ETI runs a number of initiatives, detailed below, focused on supply chains in conflict-affected and high-risk areas (CAHRA).
How does ETI define CAHRA?
ETI employs the OECD definition of CAHRA:
‘Conflict-affected and high-risk areas are identified by the presence of armed conflict, widespread violence, or other risks of harm to people. Armed conflict may take a variety of forms, such as a conflict of international or non-international character, which may involve two or more states, or may consist of wars of liberation, or insurgencies, civil wars, etc. High-risk areas may include areas of political instability or repression, institutional weakness, insecurity, collapse of civil infrastructure and widespread violence. Such areas are often characterised by widespread human rights abuses and violations of national or international law.’
How do CAHRA affect the work that ETI does with its members?
By their nature, CAHRAs are characterised by widespread human rights abuses. This includes a higher-risk environment for workers and their representatives. As part of ETI’s mission to promote respect for human rights at work, especially for vulnerable groups, we strive to employ a proactive and collective response to emerging areas of conflict or high risk that form part of our member’s supply chains. We do this by supporting our members to apply enhanced HRDD in affected supply chains and harnessing the power of our diverse membership to collect and share information on risks to workers and business.
How does this differ from the role of other organisations responding to CAHRA?
There are likely to be a number of different organisations operating in any given CAHRA from UN agencies to local and international NGOs and trade unions, among others. Each of these entities holds a specific mandate and capabilities that may be appropriate in a CAHRA situation. We already support members in high-risk areas with practical guidance and a role as a convenor to share lessons and good practice. However, in an extreme conflict situation ETI is not able to act as a humanitarian response organisation, nor should it. We do not have the capacity or facilities to conduct local operations in conflict zones. Instead, we can harness the power of a diverse membership of NGOs, trade unions and companies to better understand the increased risks for workers and business, and actions necessary to mitigate, alleviate and remediate human rights risks for workers. Continued employment can provide a lifeline in a high risk or conflict situation, however this work must be in conditions that respect fundamental rights for example as set out in the ETI Base Code.
When and how does ETI take a position in CAHRAs?
For ETI to take a position in CAHRAs, there would need to be a relationship between the country/region/area and our member’s supply chains. Our ability to engage with workers and leverage change is predicated on the presence of our NGO, trade union and or company member presence. Broadly speaking, our position on CAHRAs is that:
Responsible sourcing in areas of crisis demands an enhanced approach to HRDD in line with the UNGPs and a recognition of heightened vulnerabilities for workers and specific groups especially rights defenders
The responsibility of business to respect human rights exists independently of States’ abilities and/or willingness to fulfil their own human rights obligations
In the case of conflict or crisis, businesses need to look at ways to increase their leverage to mitigate risk of human rights abuse and provide effective remediation when needed
Engagement with affected people and their representatives becomes even more crucial during crises as risks are heightened and the potential for misunderstanding is very high.