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Best Practices voor een duurzame toekomst
11 maart 2006

Dutch section of Amnesty International helps to avoid forced labour

'Forced Labour' is the first in a new series called 'The Business and Human Rights Pages'. It is the outcome of the so-called Round Table, in which companies and Amnesty International meet four times a year to discuss human rights dilemmas in business practices. The series targets at both operational managers in the field and policymakers in Corporate Social Responsibility. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), worldwide some 12.3 million people execute forced labour. About one fifth of them are forced by the state, the armies or militias, almost ten million are forced by private agents. This means that in many cases forced labour is covered up by the services of employment agencies and fake labour contracts. The secret nature of forced labour makes it all the more difficult to prevent or abolish it. Companies can, however, take measures to avoid being involved in forced labour practices. Apart from 'saturating' all their branches and suppliers with the principle that work must be voluntary, freely chosen and freely ended, they are recommended to provide human rights training to their local staff and major suppliers. They can also install independent verification mechanisms in cooperation with local NGOs and trade unions, and report publicly on instances of forced labour. Companies are warned to be extra careful when suppliers claim that all their workers are 'self-employed', for this may conceal illegal practices. The same vigilance is wanted for when they are confronted with a complex network of contracts and suppliers, since that may conceal forced labour. To raise the awareness among companies, the Amnesty document describes the different apparitions of forced labour in Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North America, from traditional serfdom and bonded labour to forced work in sweatshops or sex slavery. The currently fifteen multinationals attending in Amnesty's Round Table in the Netherlands are ABN AMRO, Ahold, Akzo Nobel, Boskalis Westminster, C&A, DSM, Heineken, ING Group, Numico, Philips, Rabobank, Sara Lee/DE, Shell, Unilever and Vendex KBB. P+ Webtip: Amnesty International Holland