The visiting European Union (EU) delegation has recommended that Bangladesh step up its efforts to ensure that its policies and practices are aligned with International Labour Organization’s (ILO) standards.
The monitoring mission stressed the need to fully implement the National Action Plan on the labour sector, particularly guaranteeing freedom of association, collective bargaining, and an inclusive and representative participation of labour unions through tripartite consultation.
The EU officials welcomed progress made on safety standards in the garment sector and noted some positive steps towards improving economic and social rights.
“Challenges, however, remain in both labour and human rights,” said the EU team in a statement.
On the human rights front, more efforts are needed to comply with the core EBA conventions, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), safeguarding the freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to peaceful assembly, and creating an enabling environment for the civil society to carry out its activities, it said.
The EU encouraged Bangladesh to accept and implement the recommendations of the 2023 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council in this regard.
The EU monitoring mission is in Dhaka to assess Bangladesh’s compliance with its commitments under the “Everything but Arms” (EBA) trade arrangement.
The EBA arrangement offers duty-free and quota-free access for least developed countries that respect the core conventions on human and labour rights to the European market.
Bangladesh is the largest beneficiary of the EBA, with exports to the EU market reaching 24 billion euros in 2022.
The EU delegation is led by Paola Pampaloni, deputy managing director of the European External Action Service, and included European Commission representatives on employment and trade.
The monitoring team met with Bangladesh government officials, civil society representatives, trade unions, ready-made garments brands and the BGMEA.
The mission regretted that the recent amendments of the Bangladesh Labour Act only partially addressed the concerns of the EU and ILO.
The mission welcomed the commitment by the government to swiftly introduce further amendments of the Bangladesh Labour Law towards these objectives.
Noting delays in the agreed timetable under the NAP, the EU team urged the authorities to accelerate the necessary reforms.
Paola Pampaloni said the visit to Bangladesh has provided a valuable opportunity to engage with key stakeholders on the importance of fulfilling the human rights and labour rights that are an intrinsic part of the EBA arrangement.
“We will continue to work closely with the Bangladesh authorities, business, civil society and trade unions to accelerate the necessary reforms,” she said.
The EU will continue the enhanced monitoring process of EBA compliance through the existing bilateral dialogue with the government of Bangladesh and all stakeholders.
The next EU GSP report, which includes a detailed assessment of compliance by Bangladesh with the EBA conditionality, will be published at the end of November.
The EU will take stock of progress on the reforms at the next EU-Bangladesh Joint Commission, which is likely to take place in Spring 2024.