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EU announces support to improve workplace safety and labour practices in producing countries

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nabmEUROB11915EU announces support for the G7's 'Vision Zero Fund', to improve working conditions and labour standards, and establish sustainable business practices in producing countries.

 International Cooperation and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica, and Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Commissioner Marianne Thyssen have announced an EU contribution for the G7's 'Vision Zero Fund'. This Fund will support joint activities of governments, businesses, social partners and NGOs in the low income countries where goods are made, to reduce and prevent workplace related deaths, improve labour inspections, ensure fair production and help workers to exercise their rights.

Ahead of the G7 Employment and Development Ministerial Meeting in Berlin on 12-13 October, Commissioner Thyssen underlined: "Every year, 2.3 million people die from work related accidents or diseases around the world. This is 6,300 people every day. The Commission is strongly committed to preventing workplace accidents, promoting fundamental labour rights and enhancing the level playing field for companies. We are committed to upholding the highest standards, and we are working every day to prevent human suffering and economic costs linked to unsafe workplaces across Europe and abroad. The G7's Vision Zero Fund will contribute to improving working conditions and reduce the health and safety risks for the hundreds of millions of people employed in global supply chains."

Commissioner Mimica also said: "Global supply chains are key generators of economic growth and decent work. However, all too often they include unregulated or unsafe work environments, poor industrial relations and compromised workers` rights. The European Commission is determined to play its part in fighting this. That's why we're proud to support the G7's initiative with a €3 million contribution – we want to do all we can to turn this situation around and ensure a fair, level playing field for our businesses and the people who work in them."

The Vision Zero Fund builds on the commitment made at the G7 Summit in Elmau in June 2015 to foster sustainable global supply chains and to agree on concrete actions for implementation and follow-up. It will get its funding from both public and private contributions and will be managed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Its first pilot activities will start in 2016, focusing on the ready-made garment sectors of selected producing countries.

Background

The European Commission is working to ensure that social considerations are appropriately taken into account both in internal and external policies of the EU, including in global issues such as supply chains sustainability and decent work.

Following the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in April 2013, which resulted in over 1,200 deaths, the European Commission launched the EU Sustainability Compact in July 2013, together with the ILO, Bangladesh authorities and the United States, to promote better labour rights and more responsible supply chain management.

The EU also announced in May 2015 that it is joining the Initiative to 'Promote Fundamental Labor Rights and Practices in Myanmar/Burma' launched by the Governments of Myanmar/Burma, the United States of America, Japan, Denmark and the International Labour Organisation in November 2014, focusing on labour law reform and institutional capacity building.

The EU seeks to ensure that its trading partners comply with core ILO labour standards and international environmental standards. In addition, several EU laws recently adopted or in preparation set out due diligence requirements in specific supply chains, such as timber or conflict minerals.

The EU also encourages private sector initiatives for responsible supply chain management. This includes platforms for Corporate Sector Responsibility, and helping Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The EU encourages companies to adopt responsible business practices wherever they operate and to adhere to internationally recognised guidelines and principles on Corporate Social Responsibility.

At their last summit in Elmau (Germany) on 7-8 June 2015, G7 Leaders committed to strive for the better application of internationally recognized labour, social and environmental standards, principles and commitments in global supply chains.

G7 Employment and Development Ministers are expected to adopt a Communiqué entitled "Action for Fair Production" during the ministerial meeting. This will contain six sets of actions to translate G7 Leaders` commitment to promote labour rights, decent working conditions and environmental protection in global supply chains.

Developing countries

UK pledges cash for #Commonwealth education, urges #malaria fight

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Prime Minister Theresa May pledged cash to help improve children’s education in the Commonwealth and called for a commitment from fellow leaders to tackle malaria on Tuesday (17 April), writes William James.

May’s government is looking to reinvigorate the Commonwealth, a 53-country network of mostly former British colonies, as it seeks to define its post-Brexit role in the world as a leader of free trade and active global citizens.

Speaking on the second day of a week-long Commonwealth meeting in London, May switched focus from trade, which she discussed on Monday, to humanitarian issues.

 “We need to show the world what the Commonwealth is capable of,” she said.

May commited 212 million pounds ($304m) to try to make sure children living in developing Commonwealth countries receive 12 years of quality education.

“I want this to be the summit where the Commonwealth agrees to make that the goal for all our members – and begins to put in place the concrete measures that will allow it to become a reality,” she said.

May spoke alongside Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, also touching on the need to reduce malaria deaths, saying around 90% of Commonwealth citizens live in countries where the disease is endemic.

Britain is already committed to spending half a billion pounds per year on tackling malaria, and may will urge fellow leaders to target a halving of malaria rates by 2023.

“We cannot in good conscience, talk about the young people of the world, about securing a legacy for our children and grandchildren, without tackling a disease that, worldwide, kills one of them every two minutes,” she added.

($1 = 0.6983 pounds)

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Developing countries

EU steps up aid for #Nigeria, #Niger and #Cameroon as humanitarian crisis worsens

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20150107PHT05002_originalThe European Commission is providing additional humanitarian assistance to help address the worsening situation in the Lake Chad region.

Today (4 August) the European Commission has announced an additional €12.5 million in humanitarian aid to support people in Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon as they face a deteriorating humanitarian crisis. Today's additional emergency assistance will help vulnerable populations in the Lake Chad region. €9m will be provided to support people in Nigeria, €2 million in Cameroon and €1.5m in Niger.

The new funding comes as violence by the terrorist group Boko Haram from northern Nigeria has severely destabilized the Lake Chad region, causing the displacement of millions of people.

"When travelling to the region last month, I witnessed the plight of people in the Lake Chad Basin. Millions have been displaced and the number of those struggling to find food is increasingly alarming. The situation in Nigeria is especially dramatic. As always, children are hit the hardest and we must urgently intervene to stop their suffering. This additional EU funding will focus on emergency assistance, primarily in the areas of food and nutrition, water and sanitation, and health. All efforts should be made to ensure that humanitarian organizations can safely reach those who need urgent help." said Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides.

The EU aid announced today comes on top of the €58m previously allocated to the Lake Chad Basin crisis, bringing overall EU humanitarian aid to over €70m for the region in 2016. The European Union is a major humanitarian donor in the region, providing assistance to local, host and displaced populations in various humanitarian aid sectors in recent years.

TABLE - Total EU humanitarian aid to populations in the Lake Chad basin and in the Sahel in 2016: €216,200,000

Type of assistance (in €)
Country Resilience and food Support for conflict affected population in Lake Chad Basin Additional emergency assistance
Burkina Faso 15 300 000
Cameroon 2 000 000 9 000 000 2 000 000
Chad 41 000 000 9 200 000
Mali 17 500 000
Mauritania 10 700 000
Niger 29 000 000 9 000 000 1 500 000
Nigeria 31 000 000 9 000 000
Senegal 6 400 000
West Africa regional programmes 23 600 000
Total EUR 145 500 000 58 200 000 12 500 000

Background

Nigeria is the worst hit country by the regional humanitarian crisis. The United Nations estimates over 7 million Nigerians have been affected by the conflict in the north-east of the country alone – including over 2 million displaced who rely on humanitarian assistance to survive. Already vulnerable host communities are also deeply affected, as is the local population in Nigeria, and increasingly so.

The Far North Region of Cameroon currently hosts 65,100 Nigerian refugees and 191, 600 internally displaced persons, 158,500 of whom have fled attacks by Boko Haram. Meanwhile, the violence has forced some 167,000 people from their homes in Niger, which also hosts 82,000 Nigerian refugees.

At the same time, some 4.4 million Nigerians are estimated to be severely food insecure in the north-east of the country. The number of children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition is reported to be particularly alarming –at least 244,000 are estimated to be affected in the state of Borno alone. Aid agencies are reporting that one in five children may die if not provided with urgent life-saving treatment.

In Nigeria specifically, the European Commission has been scaling up its aid continuously to meet the increasing humanitarian needs. EU humanitarian assistance to Nigeria since 2014 amounts to €73 million.

While the needs are immense, providing humanitarian assistance in Nigeria and the region as a whole remains challenging as demonstrated by the attack against humanitarian responders in north-east Nigeria only last week.

More information

Cameroon factsheet

Niger factsheet

Nigeria factsheet

EU steps up humanitarian aid for victims of Boko Haram in Africa's Lake Chad region

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Developing countries

#EUTurkey: Médecins Sans Frontières will no longer take funds from European Union

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20131008PHT21745_originalMédecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has announced today (17 June) that they will no longer take funds from the European Union and member states, in opposition to what they perceive as damaging deterrence policies and intensifying attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores. The decision takes immediate effect and will apply to MSF’s projects worldwide.

Three months into the EU-Turkey deal, which European governments are claiming as a success, people in need of protection are left counting its true human cost. On the Greek Islands, more than 8,000 people, including hundreds of unaccompanied minors, have been stranded as a direct consequence of the EU-Turkey deal. They have been living in dire conditions, in overcrowded camps, sometimes for months. They fear a forced return to Turkey yet are deprived of essential legal aid, their one defence against collective expulsion. The majority of these families, whom Europe has legislated out of sight, have fled conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The European Commission recently hailed the EU-Turkey deal as a success. European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said: "The EU-Turkey Statement is delivering results: migrants see that it is not worth risking their lives on smugglers' boats and we are on track to contract €1 billion of projects under the Refugee Facility by the end of this summer. But now is not the moment to sit back. We need to fully implement all elements of the Statement. This includes stepping up resettlement and increasing Greece's capacity to address the humanitarian situation and deal with asylum applications in line with EU law. The Turkish authorities also need to complete the implementation of the visa liberalization road map."

MSF say that the EU-Turkey deal places the very concept of “refugee” and the protection it offers in danger. Médecins Sans Frontières International Secretary General Jerome Oberreit said: “For months MSF has spoken out about a shameful European response focused on deterrence rather than providing people with the assistance and protection they need. Once again, Europe’s main focus is not on how well people will be protected, but on how efficiently they are kept away.”

MSF also object to the European Commission’s proposal to replicate the EU-Turkey logic across more than 16 countries in Africa and the Middle East. These deals would impose trade and development aid cuts on countries that do not stem migration to Europe or facilitate forcible returns, rewarding those that do.

MSF say that since the agreement between Europe and Turkey made on 18 March, Greece has turned refugee camps into detention camps. Refugees are sorted and wait to be sent back to Turkey for those who came after 20 March. The EU-Turkey deal sets a dangerous precedent for other countries hosting refugees, sending a message that caring for people forced from their homes is optional and that they can buy their way out of providing asylum. Last month, the Kenyan Government cited European migration policy to justify their decision to close the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, sending its residents back to Somalia. Likewise, the deal does nothing to encourage countries surrounding Syria, already hosting millions of refugees, to open their borders to those in need.

“Europe’s attempt to outsource migration control is having a domino effect, with closed borders stretching all the way back to Syria. People increasingly have nowhere to turn,” said Oberreit. “Will the situation in Azaz where 100,000 people are blocked between closed borders and front lines become the rule, rather than the deadly exception?”

The EU-Turkey deal’s financial package includes one billion euros in humanitarian aid. While acknowledging that their are undoubtedly needs in Turkey, a country which currently hosts close to three million Syrian refugees, this aid has been negotiated as a reward for border control promises, rather than being based solely on needs.

“Deterrence policies sold to the public as humanitarian solutions have only exacerbated the suffering of people in need. There is nothing remotely humanitarian about these policies. It cannot become the norm and must be challenged,” said Oberreit. “MSF will not receive funding from institutions and governments whose policies do so much harm. We are calling on European governments to shift priorities - rather than maximizing the number of people they can push back, they must maximize the number they welcome and protect.”

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