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Due Diligence and responsibility in the supply chain WORKSHOP

ASTRA – Anti-trafficking Action in cooperation with the oldest international organization for human rights and the fight against modern slavery and all forms of exploitation, Anti-Slavery International, organized on June 5, 2023, in Belgrade a one-day workshop on the topic Due Diligence and responsibility in the supply chain in the context of combating human trafficking and labor exploitation.

In the last few years, the number of foreign workers exploited on the territory of Serbia has been increasing. These are mainly citizens of Middle and Far East countries who arrive in Serbia attracted by promises of earnings many times higher than they can earn in their country of origin. Intensive globalization, the creation of the so-called supply chains at the international level, opens up space for a series of abuses of workers’ rights, from non-payment of wages to gross violations of human rights, such as human trafficking, placing workers in slavery or slavery-like positions, selling and exploiting children, all of which are against the legislation of the Republic of Serbia, as well as international standards.

There is a noticeable tendency in developed countries to introduce a legislative framework primarily focused on companies’ due diligence in their supply chain and subcontracting companies with the aim of protecting workers. Therefore, at the level of the European Union, there is a current initiative to prevent the violation of human rights and the rights of workers in the supply chain, so last year, the European Parliament and the Council adopted the Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence and amending Directive (EU) 2019/1937, which aims to encourage sustainable and responsible corporate behaviour across global supply and value chains.

The Republic of Serbia, on its way to joining the EU and harmonizing its legislation with EU regulations, at a certain point expects the adoption of an appropriate legal framework, which should follow the (final version) of the Directive mentioned above.

We used this moment to bring the topic of human rights protection and corporate responsibility in the supply chain, with a special focus on the prevention of human trafficking and labor exploitation, to interested actors in the field of labor and social rights, migration, the fight against human trafficking and labor exploitation. The workshop was attended by 22 representatives of the Office for the Coordination of Activities in the Fight against Human Trafficking at the Ministry of the Interior, the Center for the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking, the Ministry of Internal and External Trade (market inspection sector), the National Employment Service, the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, the Union of Employers, the United Branch Trade Union “Nezavisnost”, the Trade Union of Construction Workers and IGM Belgrade, the Institute for Comparative Law, civil society organizations such as NGO Atina, A11, Roza – Women’s Labor Rights, Freedom has no price, as well as representatives of the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina and lawyers. The concept of forced labor in the private sector was presented as an overview of the history of the attempts to establish a connection between business and human rights (e.g. OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights). Also, an overview of current laws on corporate responsibility in the EU presented mentioned the EU Directive on due diligence: why it is essential and what its implementation brings in practice, whether there are shortcomings in the Directive itself that should be paid attention to, what is the role of different actors in this area. Experts from the Anti-Slavery organization presented their work and experience in this area, good practices and challenges they faced.

The workshop was organized within the project “Labor Rights for All” which ASTRA is implementing with the support of the Open Society Foundation, Serbia.

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