International commitments: ‘Shape up or risk losing GSP Plus status’

‘No effort so far to implement conventions made mandatory by EU’


Amel Ghani June 10, 2015
‘No effort so far to implement conventions made mandatory by EU’. PHOTO: AFP

LAHORE:


Pakistan ratified 27 conventions associated with GSP Plus status decades before it received the status. It should implement those or risk losing the status, PILER Executive Director Karamat Ali said at a conference organised by the Democracy Reporting International on Tuesday.


The conference aimed to develop a coordinated implementation strategy to help Pakistan retain its GSP Plus status. Pakistan received the status on January 1, 2014, for 10 years. It is expected to present a report on the status of compliance of 27 conventions on labour rights, human rights, environment and good governance to the European Union Parliament every 2 years.



“Compliance is not a one-way street. Legislation on the conventions is but one aspect. The second is institutional arrangements for implementation,” Ali said.

An example of this was that there were no figures available of the number of trade unions registered in the country. He said the government was supposed to publish reports on compliance of labour laws, “but we haven’t seen a report on this since the ‘90s”.

HRCP general secretary IA Rehman said Pakistan was expected to start compiling facts and figures for its report in September this year. “Unfortunately, the government has not made any efforts to implement the conventions.”

Rehman said if the government did not start making a sincere effort to implement the conventions, it would risk losing GSP Plus the way Sri Lanka did. “I request the government not to claim 100 per cent compliance in its report…facts on the ground contradict that claim.” He said the government should accept that there have been lapses and work with stakeholders to develop a framework to address the lapses.

Rehman said violation of conventions on environment and human rights – especially death penalty – also needed attention.

Punjab Treaty Implementation Cell Focal Person Mohsin Abbas highlighted the various steps taken by the government to ensure implementation of international treaties and commitments. He said the government had amended certain laws and made new ones to bring policy in compliance with international conventions. He said implementation required joint efforts between industrialists, the business community, civil society organisations and the state.

All Pakistan Textile Manufacturers’ Association representative Amir Fayyaz Sheikh highlighted various steps taken by the textile industry to comply with the conventions. He said the textile sector had been working towards meeting international standards since before the GSP Plus status was granted because most textile factories worked with international brands which audited their units. He said the APTMA was working towards ensuring that the industry recycled its waste and adopted environment-friendly practices.

Sheikh was criticised by various representatives of trade unions for saying that APTMA members complied with international conventions. They said international audits were not a measure of compliance. Ali Garments Factory in Baldia Town, Karachi, had received its SA-8000 certificate 10 days before the building burnt down. They also pointed out that a large number of workers in the textile industry were agricultural workers and home-based workers who were not covered by labour laws.

MPAs Mary Gill and Irfan Daultana also attended the conference.


Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2015. 

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