ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has pledged to corporate with the United Nations system to protect vulnerable labour groups while the island nation was appraised by the global body on the progress it has made with regard to making the country a ‘child labour free zone’, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Wednesday (01).
United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery Tomoya Obokata is in Sri Lanka on a seven-day visit to examine labour conditions in various sectors and industries including apparel, tea plantations, tourism, and domestic work.
“The Foreign Minister outlined that Sri Lanka was conscious of protecting vulnerable labour groups and emphasized that Sri Lanka will continue to cooperate with the United Nations system,” the ministry said in a statement on the meeting held last Friday (26).
“During the meeting, the Foreign Minister discussed Sri Lanka’s progress related to labour welfare and the constructive steps taken by the government to eradicate child labour.”
Foreign Minister G L Peiris also elaborated on steps taken to bring our labour laws in line with international standards in a number of areas including child labour, migrant workers and debt bondage.
“The Special Rapporteur commended Sri Lanka on the progress made with regard to making Sri Lanka a ‘child labour free zone’.”
The Special Rapporteur is expected to assess the implementation of laws and policies and systemic barriers that hamper access to decent work, including for migrant workers in Sri Lanka, the UN said in a statement.
Obokata is also scheduled to assess the government’s commitment and its measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
The move comes as Sri Lanka is facing a risk of losing access to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences plus (GSP+), a lucrative trade concession worth over 500 million US dollars from the European Union, next April due to the island nation’s failure to fulfil some of the 27 international conventions it had agreed to with the EU.
The EU’s special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance also involves issues of human rights which President Gotabaya Rakalaksa’s government has been asked to address by both the EU and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
The government, which had earlier vehemently refused to heed the EU’s and UN’s calls, has now slowly started to address some of their concerns as the 81 billion US dollar economy faces an unprecedented debt and foreign exchange crisis.
The government has also started to engage with many Western nations following its repeated reluctance to build stronger tie, charging that Western nations have been backing an agenda to divide the country.
The Special Rapporteur will present a report on his visit from at the 51st session of the UNHRC to be held in September 2022. (Colombo/Dec 1/2021)