14 May Bangladesh Factory Safety Accord: Watershed Innovation in Global Governance?
Here’s the text of the agreement described in reports in the NY Times and elsewhere today. It’s the most significant institutional response to the massive loss of life (now above a thousand dead) in the April Bangladesh factory collapse.
This may be a signal episode in the continuing evolution of global corporate regulation. Formally styled as the “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh,” the agreement is being executed by trade unions and corporations. It establishes a standing Steering Committee (three seats for unions and corporations each, one for a designee of the International Labour Organization) to police the agreement, which requires companies to undertake the inspection of Bangladesh supplier facilities and remediation as necessary. It also sets up a worker complaint mechanism, with binding arbitration under the New York Convention. NGOs appear to have some participatory standing as “witnesses” to the agreement.
H&M, Tesco, C&A, and Calvin Klein, among others, are on board. There is a midnight May 15 deadline – countdown and latest developments can be found at the UNI Global Union site. There has to be a lot of pressure on the big apparel manufacturers to sign on.
The template: a legal agreement between non-state parties facilitated and nominally hosted by an international organization. No governments involved, at least not as parties to the agreement. If it works, look for more of the same in other contexts. The ILO ‘s profile will surely rise in the face of this episode and the growing global awareness of worker rights issues.