September 16, 2019

Worker Protection from Exploitation

Economic and Social Council: United Nations Development Programme

Topic: Worker Protection from Labor Exploitation

While labor exploitation is a broad and often disagreed upon topic, it often involves bad working conditions, excessive hours, poor wages, hazardous conditions, and a lack of respect for labor laws and previously agreed upon contracts. The beginnings of international cooperation related to labor trace back to the end of the First World War, where the Treaty of Versailles established the International Labor Organization on the belief that a lasting peace would only be accomplished with a commitment to social justice. The United Nations Development Programme’s establishment in 1965 reflected a broader philosophy: that developing nations and improving the standard of living was inherent to maintaining peace. Partnerships between the UNDP and the ILO have reflected the inherent connection between the rights of workers and the standard of living, and with a recent backsliding of the protections of workers worldwide, it is imperative that the United Nations Development Programme act against labor exploitation in the modern era.

Worker exploitation is present at all levels of national development. The International Labor Organization estimates that 50 million people are currently subject to forced labor or modern day slavery. The COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of natural disasters due to climate change, and the impact of artificial intelligence and automation on jobs, are just a few factors that have significantly impacted the availability of jobs. In addition, migrants and refugees are susceptible to labor exploitation as their legal status relies on their employment. As a result of all of these factors, the most vulnerable people in society are more likely to accept lower wages and worse working conditions. These issues represent a small portion of issues that the United Nations Development Programme can consider in a resolution addressing worker protection from labor exploitation.

While it is primarily the goal of the International Labor Organization to address existing instances of labor exploitation, the United Nations Development Programme is responsible for establishing standards that promote worker protections as nations develop. Given the broad nature of the topic at hand, delegates must work together to consider what issues within labor exploitation should be prioritized in any resolution written. Each UN member nation faces its own unique labor market, and delegates should consider the factors that impact the country they represent, as well as the needs of other states. The committee should consider what some of the root causes of labor exploitation are, and what sorts of actions governments can take to address these root causes. The committee ought to consider how its actions can encourage the development of nations and aid in the building of better lives across the globe in any resolution written.

Useful Links:

UNDP on Contemporary Slavery

ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights At Work—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/normativeinstrument/wcms_716594.pdf

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