it does to prosperous low-unemployment economies such as Finland, Korea, Netherlands, Sweden and Taiwan,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder. “This makes a mockery of Doing Business’s claim that its ‘Employing Workers’ scores are the recipe for high-quality job creation. The World Bank has never produced any evidence to show such a link.”

Previous editions of the report ranked the tiny Pacific island states of Marshall Islands and Palau as the world’s “best performers” for employing workers, although neither was a member of the International Labour Organization and they had only skeletal labour laws. This year, Doing Business 2008 presents the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia as the model to follow because its new labour law permits workers to be dismissed without any reason and gives employers the unilateral right to establish a number of working conditions previously subject to collective bargaining. Georgian trade unions have been effectively marginalized and can be prohibited altogether if they are thought to contribute to “social conflict”.

Though Doing Business espouses its support for the ILO’s core labour standards, a number of countries known for repeated violations of workers’
rights scored well again this year. “Colombia, where murders of trade unionists occur every year and are rarely punished; China, where workers are banned from joining any union but the official state-controlled organization; and Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from numerous professions and trade unions are entirely prohibited, all rank better than do most countries in Western Europe,” Ryder said. The ITUC study condemns ‘Doing Business’ for insisting that labour market regulations have costs but not benefits, and for ignoring the economic and social rationale that leads countries to limit working hours or set minimum wages. The study points out that if most sub-Saharan African countries were to adhere to the ‘Doing Business’ criterion, they would be forced to set minimum wages at less than a dollar per day — the threshold for extreme poverty recognized by the World Bank itself as well as by many other international institutions. Ryder argues that a few token changes made in ‘Doing Business 2008 do not make it any more acceptable. “The Doing Business section on labour market regulation is inherently flawed because it is based on a misguided notion that less protection for workers automatically leads to better economic outcomes. The World Bank would do best to scrap Doing Business’ section on ‘Employing Workers’ in its entirety,” he said.

* Please find the full ITUC/Global Unions report on Doing Business 2008 >>> here.
* Please read the full Doing Business Report >>> here.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Global Unions: Major Changes at IMF and World Bank Needed

As the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) prepare to hold their annual meetings in Washington next month (20-22 October), the international trade union movement is calling on them to use the meetings as an opportunity to undertake major organizational and policy changes. Unions have long criticized the international financial institutions (IFIs) for being unaccountable to developing countries and their citizens. The debate around the lack of an open leadership selection process in both IFIs has drawn greater attention to the problem. “Now, it’s time for them to make a change,” said the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Guy Ryder.

In a joint statement by Global Unions (the ITUC, Global Union Federations, and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD), the trade union movement asks the World Bank and IMF to bring their policies in line with the Millennium Development Goals and the Decent Work Agenda. The statement focuses on the controversial labour market deregulation proposals of the World Bank’s highest-circulation publication, Doing Business, which gives the best scores to countries that have eliminated worker protection rules, no matter what the impact might be on employment, wages, working conditions and respect for workers’ fundamental rights. “By declaring that countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Colombia, Haiti and Saudi Arabia to have done a better job in ‘Employing Workers’ than most countries in Western Europe, the Bank is declaring that it has no concern for the welfare of workers or respect for their rights,” said Guy Ryder. Such a message against workers’ rights is highly ironic, since some divisions of the World Bank Group now require that the projects they finance respect the International Labour Organization’s core labour standards.

Global Unions’ statement emphasizes that a change in policy is especially needed at the IMF, whose influence has significantly diminished since most middle-income countries have taken steps to avoid borrowing from it. Looking back at the Asian financial crisis ten years ago, the statement faults IMF policies and questions whether the IMF has really learned from its mistakes. “Ten years after the Asian crisis, it’s worrisome that the IMF may repeat the same errors today,” Ryder said. “The IMF failed to predict the dramatic tightening of global credit markets that began in August and IMF spokespersons have responded to its potential economic consequences by expressing admiration for private financial institutions’ creativity.” Noting that highly-leveraged investment strategies by hedge funds and private equity seem to have contributed to the global spread of problems originating in the US sub-prime mortgage market, the statement calls on the IMF to develop an adequate policy response. According to the statement, the IMF should take the lead in developing international regulatory frameworks for hedge funds, private equity funds and related financial activities that are non transparent, exploit unwarranted tax subsidies and contribute to financial market instability.

To read the full statement click >>> here.

Friday, 21 September 2007

EU Ministers must put brakes on reckless trade deals, says Oxfam

EU Development Ministers meeting in Funchal (Madeira) today and tomorrow should demand that Peter Mandelson scraps current proposals for free trade deals with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries because they will undermine poverty reduction, said Oxfam. As the 31st December deadline approaches for the so-called 'Economic Partnership Agreements' (EPAs) to be finalised, major differences remain and concerns about the development implications are growing. Oxfam and other NGOs are urging Ministers to advise the Commission to stop pushing ACP countries to agree to the current proposals by the end of the year. Uncertainty over what will happen in January is already threatening jobs in ACP countries. But according to the agenda, the meeting in Funchal (Madeira), hailed as a milestone in the field of development cooperation by the Portuguese Presidency, will not deal explicitly with EPA negotiations.


Last week, Peter Mandelson said that in the absence of an agreement, the Commission would be forced to raise tariffs. This move would have a disastrous impact on industries such as fisheries and horticulture in developing countries. The Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya responded by saying, "it is essential that horticultural trade is not disrupted. Once the orders are lost it will be almost impossible to regain our hard-won market share."

Despite the concerns of EU Member States, ACP governments, independent experts and civil society observers, the European Commission (EC) continues to insist that Economic Partnership Agreements negotiations should continue as before. Calls for an extension of talks or discussion of alternatives continue to fall on deaf ears, even though in key areas talks remain blocked. Perfectly feasible interim solutions that could take pressure off the deadline (such as the enhanced Generalised System of Preferences, known as GSP+) continue to be disregarded as the EC maintains that EPAs are the only possible option.

Unable to convince the ACP through negotiations, the EC has resorted to unfair pressure. For example, the day before a major meeting of Pacific Trade negotiators in July in Vanuatu, an EC official sent an email stating that the Pacific's allocation of European aid would be cut by 48% if it did not sign up to an EPA. Luis Morago, Head of Oxfam International's Brussels Office said: "Threats to withhold aid and increase tariffs on ACP exports have not helped move the negotiations on but simply piled on the pressure in an entirely unjust way."

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Women’s rights nearly absent from EU aid plans, Eurostep finds

Programmes focused on reducing women’s poverty ar largely absent from a new series of EU aid plans for countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), a Eurostep analysis has found. The EU institutions are currently assessing the strategy papers that will guide how nearly €23bn is spent in the ACP from the beginning of next year until 2013. After contacting the European Commission’s offices in the 77 ACP states qualifying for aid, Eurostep has only been able to identify two cases where funding has been allocated to support women-specific issues.

Eurostep believes that poverty will not be eradicated unless inequalities between men and women are addressed. About 70% of all victims of poverty are female, with women usually earning less (even for the same work) and controlling fewer resources than men and frequently excluded from political decision-making on issues that affect them and their families directly. The lack of focus on gender in the aid plans is inconsistent with the Commission’s stated policy of ensuring that woman’s needs and rights are addressed by a two-pronged approach. The first component of this approach is that gender issues have to be taken into account in all areas of policy through a process known as ‘mainstreaming’. The second is that mainstreaming must be combined with programmes specifically tailored towards empowering women.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Money may not be everything, but ...

Towards the end of 2008, the United Nations plans to hold its 2nd Global Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in Doha. This conference will review progress on decisions taken at the first FfD conference in Monterrey in 2002 and the Summits of the following years (World Summit 2005, G8 Summit in Gleneagles, etc.). In addition, the conference will discuss what new financing initiatives are necessary to achieve the International Development Goals, particularly the MDGs. A High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development on 23 and 24 October 2007 at UN Headquarters in New York will mark the starting point of the preparatory process leading up to the Doha conference. Many NGOs will use this process to assess progress and identify obstacles and constraints. Based on this analysis, they will formulate expectations and demands for the Monterrey follow-up conference.

An international seminar on 15-16 October 2007 in Bonn, co-hosted by Global Policy Forum Europe, terre des homes and Social Watch, will contribute to this process, discuss experiences and expectations and formulate essentials of civil society benchmarks for the Financing for Development Conference. The title of the seminar is Money may not be everything, but ... Civil Society Perspectives on Financing the International Development Goals. The detailed program you find >>> here.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Oxfam: Six million more teachers, doctors and nurses needed

Oxfam launched a global call for "Health and Education For All" in New Delhi last week, calling for investment for six million more teachers, nurses and doctors around the world. Oxfam is urging developing country governments to allocate an increased proportion of their annual budgets into providing these essential services, and demanding that rich countries support poorer nations with an increased and long-term aid commitment targeting the health and education sectors. According to an Oxfam briefing universal education and health is possible in even the poorest countries, if the investments are made. The brief reveals how Uganda and Brazil have doubled the number of children in school, halved AIDS deaths and extended safe drinking water and sanitation to millions of people. In Sri Lanka, where even though one-third of the population lives below the poverty line, public clinics with free medical treatment and qualified nurses are within walking distance.

Nearly 300 children joined actor Rahul Bose and award-winning classical dancer Geeta Chandran to launch the 'For All' campaign call. The children wore doctors, nurses and teachers outfits to symbolise the 6 million health and education workers which Oxfam estimates are needed worldwide to provide basic health care and primary education for every child. New footage released at the event showed Hollywood actress Scarlett Johannson visit to Indian schools earlier this year where she met, and was inspired by child campaigners for education (see video).



"As India becomes a stronger global player, it is ironic that we still do not provide schooling or health care for millions of our children," said Bollywood actor and Oxfam's Global Ambassador Rahul Bose. " 'For All' is calling not only on the Indian government but every government in the world to take the responsibility for providing quality basic services for all its citizens. Rich nations too need to increase aid to health and education, where necessary, to help poor country government reach their goals."

The Oxfam briefing paper says India is a country of extremes: 'World Class' advanced medical treatment for the wealthy and `medical' tourists but Maternal Mortality and Infant Mortality rates worse than sub-Saharan Africa in India's poorest districts; 'World class' economists, scientists, engineers, IT Professionals, but the largest number of people in any country in the world without access to education. It shows that Indian government spending on health, as a percentage of GDP, is 18th from the bottom among 177 countries. But the report also shows that success is possible, and that parts of India are making good progress on essential services. Government's initiative in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, for instance, provides an outstanding example where high rates of literacy have been achieved despite hilly terrain, lack of access to water, extreme weather and high poverty. Himachal's literacy rate was 19% in 1951; by 2001 it had gone up to 77% - with 96% for the 15-19 age group. Where state governments have invested in more teachers, lower teacher-pupil ratio, more classrooms and fewer single-teacher schools, the overall educational achievements are much better. Working with allies around the world, the "For All" will hold developed and developing countries to account to ensure that they keep their promises to ensure that health and education for all becomes a reality.

Friday, 14 September 2007

EU appeal at WTO Panel seeks to weaken Brazil’s green laws

Anti-poverty and green campaigners have called on the European Commission to withdraw a challenge it is mounting to health and environmental protection measures in Brazil. The Commission is appealing against a recent World Trade Organisation report into a dispute over a Brazilian ban on imports of retreaded tyres. Brazil has argued that the large quantity of tyre waste it has to deal with each year create a risk of soil, groundwater and air contamination. Tyre waste also increases the likelihood of diseases, especially in a tropical climate. A panel set up by the WTO has found the restrictions on retreaded tyres are “provisionally justified” as they are needed to protect humans from malaria and other illnesses carried by mosquitoes. But the Commission is arguing that banning retreaded tyres from the EU is discriminatory as Brazil imports them from its neighbouring countries.

J├╝rgen Maier from the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development argues that the EU’s position in this case “does not make sense”. In a letter to Peter Mandelson, the European commissioner for trade, he pointed out that the EU has defended its own environmental and public health standards at the WTO in disputes relating to hormone-treated beef, asbestos and genetically modified foods. “Instead of appealing, the Commission should support Brazil and other developing countries to implement efficient measures for the responsible management of used tyres and other hazardous waste,” said Maier.

In an open letter to the European Commission's Trade Commissioner Mandelson, CIEL and WWF Europe express their concern about the EC's decision to appeal the WTO Panel report in the Brazil-Retreaded-Tyres dispute. In their letter, CIEL and WWF urge the EC to either withdraw their intention to appeal or, at a minimum, to focus any appeal narrowly to avoid compromising the ability of WTO Members to protect life, health, and the environment. In addition, because of the undeniable public importance of this case and precedent-setting effect any Appellate Body decision will have, the two groups ask that an appeal in this case be conducted in a transparent and open manner. The most effective way of achieving this is by posting pleadings (including with respect to appeals) on the official governmental web site contemporaneously with their being filed with the WTO, and by web casting hearings in real time.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Controversial mining projects: Weaknesses of IFC standards

A coalition of anti-poverty and environmental organisations called on the private sector arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to re-write and improve its new environmental and safety guidelines for large-scale mining projects. The coalition of WWF, Oxfam, EARTHWORKS, the Bank Information Center and the Center for Science in Public Participation (CSP2) released a 20-page analysis that found serious shortcomings in the draft guidelines. The guidelines lack measurable standards for critical issues, such as preventing water contamination – a major concern with large scale mining – and disposal of toxic wastes. The new rules also do not ensure that mines will be closed down properly to avoid long-term pollution problems.

Mining, oil and gas investments are the most profitable of the Bank’s IFC, which lends money directly to private companies. The projects have generated controversy in recent years due to pollution and violent conflicts that have occurred at some mine sites, and for their limited contribution to poverty reduction in affected areas. The IFC’s social and environmental policies and accompanying guidelines are especially important because they are used by private banks who are signatories to the Equator Principles – a commitment toward environmentally and socially responsible lending signed by banks such as Citigroup, Bank of America, and HSBC. Signatories to the principles encompass more than three quarters of all project finance, including most private lending in the mining sector.

“These new guidelines simply will not protect communities from the harmful impacts of large-scale mining and should be redrafted,” said David Chambers, a mining expert at the Center for Science in Public Participation. “We urge the IFC to remedy this by setting clear and measurable targets in its environmental health and safety guidelines,” added noted Marta Miranda of the WWF. “If IFC is going to remain involved in this sector, it must demonstrate clearly that its projects are protecting communities and the environment, and are helping reduce poverty,” said Keith Slack of Oxfam America. - The groups are calling on the IFC to redraft the guidelines with the participation of independent experts and civil society organizations and to document the actual contributions its mining projects make to poverty reduction.

Members of European Parliament complain over Commission stance on cheap medicines

MEPs look set to complain to Peter Mandelson, the European trade commissioner, over his efforts to curtail Thailand from boosting the supply of affordable medicines by routinely circumventing patents held by drug firms. Mandelson recently wrote to several Thai ministers after Bangkok decided to overrule patents on three medicines by issuing compulsory licenses. Mandelson expressed concern over reports that Bangkok “may be taking a new approach to access to medicines” by stating that “if drug companies wish to do business in Thailand, they should offer their drugs for no more than 5% above” the cost of generic versions of the products in question. According to Mandelson, “this approach would be detrimental to the patent system and so to innovation and the development of new medicines” and “it risks forcing more drug companies to abandon their patents.”

Many MEPs have taken exception to Mandelson’s letter as they believe he should not be seeking to exert pressure over developing countries which overrule drug patents in order to address public health needs. Helmuth Markov, the German MEP who chairs the Parliament’s committee on international trade, has confirmed to the on-line journal Intellectual Property Watch that he intends to send a written complaint to Mandelson. – (EuroStep News)

Friday, 7 September 2007

Asia-Pacific trade unions unify in new regional organisation

A new regional trade union organisation for Asia and the Pacific has been created, with the founding congress of the ITUC Asian Pacific (ITUC-AP) taking place in Bangalooru, India, on 5 and 6 September. The congress of the new organisation registered a membership of some 18.6 million, with 48 affiliates from 29 countries and territories in the region. ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder hails the foundation as “an historic step” which will give working people throughout the region even stronger and more effective representation, in a part of the world where many economies are growing rapidly, but millions of people are being left behind.

The unification in Asia-Pacific creates the first of the three regional organisations of the ITUC, which founded last November in Vienna. The founding congress was preceded by dissolution congresses of the APRO and the BATU, the regional organisations of the former ICFTU and WCL respectively.
Unification processes of the regional trade union movements in Africa and in the Americas are underway, and are expected to be concluded in the coming months.

The ITUC-AP Congress elected G Rajasekaran (Malaysia), as its President, Noriyuki Suzuki (Japan) as General Secretary, and Necie Lucero (Philippines) as Deputy General Secretary. Along with the adoption of the ITUC-AP Constitution and Action Programme, Resolutions were adopted on Burma, where a new wave of repression by the military regime is taking place, and on Israel/Palestine, calling for peace and an end to the violence. The Congress also elected the ITUC-AP General Council and Executive Bureau, which will serve as the governing bodies of the organisation between congresses.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Making EU lobbyists visible

BBC News Player - Making EU lobbyists visible

APEC must address the ugly faces of globalisation

Meeting for the 13th Asia Pacific Labour Network meeting, union leaders from the region sent a strong message to the upcoming APEC Leaders summit to be held from 7 to 9 September in Sidney, Australia. Rather than continuing to narrowly focus on trade and investment liberalisation, APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation) must broaden its scope to deal with the economic and social realities of the majority of the people of the region. The Asia Pacific is on the brink of a jobs crisis, with lack of decent work opportunities as more people toil in the informal economy, inequality rises, social standards plummet, and millions of people leave their countries to seek a basic living. Yet APEC is addressing none of this, a trade union statement to the APEC meeting complains.

Unions believe that the APEC leaders must acknowledge the social dimensions within their agenda, and listen to the voice of workers and other citizens. While trade and finance ministers meet on a yearly basis, ministers responsible for labour, social protection and education have not met since 2001. The union leaders of the Asia Pacific have presented APEC with 11 concrete recommendations on how to make the cooperation broader and more relevant. The question now is whether they are willing to listen.

Students' protests in Sidney


"People trafficking, the sex trade and the exploitation and abuse of workers, especially migrant workers, are the ugly faces of globalisation. These are important issues and should not be left off the APEC agenda", said Sharan Burrow, President of both the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). According to trade unions, today 1.36 million people in the Asia Pacific region are victims of trafficking across borders for sexual or economic exploitation, with children accounting for up to 50 % of these victims.

New health initiative to bolster G8 promises

When Gordon Brown, UK prime minister, will announce details of the new International Health Partnership initiative later this week, he will have the backing of relevant non-governmental organisations. The programme has already presented during Angela Merkel’s, visit to London on 22 August. The plans for an International Health Partnership are part of a global campaign on health and are designed to co-ordinate international funding for health systems in poor countries. It will bring together major donor countries together with international agencies like the World Bank and World Health Organisation (WHO).



In a joint statement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following bilateral talks in Downing Street, Gordon Brown said that addressing healthcare and aid provision was now a "development emergency". The new Partnership, which will launch formally on 5 September, will drive forward work on Millennium Development Goals involving the reduction of child and maternal mortality and the tackling of specific diseases such as HIV/AIDS (see video).

Alison Woodhead, head of Oxfam's international campaign for health and education, said on 22 August, "This is a great initiative that deserves widespread international support. Brown and Merkel should be congratulated for following through on their G8 promises to improve health care. The challenge for them now is to make sure other countries get on board to ensure maximum impact. There are women, men and children in developing countries who are dying because they don't have access to healthcare or any doctors or nurses to attend to them. This Partnership could literally save lives, by coordinating investment in healthcare that is free, public, and well staffed."

Monday, 3 September 2007

UN expert urges German company Lahmeyer and others to halt work on dam project in Sudan

On 27 August 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Miloon Kothari, issued the following statement:

"I am deeply concerned by the situation of the communities affected by the hydro-electric projects in the Merowe and Kajbar areas in the northern Nile valley in Sudan which has continued to worsen during the past two years.

I continue to receive disturbing reports that large-scale forced evictions may be imminent in the Merowe area. The reports indicate that rising water levels of the Merowe reservoir have destroyed dozens of houses in the past weeks and may destroy many more, forcing residents out of their homes. The affected people have claimed that they received no warning that water levels would be raised and that no assistance from Government authorities has been forthcoming since their houses were destroyed. Last year, thousands of people in the Merowe area were relocated in similar circumstances which temporarily left them without food or shelter, and some remain homeless.

While I am still in the process of assessing the development motives behind the projects, these cannot, according to international human rights instruments, under any circumstances, be planned and implemented without effective involvement of the affected populations and at the expense of the human rights of more than 60.000 people, including women, children and the elderly. In the present circumstances, moving forward with the projects given the opposition by the communities would lead to large-scale forced evictions and further violence. As recognized by the international community, forced evictions violate a wide range of human rights and large-scale evictions can only be carried out under exceptional circumstances and in full accordance with international human rights standards.

Moreover, as opposition by the communities to the dams has grown, I have received numerous reports of violations of civil and political rights due to the government's response to community protests. These have included the shooting of unarmed demonstrators, arbitrary arrests of activists, and repressive measures against the press when journalists have attempted to cover the events.

As previously communicated to the Government of Sudan (1), I strongly urge the authorities to fully comply with international human rights standards, and to consider the use of instruments and guidelines that have been developed to minimize the impact of these kinds of projects on the human rights of the populations, such as the "Basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement"

(2). I call upon all States that have invested in the Merowe and Kajbar dams, in particular China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, the Sultanate of Oman and the League of Arab States (through the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development), to ensure that the implementation of the projects does not lead to violations of human rights including the right to adequate housing of the affected communities.

I urge the companies involved in the projects, such as Harbin (China), Lahmeyer International (Germany), and Alstom (France) to put a halt to their activities until a full and impartial assessment of the impact on the human rights of the population is made. In this regard, I also strongly encourage that States, in particular China, Germany and France, ensure that the work of their national companies does not -directly or indirectly - negatively impact the human rights of the affected people.

As an immediate step, in view of the reported rise in the water level and the possible flooding in the Merowe area, I urge the Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and adequate housing of persons living in the area. I also urge the Government of Sudan to facilitate swift access for UN human rights monitors to conduct an independent eviction-impact assessment mission. Until the results of such impact assessment are made available, I call upon the Government to suspend the hydro-electric dam projects in Merowe and Kajbar."


Notes

(1) See Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Summary of communications sent and replies received from Governments and other actors, A/HRC/4/18/Add.1

(2) The "Basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement" are included as Annex I to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, A/HRC/4/18

ITUC kicks off global action programme against forced labour

Globally, at any given time, at least 12.3 million people are working in forced labour conditions as defined in Convention number 29 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). More than 2.4 million of these victims have been trafficked. They are subjected to psychological or physical coercion. In practice this means amongst other things that bonded labourers are being forced to work in humiliating conditions in order to pay off prohibitively inflated debts to their employers; domestic workers are being abused and exploited; some people are still held in slavery by their traditional masters and another significant minority is still being forced to work on public projects by the state in dire circumstances with disregard to their human dignity. Groups of people who are poor and likely to be subjected to discrimination are also the most vulnerable to be subjected to forced labour. Trade unions are the main instrument to denounce and to act against abuse and exploitation of any worker and therefore have an essential role to play in the abolition of forced labour.

To build up a global trade union action programme to tackle this severe exploitation, the ITUC will organise its first Inter-Regional Conference on Trade Union Action and Strategies on Forced Labour and Trafficking from 9 to 11 September 2007 in Malaysia. "Most trade union organisations already have policies, strategies and action plans related to child labour, migrant workers, domestic workers and/or trafficking for sexual exploitation. Nevertheless the link between these issues and forced labour is not always clear. This Conference will set out a comprehensive and realistic international trade union policy and strategy to fight forced labour and trafficking together, initially for the coming two years", said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.

The Conference is being organised in co-operation with the ILO Special Action Programme against Forced Labour, the ILO's Workers Bureau ACTRAV, and the Global Union Federations. Participants representing the trade union movement in the different regions and industries in the world will be attending together with trade union and other experts in the issue of forced labour and trafficking.

For further information got to >>> www.ituc-csi.org