During the last week of November, more than 2,000 people met in Geneva for the largest annual gathering on business and human rights. For years, Verité has actively participated in this busy week of learning and sharing, along with participants from government, business, civil society, law firms, investor organizations, trade unions, academia and the media, among others. Shawn MacDonald, CEO of Verité, and Elizabeth Garland, Senior Director of Verité’s Raw Materials Program, attended the forum this year and shared Verité’s work in a range of meetings and venues.
At the UN Forum, Shawn MacDonald was a panelist for a session on human rights due diligence in the global food and beverage sector. With experts from Oxfam, Landesa, Mars, IJM, Stella Maris, and Verité, the panel and audience Q&A session explored how companies, governments, international NGOs, and local NGOs are working together to translate standards such as the UN Guiding Principles and Sustainable Development Goals into actual practices in complex food and beverage supply chains. The session not only covered emerging tools and promising strategies, but forthrightly called out the existing gaps in policy, enforcement, and remediation, as well as the challenges of resource constraints, weak governance structures, adverse local customs, internal corporate resistance, and a variety of other potential hurdles to realizing human rights commitments.
A highlight of the week was a debate sponsored by Verité and Mars focusing on the important role businesses will play in ending forced labor in supply chains and asking the critical question — what is the formula for success? The debate surfaced three areas that could drive breakthrough results: addressing root causes, greater transparency and collaboration, and influencing governments. Marika McCauley Sine, Vice President, Global Human Rights, Mars Incorporated, and Shawn MacDonald subsequently published an article inspired by the discussion.
UN Forum week in Geneva is also the time each year when Verité joins other members of the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment’s steering committee to review its strategies for driving positive change in the international recruitment industry, most importantly its goal of a global prohibition of recruitment fees being paid by workers. As the Leadership Group plans for a busy 2019, Verité looks forward to leveraging this platform with other members to create demand for an enabling environment for responsible recruiters; to build out sustainable, verifiable practices in implementation of the Employer Pays Principle; and to advocate for improved protection of migrant workers through more effective regulations.
At the annual general meeting of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association (ICoCA), a multi-stakeholder initiative promoting the adoption of international human rights and humanitarian law standards in the global security sector, Shawn MacDonald was a panelist in a session on understanding and fighting human trafficking. Many security service personnel are recruited to migrate to other countries to work at a wide range of security positions, so this sector faces all of the same challenges as others when it comes to risks posed to migrant workers. Shawn was pleased to join other advocates and experts in sharing Verité’s perspective on productive approaches to mitigating the risks to migrants and those who employ them.
Verité also participated in the Strategic Planning Workshop of the Alliance 8.7 Migration Action Group, sponsored by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and organized in collaboration with UNICEF, ILO, and the Walk Free Foundation. This two-day planning workshop gathered 30 participants representing UN agencies, civil society organizations, trade unions, employers’ groups, coalitions, governments, academics, and think tanks to strategize on how to tackle the issues addressed under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 8.7 — the elimination of forced labor, modern slavery, human trafficking, and the worst forms of child labor. Verité was pleased to be invited to join this platform to share information and best practices, focusing specifically on migration.