In Paris this week on an official visit, Azerbaijan’s autocratic President Ilham Aliyev has already scored one photo op. Anyone reading yesterday’s Azeri media could see dozens of photos of Aliyev posing with leaders of top French companies, including Airbus, Suez, and Credit Agricole.

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev (L) shakes hands with his French counterpart Francois Hollande as they visit a local French school under construction in Baku, May 11, 2014.

© 2014 Reuters

Today, President Hollande will receive President Aliyev and host an official dinner at Palais de l’Elysee. Again, Parisian photo ops abound. But amid the flashing cameras, one has to wonder where Azerbaijan’s repression of critics and the jailing of opponents fits in the new relationship between Paris and Baku?

In the past few years, Azerbaijani authorities have aggressively gone after the country’s once vibrant civil society, jailing dozens of activists, journalists, and political opponents. It also adopted draconian legislation making it virtually impossible for independent non-governmental organizations to operate.

One year ago, as Azerbaijan’s economy started to suffer from falling oil prices, several of those detained on political grounds were released. That was an important first step, but hopes for progress were short-lived.

Many of those released face travel bans or obstacles to their activities. Dozens are still locked up on political grounds, including opposition activist Ilgar Mammadov, despite repeated calls by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe for his immediate release. And more activists have been thrown in jail. Recently, one of the country’s most popular journalists and bloggers, Mehman Huseynov, was sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly defaming the police, in response to his brave public denouncement of the police abuses he suffered.

When visiting Paris, Brussels, or other European capitals, President Aliyev hopes to get more business opportunities and investment in Azerbaijan. But he prefers to ignore that the people of Azerbaijan want human rights protections, transparency, and good governance. Those standing up for these values are routinely exposed to attacks and harassment.

Yet what more clear message that Azerbaijan’s crackdown cannot be ignored by potential investors than last week’s decision by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international coalition promoting better governance of resource-rich countries, to suspend Azerbaijan – precisely because of its actions against civil society.

President Hollande should reject a narrative that only finance and economy matter in Azerbaijan. Human rights should be as central to France’s foreign policy as other topics.

Hollande should publicly call for the release of Ilgar Mammadov and all those detained in retaliation for their activism and criticism. A failure to explicitly support human rights principles would be the worst message to those unjustly waiting behind bars.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Arvind Ganesan is the director of Human Rights Watch’s Business and Human Rights Division. He leads the organization’s work to expose human rights abuses linked to business and other economic activity, hold institutions accountable, and develop standards to prevent future abuses. This work has included research and advocacy on awide range of issues includingthe extractive industries; public and private security providers; international financial institutions; freedom of expression and information through the internet; labor rights; supply chain monitoring and due diligence regimes; corruption; sanctions; and predatory practices against the poor. Ganesan’s work has covered countries such as Angola, Azerbaijan, Burma, China, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, India, Indonesia, the United States, and Nigeria. His recent research has focused on predatory lending practices and governance issues on Native American reservations in the United States. He has written numerous reports, op-eds, and other articles and is widely cited by the media.

Ganesan has also worked to develop industry standards to ensure companies and other institutions respect human rights. He is a founder of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights for the oil, gas, and mining industries and is a founding member of the Global Network Initiative (GNI) for the internet and telecommunications industries, where he also serves on the board. Ganesan has helped to develop standards for international financial institutions such as the World Bank, and regularly engages governments in an effort to develop mandatory rules or strengthen existing standards such as the Kimberley Process. He serves on the board of EGJustice, a nongovernmental organization that promotes good governance in Equatorial Guinea, and is a member of the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)’s steering committee.

Before joining Human Rights Watch, Ganesan worked as a medical researcher. He attended the University of Oklahoma.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Mercury is mixed with gold ore.   

© 2015 Mark Z. Saludes for Human Rights Watch

Fires in Indian factories, accidents in Zimbabwe gold mines, infertility from chemical exposure the Democratic Republic of Congo – workers around the world face risks, sometimes lethal, in the workplace.

Next week, there’s a unique opportunity to improve the lives of millions of workers as trade unions, governments, and employers try to agree on standards for work conditions in global supply chains.

Human Rights Watch has documented labor rights violations around the world and across various sectors, including textiles, mining, construction, agriculture, and meat processing. In a globalized economy, businesses increasingly source goods and services from complex chains of suppliers that often span multiple countries with different labor rights laws and practices.

One way to improve worker protection would be to enshrine labor rights as a legal requirement along global supply chains. From February 25 to 28, the International Labour Organization (ILO) will hold a meeting of government, employer, and trade union experts to assess standards needed to ensure decent work in global supply chains. Arriving at this point was not quick or easy – the decision to hold this meeting was taken after much discussion in 2016 at the International Labor Conference, an annual summit of labor ministers.

Expect the debate to be heated. While trade unions are advocating for a binding international ILO standard, employer organizations tend to seek voluntary standards, while government positions vary widely.

At the moment, most countries do not legally require companies to protect labor rights in their global supply chains. There are some good voluntary industry standards, as well as a set of important United Nations norms on business and human rights, detailing steps for human rights “due diligence,” but these are not mandatory.

The ILO experts should seize this rare opportunity to protect labor rights in supply chains and decide at next week’s meeting that a new international treaty protecting workers is the best way forward.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Workers walk towards the construction site of the Lusail stadium which will be build for the upcoming 2022 Fifa soccer World Cup during a stadium tour in Doha, Qatar, December 20, 2019. 

© 2019 REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

(New York) – Qatari authorities failed to address an employer’s months of delayed wages to employees despite a 2015 system built to ensure employers paid their employees on time and in full, Human Rights Watch said today.

The government’s Wage Protection System (WPS), designed to ensure that workers receive their salaries through direct bank transfer by the seventh day of every month, allows the government to monitor wage payments and allows the labor minister to impose sanctions on companies and employers that do not comply. But a Qatari employer did not pay its managerial staff for five months and its laborers for two months before workers publicly protested the situation.

“Qatar has passed some laws to protect migrant workers, but the authorities seem more interested in promoting these minor reforms in the media than in making them work,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “FIFA and the Qatari government should ensure that any employer that has delayed payments immediately releases them, as well as levy appropriate fines.”

Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup organizer, the quasi-governmental Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, has also adopted measures to protect workers on World Cup sites, setting stringent rules for contractors. The rules require setting up worker welfare committees to report abuses on these sites.

Many of the managerial-level staff with this employer received the five months of payments they were owed on February 13, 2020, and those who have not are expecting them on February 16. All the laborers Human Rights Watch spoke to received the two months of payments they were owed on February 7. Staffers and laborers said they were told by senior management that the government stepped in to make the payments.

Human Rights Watch spoke to 11 workers under this employer – 7 from management, 3 laborers, and a former management staff member – and reviewed relevant documentation, including five official memos asking management staff to keep working to maintain the “reputation of the [employer].” All 7 management staff members said that the employer failed to pay at least 500 managerial staff such as engineers, surveyors, and supervisors beginning in September 2019.

While Human Rights watch documented the problems under one employer, the findings expose a systemic failure that has a bearing on all employers operating in Qatar, Human Rights Watch said.

The management staff said they reported to work without pay under threat of deductions until several staff members decided to stop working until they were paid. The employer and their top-level management also made similar threats to keep laborers working throughout December and January. During this time, the laborers remained in their employer-provided accommodations and were provided regular meals. Management staff arrange for their own room and board.

The employer engages over 6,000 workers and has over 25 current projects in Qatar. These include a stadium in Doha, which will host FIFA World Cup 2022 matches, the streets surrounding the stadium, and a road-building project to connect Doha’s downtown areas to several FIFA World Cup stadiums.

“I was so miserable, my wife is having a baby soon,” said one 32-year-old surveyor who received four months of salary on February 13. “I was supposed to go to India for the delivery. Instead, I had no money to live in Qatar, I am in thousands of riyals of debt, and there is a potential travel ban on me [because of defaulting on a bank loan]. How did this happen to me?” He said he understood he had only been paid because the government had provided the money. “I will now go and clear months of dues with the bank, my landlord, and grocer who has been giving us vegetables on credit.”

Since migrant workers are still banned under Qatari law from joining unions and participating in strikes, some of the unpaid workers risked arrest to protest for their salaries. “We were scared to stop working and protest, but our families back home were starving so we blocked the main road near our accommodation,” said an Indian laborer working on a road-building project for minimum wage (US$206 a month). The three laborers interviewed said they received their past-due wages on February 7, the same day as they protested, and are back at work.

Managerial staff protested outside one of their employer’s many project offices in Doha on February 9, they told Human Rights Watch. They said that government and police officials intervened, verbally promised prompt payment, and sent the protesters home.

Their September salary was sent to their bank accounts that day. Salaries for October, November, December, and January began pouring into hundreds of salary accounts on February 13, the staff members said. Three of the seven staff members interviewed received full payments, and the others said they expect to receive theirs on February 16.

Under the International Labour Organization’s Convention on Forced Labour (No. 29), work is considered forced or compulsory labor when workers are made to work under threat of penalty or withholding and non-payment of wages.

Staff members said that before they held protests on main roads, they had filed complaints about their missing wages with the local police on January 30 and at the National Human Rights Commission on February 4. They said they did not receive any written responses for these complaints.

This is not the first time this employer has delayed the payment of salaries to its employees. Managerial staff said they have not been receiving their wages on time since January 2018, often with two to three month delays, a direct violation of Qatar’s labor law, which requires that employees be paid their wages in full and on time.

Despite introducing some labor reforms over the past couple of years, Qatari authorities have failed to abolish the exploitative kafala sponsorship labor system that fuels abuses and gives employers excessive power over their employees. In most cases, employer’s consent is still needed for a worker to change jobs.

In January 2020, this employer told its managerial staff that if they did not want to work without pay, they could issue them No Objection Certificates that would allow them to transfer to new jobs. However, the staff members interviewed said that they did not want to resign until they were fully paid for past work because employees who left a year ago are still waiting for outstanding salaries and gratuity payments. Qatar’s labor law states that migrant workers receive a yearly gratuity payment which must amount to at least three weeks of salary.

A former employee from Pakistan told Human Rights Watch that he resigned a year ago, and he is still owed QR20,000 (about $5,493) in payments. The delay violates a Qatari law stipulating that if a worker is terminated, the employer must pay their wages and any other outstanding sums within seven days from the last day of employment.

A recent joint report by the International Labour Organization and the Qatari Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour & Social Affairs found a series of problems with the Wage Protection System that hamper its efficacy, including being overburdened with cases. It noted that in November 2018, the system’s staff were dealing with cases from January 2018. It was also said that the threat of penalties for violations was not immediate. Penalties include a maximum prison sentence of one month, a fine between 2,000 to 6,000 Qatari riyals (about $550 to $1,648), or both.

Even if the system were more efficiently managed, it has limited authority to force companies and employers to comply with the law. While the system can flag non-payments, it is up to the Department of Wage Protection to enforce the law for full and timely payments, Human Rights Watch said.

“This case of hundreds of delayed wages once again highlights that the Wage Protection System and the Department of Wage Protection are not doing enough to ensure that migrant workers in Qatar receive their salaries in time and in full,” Page said. 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

© ArchOneZ/VectorStock

This week, United States Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Congressman Jim McGovern introduced a resolution to the US House of Representatives to challenge corruption at the highest levels around the world: an International Anti-Corruption Court. This novel idea, first proposed by Judge Mark Wolf in 2012, is worth considering given the desperate need to develop new mechanisms to address corruption’s severe, transnational impacts on human rights and the enduring challenge of holding kleptocrats accountable for their crimes.

Corruption can ravage societies and be stubbornly difficult to uproot. Allowed to fester, corruption breeds poverty, violence, and instability that can spread well past a country’s borders. The World Economic Forum estimates that 5 percent of the world’s GDP is lost to corruption, and the International Monetary Fund blames it for US$1 trillion in lost tax revenue.

And corruption can rob people of their rights. It can lead to failing healthcare and education systems, lack of access to clean water – all problems that force countless people to leave their homes and countries in pursuit of better lives. It can also corrode government itself, as corrupt officials often shield themselves from accountability by hijacking the judiciary and abusively silencing critics.

High-level corruption can cross borders. As the “Luanda Leaks” recently exposed, it often implicates a dizzying network of far-flung companies, well-connected individuals, and countries – from foreign companies greasing palms for lucrative contracts to accounting firms scrubbing books and legal systems that allow corrupt officials to launder their dirty money.

Time will tell whether an international anti-corruption court is the right tool to take on these international networks and deliver justice to corruption’s victims. But for now, it’s a discussion worth having.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Women in the sewing division of a factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

© 2014 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

(Bangkok) – The European Commission on February 12, 2020, announced the partial suspension of Cambodia’s preferential trade preferences with the European Union after the government failed to address serious human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch said today. Prime Minister Hun Sen should take urgent measures to improve the dismal human rights and labor rights situation in Cambodia that led to the commission’s decision, including ending the ban on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and dropping charges against the leader of the CNRP.

The EU decision followed a formal year-long review of Cambodia’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) trade preferences. The EU’s preliminary conclusion, sent to the Cambodian government on November 12, 2019, stated that Cambodia has seriously and systematically violated the right to freedom of expression, restricted other civil and political rights, and failed to ensure labor rights. Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said in a statement that the EU “will not stand and watch as democracy is eroded, human rights curtailed, and free debate silenced. Today’s decision reflects our strong commitment to the Cambodian people, their rights, and the country’s sustainable development.”

“The trade preferences unilaterally granted by the EU are based on the requirement of adherence to international human rights standards,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Hun Sen has publicly and defiantly refused to take steps to address the EU’s concerns, even launching a sham treason trial against the leader of the opposition in the final stages of the EU’s deliberations, leaving the EU with no choice but to take this action.” 

Cambodia has been the EBA program’s second-largest beneficiary, accounting for approximately 40 percent of all items with EBA preferences sent to the EU. When EBA preferences were granted in 2001, the Cambodian government recognized that EU trade privileges were conditioned on respecting the principles laid down in international human rights treaties and core International Labour Organization conventions. 

The partial suspension of Cambodia’s EBA trade preferences will affect selected garment and footwear products and all travel goods and sugar. After a six-month interim period, sectors affected by the suspension will be subject to import tariffs when entering the EU market. If the Cambodian government meets the human rights and labor rights requirements of the EBA, the commission could reinstate the preferences. The commission could have called for a complete suspension and can also increase the breadth of the suspension if the situation deteriorates.

The European Commission’s review was prompted by a serious deterioration in the rights situation in recent years, including the dissolution of the CNRP; the arrest of CNRP leader Kem Sokha; a surge in political prisoners; criminal cases against scores of other politicians, journalists and activists; intimidation that forced activists to flee into exile; and a crackdown on and closing of independent media outlets.

During the year-long review, Cambodian authorities arrested more than 60 local CNRP members and supporters, summoned another 150 opposition members and supporters to police stations and courts, and filed bogus charges against more than 115 for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. Charges are still pending against those released from custody.

When the exiled political opposition leader Sam Rainsy announced plans to return to Cambodia in November, the government ratcheted up harassment of opposition members both inside and outside Cambodia. Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry canceled the passports of 39 opposition members and prevented their return by collaborating with Thailand and other governments in the region to prevent them from traveling back to Cambodia. Ongoing political harassment has resulted in a steadily rising number of opposition members fleeing the country due to fear of persecution.

On January 22, 23 companies and nongovernmental organizations, including major international garment brands sourcing from Cambodia, raised concerns about the labor rights situation in the country. They urged the government to amend or repeal two problematic laws, the Trade Union Law and the Law on Associations and NGOs (LANGO), and drop all outstanding criminal charges against union leaders.

“As the dictatorial leader of Cambodia, Hun Sen is responsible for the ruthless crackdown on dissent and human rights across the country, which forced the EU to follow its own rules and suspend some EU trade benefits,” Adams said. “Hun Sen can get these preferences restored and show he cares about Cambodian workers by ending his assault on labor rights, the political opposition, and fundamental freedoms. International companies sourcing from Cambodia should enhance pressure on the government so that it complies with its international human rights obligations.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A branch of River Island seen on Oxford Street in London, United Kingdom, December 4, 2019. 

© 2019 Dinendra Haria/Sipa via AP Images

Last week, River Island, a United Kingdom fashion brand, signed onto a global effort to be more transparent about the factories that produce its products.

In December 2019, Human Rights Watch, together with the Clean Clothes Campaign, launched a campaign that asked apparel brands to #GoTransparent and sign the Transparency Pledge. River Island changed its stance on transparency, joining 39 other companies that have aligned with the Transparency Pledge. The pledge was created in 2016 by a coalition of nine organizations and global unions, including Human Rights Watch, in an effort to set supply chain disclosure standards.

In an email to Human Rights Watch, River Island said that signing the Transparency Pledge was “an important step … to ensure fair and safe working conditions in factories worldwide” and “enables industry collaboration to prevent serious global issues such as Modern Slavery.”

River Island’s decision to join the transparency movement is a boost for the rights of apparel workers. Over the past few years, consumers have sent a clear and consistent message to apparel brands: they want and expect transparency. When companies publicly disclose the list of factories where their products are made, they show they know their supply chain. And public disclosure helps protect workers. When workers know which brands they are producing clothing for, they know whom they can complain to in case of workplace abuses.

Consumers want to know that the brands they are buying clothing from are thinking about the human rights implications of their business practices. Beyond transparency, consumers want to know that the workers producing their clothes have access to redress and other basic rights. Concerned consumers can push brands to go even further in adopting ethical business practices.

Consumers should call on companies like American Eagle Outfitters, Armani, Carrefour, and URBN to join the global transparency movement and follow in the footsteps of River Island.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Tyson Foods is carrying out a dangerous national experiment that could make their slaughter and production staff work faster, increasing the already high risk of injury to its workers. Shareholders should raise the issue on February 6th at the annual meeting in Tyson’s Arkansas headquarters. They should ask the company how it plans to protect its workers.

Tyson Foods is one of the largest poultry, beef, and pork producers in the United States, and also has one of the highest numbers of reported severe injuries in the meat and poultry industry. Meatpacking work is already dangerous, and making staff work even faster will only increase the risk.

When Human Rights Watch interviewed workers across the country about the issue last year, a worker from a Tyson Foods plant in Alabama described the throbbing pain in her hands, sometimes waking her up in the night. She believed her pain was the result of repeating the same intense motions hundreds of times a day, a common concern raised by almost all the meatpacking workers we spoke to across the poultry and meat industry. Other Tyson workers described burning eyes and breathing problems, which they believed were due to the sanitizing chemicals they were exposed to for long hours every day.

Studies have shown that the more quickly workers slaughter and process animals—known as the “line speed”—the more the risk of harm like repetitive stress injuries increases. Tyson Foods and other companies are participating in a new federal inspection program that allows some poultry processing facilities to increase their line speed. Seven Tyson plants are operating under the new inspection system. Workers that we spoke to in a Tyson plant operating under the new system said they perceived increased line speeds throughout their facilities.

We also learned that the number of employees per work station has decreased in some Tyson facilities, creating pressure for the remaining workers to work even faster. One worker told us that she hurt her back and neck because she was trying to keep up with all the chicken breasts coming down the line soon after the plant increased line speeds and removed two of four workers in her area. She said the company asked her if her injuries could have been prevented. She told us, “When you removed a person from each side … and then upped the line speed—yes, hurting myself could have been prevented.… That’s too much work for one person to do all day.”

The Trump administration has gone further with pork producers and has eliminated line speed regulations altogether. They are considering the same for beef producers, too, according to the advocacy organization Food and Water Watch. We are concerned that easing or eliminating line speed regulations will significantly increase the risk of serious injury for workers across Tyson Foods’ operations, as well as in other companies.

Tyson Foods says it supports principles of human rights and workers’ rights and should live up to these words. Shareholders should ask the company for greater transparency on how they are protecting workers from harm and protecting their rights. They should also be asking about the company’s processes to identify and address rights risks and impacts, also known as human rights due diligence, across Tyson Food’s operations and supply chain.

The company should be consulting workers who are the most affected by their policies and making the findings public. An assessment of the effectiveness of their human rights policies and practices, such as what they do for the workers when harm does occur, would provide shareholders with a greater understanding of whether the company’s approach is impactful.

Tyson shareholders will have the opportunity at the annual meeting to vote on a resolution that promotes transparency in their human rights practices. They should use this opportunity to protect workers and push the company to take more meaningful action on human rights.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

© 2017 Marco Tibasima for Human Rights Watch

(Washington, DC) – The World Bank may reverse its hold on a US$500 million education loan to Tanzania despite the government’s policy of expelling pregnant schoolgirls. On January 28, 2020, the World Bank Board of Executive Directors will vote on the loan to fund Tanzania’s secondary education strategy.

“The World Bank understands that providing girls with safe, quality secondary education is crucial for Tanzania’s future, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of pregnant girls,” said Zama Neff, children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The World Bank should use its leverage from the loan until Tanzania lifts its cruel ban on pregnant girls attending school and reaffirms their right to study in formal primary and lower-secondary schools.”

Tanzanian schools routinely force girls to undergo intrusive pregnancy tests and permanently expel those who are pregnant. In 2017, the discriminatory ban affected an estimated 5,500 pregnant students, although previous estimates indicates that close to 8,000 students were forced to drop out of school. In some instances, the authorities have arrested schoolgirls for becoming pregnant. President John Magufuli has vigorously supported the ban and vowed to uphold it throughout his term.

In November 2018, the World Bank withheld a $300 million loan for secondary education in Tanzania in part because of the government’s mistreatment of pregnant girls. It was the only development partner to express these concerns publicly. In response, the government agreed to tackle discrimination against girls, reform provisions of its Statistics Act that made it a crime to publish statistics without the approval of the National Bureau of Statistics, and curtail government officials’ incitement of violence against Tanzania’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population.

Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank’s vice president for Africa, was quoted then as saying: “Girls’ education is central to development, we are a development institution, we cannot accept that some girls be denied education. If we accept that, we won’t be doing development.”

The World Bank loan would provide funds for the Secondary Education Quality Improvement Program (SEQUIP), which aims to expand girls’ access to secondary schooling by building more classrooms, improving the quality of textbooks and teaching, tackling gender-based violence within schools and during the journey to school, and promoting a gender-sensitive school environment. Despite its pledge, the government failed to lift its ban on pregnant students and adolescent mothers. SEQUIP will only allow them to study in so-called “alternative education pathways,” or parallel education centers. Unlike formal lower secondary schools, these will not be tuition-free.

Human Rights Watch believes all governments should take immediate measures to ensure that secondary education is available and accessible to all free of charge, and to make education compulsory through the end of lower secondary school.

Tanzanian nongovernmental organizations have written to the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors expressing their concerns with the creation of this alternative education system, and the World Bank’s endorsement of this program.

In June, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Legal and Human Rights Centre filed a complaint against Tanzania before the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, challenging the expulsion of pregnant girls from government schools. Many other African countries have adopted policies to ensure that pregnant girls and adolescent mothers can continue their formal education.

Since 2015, Tanzania has intensified its repression of the media, human rights defenders, and opposition parties. The government has severely restricted the activities of nongovernmental organizations, including those protesting the treatment of pregnant girls and young mothers by threatening to remove their nongovernmental status.

“Countries throughout Africa increasingly recognize that pregnant girls and young mothers have the right to a primary and secondary education, and Tanzania’s government should too,” Neff said. “The World Bank and other donors should not agree to half-baked measures like parallel education options that maintain a discriminatory status quo.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

© Seth Anderson/Flickr

The United States Congress is considering a bill that would make it easier for many Americans to take out loans and still be able to make ends meet. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans don’t have enough in savings to cover unexpected costs. In an emergency, taking a loan is the only way to pay those bills. Predatory lenders, like those providing payday loans, have filled this gap, often in poor neighborhoods and communities of color. But payday loan interest rates average more than 300 percent and charge large penalties when they aren’t repaid on time.

Borrowers struggling to pay off these loans have told Human Rights Watch they sometimes forego food or delay paying rent and utilities so they can afford their loan payments. Those who can’t pay them off may take out another loan to repay the first. About 80 percent of payday loans are rolled over or renewed, each time with additional fees, leaving some borrowers trapped in a growing cycle of debt.

But the proposed Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act could offer borrowers some relief.

In 2015, Congress passed a law protecting active-duty service members from many forms of predatory lending by capping their interest rates at 36 percent. This ensures military personnel can avoid high fees or interest rates and meet basic needs. Several US states have also implemented interest rate caps to prevent predatory lending, with 16 states and the District of Columbia enforcing caps even under 36 percent while still enabling people to access credit elsewhere.

The Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act would extend the military interest rate caps to all American consumers, ensuring veterans, who were not previously included, and non-service members can also receive the protections provided by a rate cap. Americans could take a loan to cover an emergency, or even everyday expenses, without worrying as much about fees and interest rates that would entangle them in perpetual debt.

Having access to fair credit and avoiding usurious interest rates is vital for many Americans to meet their most basic needs. The government should put regulations in place to ensure people don’t have to choose between paying back loans and putting food on their table. Congress should pass the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A picture taken on December 4, 2018, shows workers at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al-Khor, a city in northeastern Qatar. 

© 2018 David Harding/AFP
(Beirut)—Qatar announced on January 16, 2020 that most migrant workers previously prevented from leaving the country without their employer’s permission, including domestic workers, will no longer need an exit permit, Human Rights Watch said today. While this is an important step forward, the larger kafala (visa sponsorship) system, which facilitates the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers, remains intact.

A September 2018 law abolished the exit permit requirement for most migrant workers. But it did not extend to people who are not covered under the labor law, including government employees and workers in the oil and gas sector, at sea and in territorial waters, in agriculture, in private offices, and domestic workers. A new ministerial decision extends the right to leave the country without prior permission to most of those excluded workers, except those in the military. However, employers can apply for exceptions for a few workers, and domestic workers are required to inform employers that they wish to leave at least 72 hours in advance.

“Qatar has taken an important step to eliminate a tool of control that employers sometimes used to exploit workers and keep them entrapped in abusive situations,” said Rothna Begum, a senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “However, the authorities should ensure that no worker should have to get permission from an employer to exercise their right to leave the country.”

Disappointingly, both Law No. 13 of 2018 and the new Ministerial Decision no. 95 of 2019 still maintain exit visa requirements for some employees. Employers can apply to the authorities to designate up to five percent of their foreign national staff to be required to seek prior consent due to the nature of their work. While this designation does not apply to domestic workers, they are the only workers required to give their employers advance notice.

The official Interior Ministry Twitter accounts in English and Arabic stated on January 16 that domestic workers who leave without advance notice may have to forfeit their paid return travel fare and their financial rights, which could mean a claim to any unpaid wages. They could also face a four-year ban on re-entering Qatar.

The Peninsula, a Qatari online newspaper, cited a senior ministry official saying the same thing. However, in response to inquiries by Human Rights Watch and other international human rights organizations, The Peninsula removed the quote and the official ministry Twitter account removed the tweets later that day.

A government spokesperson told Human Rights Watch by email on January 16 that:

With immediate effect, the measures announced today remove exit permits for all expatriates who are not currently subject to Qatar’s Labor Law—including domestic workers.

In order to protect the rights of both employers and domestic workers, domestic workers must notify employers at least 72 hours prior to their departure in order to protect their rights and ensure that they receive their financial benefits. However, any reports suggesting financial penalties for workers failing to notify their employer are patently false and misinformed.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that requiring domestic workers by law to inform their employer in advance that they plan to leave could lead domestic workers to believe they do in fact require their employer’s permission. This is especially problematic for domestic workers who are in abusive or exploitative situations, or who fear retaliation. It also could create further abuses in which employers could confine domestic workers to the house after receiving notice of their intent to leave or file trumped-up criminal charges against them to prevent their departure.

“Qatari authorities should make sure it is crystal clear that domestic workers will be able leave the country even if they have not informed their employer,” Begum said. “The government should remove this legal requirement altogether because it could create confusion for both employers and domestic workers and leave domestic workers exposed to abuse.” 

Lifting the exit permit requirement addresses one key element of the kafala (sponsorship) system, which ties migrant workers’ visas to their employers, and has enabled abuse and exploitation of workers. Other elements remain, however, including requiring workers to obtain employer permission to leave or change a job. Those who leave before the end of a contract without permission can also be charged with “absconding” and are at risk of arrest and deportation. Other reforms to the kafala system are expected to be rolled out later in January.

Qatar, which is employing thousands of migrant workers to build infrastructure for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has come under increased scrutiny for its treatment of foreign workers since winning the bid to host the tournament. In November, Qatar entered the third and last year of its technical cooperation program with the International Labour Organization (ILO), aimed at extensively reforming migrant workers’ conditions.

However, the reforms introduced over the past three years, while positive, have not gone far enough, and implementation has been uneven, Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch continues to document abuse and exploitation of migrant workers facilitated by the kafala system.

The kafala system exists across the Middle East region in various forms. Following Qatar’s announcement, Saudi Arabia remains the only country to require exit permits for all its migrant workers. In other Middle Eastern countries, however, a migrant worker can still be blocked from leaving the country if a sponsor files a complaint with immigration authorities or if the employer has not cancelled the employee’s residency visa.

International human rights law provides that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” Any restrictions can only be individual, for a legitimate reason, and proportionate—as, for instance, during a criminal investigation.

“With Qatar‘s exit-permit system almost at an end, Saudi Arabia will become the only state in the region to still impose this abusive requirement on its migrant workers,” Begum said. “Qatar, Saudi Arabia and all other Gulf countries should abolish the kafala system and ensure that migrant workers’ visas are not tied to their employers.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

In 2020 you should be watching for… who’s trying to shut down the Internet.

From Caracas to Khartoum, protesters are leveraging the internet to organize online and stand up for their rights offline. In response, in the past year governments in Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of CongoEgypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, IraqSudanMyanmar and Zimbabwe shut down the internet in all or some parts of their countries—perhaps with the hope that doing so would shut off their problems.

Governments are increasingly resorting to shutdowns in times of crisis, arguing they are necessary for public safety or curbing the spread of misinformation. But such sweeping measures are more like collective punishment than a tactical response. When the internet is off, people’s ability to express themselves freely is limited, the economy suffers, journalists struggle to upload photos and videos documenting government overreach and abuse, students are cut off from their lessons, taxes can’t be paid on time, and those needing health care cannot get consistent access.

While you might think authoritarian regimes are the ones turning off the internet, India—the world’s largest democracy—is the global leader in shutdowns. When it blocked access to the internet in Kashmir for months in late 2019, Indian officials justified the action by saying it was necessary to temporarily limit access to the internet during periods of crisis to avoid “permanent loss of life.” Four United Nations special rapporteurs condemned the move, warning that the shutdown in Kashmir was “inconsistent with the norms of necessity and proportionality.” Practically, at least one study, by a researcher at the Stanford Global Digital Policy Incubator, has found that shutdowns are actually counterproductive to deterring violent incidents; it tracked a quadrupling of violence when networks were disrupted as compared to cases where the internet stayed on.

Although governments dictate blackouts, internet service providers are the ones who implement them. Companies frequently justify compliance with these requests as a matter of following local law, suggesting that they risk losing their licenses if they don’t. But providers should heed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the most widely accepted set of rights standards for businesses, and reconsider their blind cooperation. After all, the UN Human Rights Council has unequivocally condemned measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online as a violation of international human rights law.

Authorities often try to justify shutdowns on flimsy legal grounds so it’s no surprise that lawsuits brought by activist lawyers in Sudan, Pakistan and Zimbabwe have successfully challenged blackouts. When confronted with state demands to broadly restrict access, internet service providers should consider filing similar suits themselves. At the very least, they should publish as much information as they can about the measures they impose in the interest of transparency or interpret requests to cause the least intrusive restrictions.

Shutdowns draw headlines, but subtler, equally devastating techniques to manipulate the internet deserve attention, too. Some authorities, such as in Chad, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela, choose to block specific social media or messaging applications or prevent traffic to livestreaming platforms.  Indonesia and Iran throttled internet speeds to a crawl, making manipulation difficult to detect. In Russia, a new “sovereign internet” law, which requires the internet to function without sending data to servers abroad, has laid the foundation for authorities there to require blocking anything from a single message or post to shutting down internet connectivity within the whole of Russia. Iran's National Information Network, a wholly separate internal network, may have allowed it to impose the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth earlier this month.

Even when the internet remains available, there’s a spectrum of overbroad laws and regulations that allow governments to pressure companies to censor the content on the web available to users in their jurisdictions. In China, creators of messaging and browser apps are required to include government filtering in all of their products. Germany’s NetzDG law threatens internet companies with hefty fines if they don’t take down “illegal” material, as defined in 22 provisions ranging widely from defamation of religions, insult of public office to threats of violence. The German approach is now being exported. Thirteen countries including the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, and Venezuela all cite it to justify their own regressive measures. Vietnam passed similar legislation and claims that Facebook now complies with most of its requests to restrict or remove content, although this has been difficult to verify.

Of course, it makes sense for internet companies to exercise vigilance over the content shared on their platforms. There is almost universal consensus in favor of the elimination of images of child pornography from the internet. In the face of public pressure and scrutiny, Facebook has taken steps to respond to attempts to use its platform to manipulate elections in the US and fan the flames of hate and violence in Myanmar. Following mass shootings livestreamed on Facebook Live or Twitch, internet companies and governments have developed policies like the Christchurch Call, encouraging the “elimination” of content deemed problematic in real time before its even uploaded.

But upload filters like these could easily be leveraged for prior restraint with no appeal. Since the definitions of “terrorism” or “extremism” are so vague, there’s a risk that many lawful acts of expression would be taken down before anyone sees them, especially in places like Egypt or Thailand, where repressive governments quell dissent by labelling and prosecuting their opponents as “terrorists” or purveyors of “fake news.”

While governments have had success getting material removed from the internet, individuals still struggle to have their requests resolved. Women and girls seeking removal of non-consensually shared intimate images, or looking for relief from online harassment, are especially vulnerable. Ironically, while companies and governments lead the charge in the fight against “extremism,” the largely female victims of harassment are being asked to carry much of the burden for the response themselves.

Organizations such as Access Now, which leads the #KeepItOn campaign, have devoted themselves to challenging blanket shutdowns and shaping conversations around more appropriate regulations. Nuanced approaches to intermediary liability could keep internet companies from censoring too much in an effort to avoid lawsuits. Companies should prioritize developing rights-respecting policies that support the safety of individuals online while protecting and promoting a free internet. Otherwise, they risk becoming tools of governments seeking to quash dissent and peaceful opposition.

In the meantime, there’s a growing cottage industry of products to help circumvent internet blackout restrictions, allowing sophisticated users to get around their governments’ roadblocks. Tools like mesh networks, virtual private networks, and proxies are now an indispensable part of activists’ toolboxes. In the cat-and-mouse game of internet censorship, let’s hope that activists can stay one step ahead of internet censorship, while those who incite hate do not.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Payday loans’ high interest rates and fees can trap borrowers in cycles of debt that are hard to escape. 

© Getty Images

The past year was not a great one for consumers or the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the agency mandated to regulate predatory lenders and abusive debt collectors. The Trump administration and its allies among special interests have worked to weaken the bureau’s rules and enforcement — they’re even challenging the legality of the bureau itself. Americans are left to fend for themselves in an increasingly complex arena of financial services. The result: mounting debt that prevents people from meeting their most basic needs.

Congress created the bureau to protect the public in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. But predatory lenders continue to target the poorest Americans, offering small-dollar, short-term loans at egregious triple-digit interest rates that can trap people in cycles of debt. Payday loans are one form of predatory lending, offering to help people cover expenses until their next paycheck, but it also includes other forms of lending, such as vehicle title and some installment loans. Payday borrowers often are low-income people who have limited access to other forms of credit to cover their basic needs, such as rent or utilities. The average borrower is making about $30,000 and the majority are receiving government benefits.

Most payday loans are less than $400. Nearly half of borrowers take out more than 10 loans a year, and about four out of five loans are rolled over or renewed. With the associated fees and penalties, many borrowers end up paying more in fees than the amount they originally borrowed. 

In 2017, the bureau announced an important set of rules for these small-dollar lenders, often referred to as the “payday rule.” Critical to ending debt traps, the rule required lenders to assess whether borrowers could afford to repay loans before issuing them, among other new protections. It was meant to go into effect in August 2019. 

Payday lenders vehemently opposed the rule, waging a campaign against it. Their offensive included a concerted attempt to influence the Trump administration by soliciting industry contributions to the president’s reelection campaign and hosting a fundraiser with Vice President Mike Pence in Tennessee. Payday lenders held their annual convention at Trump’s National Doral resort, where industry representatives reportedly congratulated themselves for fighting the bureau’s attempts to regulate them. 

The administration acquiesced last year when the newly appointed head of the bureau, Kathy Kraninger, proposed to rescind parts of the payday rule, including the crucial ability-to-repay requirement, and to delay the rule’s implementation. 

The rule, or whatever remains of it, now will take effect in November 2020. According to a payday debt tracker created by a coalition of consumer advocate organizations, the delay in the implementation of the rule has resulted in more than $2 billion in payday fees on loans that otherwise would not have been issued. 

Kraninger also has been criticized for slowing down the pace of enforcement actions against allegedly abusive lenders and debt collectors. There were only 35 actions in 2018 and 2019, compared with 42 in 2016 alone. New investigations dramatically declined. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of August, the bureau had opened only 20 investigations last year, as opposed to 70 in 2016 and 63 in 2017. Industry experts said the bureau also took a softer approach to the penalties it sought from companies in settlements. 

Perhaps the most ominous development is that subjects of enforcement actions are arguing that the bureau is unconstitutional and questioning whether it should continue to exist. In October, one of those cases reached the Supreme Court. At the heart of the case is whether the bureau can be led by a single director, who can be removed only by the president “for cause,” in contrast to other “independent” agencies led by multiple members. This provision was meant to preserve the bureau’s independence.

Previously, the bureau defended its mandate and structure, but under Kraninger, the bureau has refused to defend itself, contending that the single-director structure is unconstitutional. This bizarre situation, in which the bureau sided with its most implacable critics, led the Supreme Court to appoint a former solicitor general to defend it because its own management would not. The case will be heard in March.

The bureau should return to fulfilling its mandate of protecting American consumers. It should reinstate all parts of the payday rule and put it into effect immediately. Congress should fight back against the attack on this bureau and, in fact, should be doing more to extend consumer protections, such as limiting excessive interest rates, to all Americans. Consumer protections are a critical element in protecting the human rights of those who seek access to fair credit that will not result in endless cycles of fees and debt.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

In the often impenetrable world of fashion, transparency is finally en vogue. Over the past three years, clothing and footwear brands are finally lifting the veil on which factories make their products. Sustainability-minded holiday shoppers can now see which brands are taking this important step toward protecting the rights and lives of garment workers and which are holding out.

This trend hasn’t come soon enough for workers and their advocates. In late 2013, I spent weeks interviewing garment workers in Cambodia facing forced overtime, harassment, retaliation against union organizers and other abuses. Among other things, I returned home determined to increase transparency in the garment industry. I knew that as long as companies continued to hide the names, addresses and other information about the factories that make their branded products, worker safety would be at risk.

Transparency about factory information helps workers. It makes it easier for workers and their advocates to determine which brands are responsible for helping them when labor abuses remain unresolved, or more important, how to prevent such abuses.

When fashion brands and retailers don’t publicly share names and street addresses of their supplier factories, it impedes the ability of workers to fight back against labor abuses. I’ve heard the painful stories of pregnant workers who said factory managers unjustly fired them for being “unproductive” and forcing workers to work long hours, threatening that they would be fired if they refused. It was impossible for them to figure out which brand to alert, because finding information proved elusive. In the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted across Asia, many garment workers recounted harrowing experiences like these.

Corporate recognition for transparency has been slow. Back in 2005, Nike responded to pressure from U.S. university students’ campaigns and published its factories list. Adidas, Levi Strauss and Patagonia joined soon thereafter. About a decade later, only about 20 more companies were on board.

Meanwhile, multiple disasters struck the garment industry. In an eight-month span between 2012 and 2013, garment factories in Pakistan and Bangladesh burned down. The Rana Plaza building housing six garment factories collapsed in Bangladesh. About 1,500 workers died in these tragedies and hundreds more were injured.

Activists described rummaging through the rubble to painstakingly piece together information about whose products were made there, since such identifying information hadn’t been made publicly available. Without these desperate efforts, it would have been impossible to create compensation funds for families of workers who died and those who survived, or to push forward new oversight on fire and building safety in Bangladesh.

Transparency isn’t a panacea. A brand’s transparency about its sources doesn’t miraculously make the factory safer or ensure that workers earn a living wage. But it’s a step toward accountability and an important building block for decent working conditions.

In 2016, Human Rights Watch formed a coalition with eight other organizations and global unions to make supply chain transparency a norm in the industry. We developed a standard called the “Transparency Pledge.”

Over the last three years, the industry response has been huge thanks to consumer demand for accountability. In 2017, 17 companies committed to align with the Transparency Pledge. In 2019, the number more than doubled. Numerous other companies have published their supplier factory information after hearing from our coalition. Most recently, Amazon began its long-overdue journey toward transparency by disclosing information about factories for its branded products.

The progress is encouraging, but thousands of brands and retailers still hide this vital sourcing data from the public. Meanwhile, working conditions remain dangerous for garment workers across many parts of the world. In the case of factory disasters and other labor abuses, brands that are not transparent can quietly avoid responsibility if their labels are not traced.

Consumers have helped us usher in this new trend toward transparency, and this holiday season, they can help us with the unfinished work starting by checking the status of their favorite brands. We’re confident that shoppers will show companies that claim to care about workers without walking the walk that accountability isn’t a fad.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am


Surge in Garment Industry Transparency

Laws Needed to Ensure Companies Adopt Human Rights Practices

(New York) – Clothing and footwear brands and retailers have dramatically increased their disclosure of information about their supply chains in the past three years, a coalition of unions, human rights groups, and labor rights advocates said in a joint report released today. In 2016, the coalition created the Transparency Pledge, a minimum standard of supply chain transparency that enables advocates, workers, and consumers to find out where a brand’s products are made.

The 15-page report, “Fashion’s Next Trend: Accelerating Supply Chain Transparency in the Apparel and Footwear Industry,” describes how dozens of brands and retailers are publicly disclosing information about their supplier factories. This has become a widely accepted step toward better identifying and addressing labor abuses in garment supply chains.

“Transparency is not a panacea for labor rights abuses but is critical for a business that describes itself as ethical and sustainable,” said Aruna Kashyap, senior women’s rights counsel at Human Rights Watch. “All brands should adopt supply chain transparency, but ultimately laws are needed that require transparency and enforce critical human rights practices.”

Thirty-nine companies have thus far aligned or committed to aligning with the Transparency Pledge standard – 22 of them are among the 72 companies that the coalition began engaging with in 2016. Of the 74 companies the coalition ultimately contacted, 31 fell short of the pledge standard and 21 would not publicly disclose relevant information.

Supplier transparency is a powerful tool that promotes corporate accountability for garment workers’ rights in global supply chains. It is proof that a company knows where its products are made and also allows workers and labor and human rights advocates to alert the company to rights abuses in supplier factories. Information about brands’ supplier factories can help workers gain faster access to redress for human rights abuses.

Voluntary corporate action is limited, the coalition said. More effective would be the passage of national laws that require companies to conduct human rights due diligence in their supply chains, including public disclosure of at least the factories they are using.  

Since mid-2018, the coalition has also engaged with seven Responsible Business Initiatives (RBIs) – groups of companies and others seeking to drive ethical business practices by their corporate members to promote supply chain transparency through their policies and actions.

Transparency among corporate members of RBIs varies significantly, the coalition said. By not mandating public disclosure of supplier factories by all their members, these initiatives reinforce the status quo in the industry. The coalition urged RBIs to play a leadership role by requiring companies, as a condition of membership, to publicly disclose information about their supply chains by January 2020, at minimum, in alignment with the Transparency Pledge standard. 

“Responsible Business Initiatives should stop making excuses for companies that want to continue to keep their supply chains opaque,” said Christie Miedema, campaigns coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign. “They should instead follow the lead of the front runners among their members and make transparency a membership requirement to give workers and activists access to the information they need to help address workplace abuses.”

The United States-based Fair Labor Association, an RBI, has taken significant steps to drive supply chain transparency among its members. In November, it announced a requirement that all of its member brands and retailers must publicly disclose supply chain information, aligned with the Transparency Pledge standard, and make the information available in accessible open data formats by March 31, 2022. The Fair Labor Association estimates over 50 brands and retailers will be required to follow this new policy and, from April 2022, may be subject to a special board review if they do not comply.

Many global brands and retailers continue to resist publishing the names, street addresses, and other details of the supplier factories that make their branded products.

© 2019 Mengxin Lin for Human Rights Watch
The Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textiles (AGT) has not made supply chain transparency of individual members a condition of membership but requires its members to disclose information about their supplier factories to the AGT secretariat that is made public in aggregate form through the Open Apparel Registry. The Open Apparel Registry is an easily accessible and searchable database that provides information about factories’ affiliation to brands and RBIs.

The United Kingdom Ethical Trading Initiative and the Fair Wear Foundation have taken incremental steps to improve supply chain transparency of their members. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, amfori, and the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles have not taken measures to link supply chain transparency to its membership requirements.

“Governments have an important role in adopting legislation requiring companies to conduct human rights due diligence in their global supply chains and being transparent about where their products are being made,” said Bob Jeffcott, policy analyst at the Maquila Solidarity Network. “Such legislation is key to creating a level playing field among businesses and in protecting the rights of workers in their supply chains.” 

For more information about the 74 companies that the coalition has reached out to since 2016, and other companies that have either disclosed or made new commitments, see Annex II. A snapshot is provided below:

As of late November 2019, of the 74 companies that the coalition contacted since 2016:

  • 22 companies are either fully aligned or committed to aligning with the Transparency Pledge standard. These are: adidas, ASICS, ASOS, Benetton, C&A, Clarks, Cotton On, Esprit, G-Star RAW, H&M, Hanesbrands, Levi Strauss, Lindex, Mountain Equipment Co-op, New Balance, New Look, Next, Nike, Patagonia, Pentland Brands, PVH Corporation, and VF Corporation. 31 companies committed to publishing or publishing at least the names and street addresses of their supplier factories, but still fell short of the pledge standard. These are: ALDI North, ALDI South, Amazon, Arcadia Group, Bestseller, Coles, Columbia, Debenhams, Disney, Fast Retailing, Gap, Hudson’s Bay Company, Hugo Boss, John Lewis, Kmart Australia, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Matalan, Mizuno, Morrisons, Primark, Puma, Rip Curl, Sainsbury, Shop Direct, Target Australia, Target USA, Tchibo, Tesco, Under Armour, Woolworths, and Zalando.
  • 18 companies have yet to publicly disclose supply chain information. These include: American Eagle Outfitters, Armani, Canadian Tire, Carrefour, Carter’s, Decathlon, Dicks’ Sporting Goods, Foot Locker, Forever 21, Inditex, KiK, Mango, Ralph Lauren, River Island, Sports Direct, The Children’s Place, Urban Outfitters, and Walmart. Two companies –Abercrombie & Fitch and Loblaws – disclosed factory name and country only, without providing the street address. Desigual has committed to publishing factory names by country in 2020.

In addition, as of late November 2019, 17 other companies that are not among the 74 counted above are already publishing their supplier factories list in full alignment with the Transparency Pledge standard or have committed to do so by 2020. These are: Alchemist, Dare to Be, Eileen Fisher, Fanatics, Fruit of the Loom, HEMA, KappAhl, Kings of Indigo, Kontoor Brands, Kuyichi, Lacoste, Lululemon Athletica, Okimono, Schijvens, Toms, We Fashion, and Zeeman. Gildan has begun disclosing and just falls short of the pledge standard.


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Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am