EU delegation emphasises on labour and human rights

The European Union flags flutter at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on 19 September, 2019Reuters file photo

The visiting EU EBA (Everything but Arms) monitoring mission welcomed the progress made on safety standards in the garment sector and noted some positive steps towards improving economic and social rights.

Led by Paola Pampaloni, deputy managing director of the European External Action Service, the delegation included European Commission representatives on employment and trade.

During its five-day visit to Dhaka on 12-16 November, the EU team met with Bangladesh government officials, civil society representatives, trade unions, readymade garments brands and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

The delegation met foreign minister Masud Bin Momen and commerce secretary Tapan Kanti Ghash, and labour and employment secretary Md Ehsan-E-Elahi on Wednesday.

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Challenges however remain in both labour and human rights. On human rights, more efforts are needed to comply with the core EBA conventions, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), safeguarding the freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to peaceful assembly, and creating an enabling environment for civil society to carry out its activities.

The EU encouraged Bangladesh to accept and implement the recommendations of the 2023 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in this regard, it added.

On labour rights, the mission recommends that Bangladesh step up its efforts to ensure that its policies and practices are aligned with International Labour Organization’s (ILO) standards.

The monitoring mission stressed the need to fully implement the National Action Plan on the Labour Sector (NAP), in particular with regard to guaranteeing freedom of association, collective bargaining, and an inclusive and representative participation of labour unions through tripartite consultation.

The mission regretted that the recent amendments of the Bangladesh Labour Act only partially addressed the concerns of the EU and ILO.

The mission welcomed the commitment by the government to swiftly introduce further amendments of the Bangladesh Labour Law towards these objectives.

Noting delays in the agreed timetable under the NAP, the EU team urged the authorities to accelerate the necessary reforms.

Deputy managing director Paola Pampaloni stated: “The visit to Bangladesh has provided a valuable opportunity to engage with key stakeholders on the importance of fulfilling the human rights and labour rights that are an intrinsic part of the EBA arrangement. We will continue to work closely with the Bangladesh authorities, business, civil society and trade unions to accelerate the necessary reforms.”

The EU will continue the enhanced monitoring process of EBA compliance through the existing bilateral dialogue with the government of Bangladesh and all stakeholders.

The next EU GSP report, which includes a detailed assessment of compliance by Bangladesh with the EBA conditionality, will be published at the end of November.

The EU will take stock of progress on the reforms at the next EU-Bangladesh Joint Commission, which is foreseen to take place in Spring 2024.