The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is an “intergovernmental body within the United Nations (UN) system made up of 47 states responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.” While the UN has adopted the broad goal of addressing human rights in the UN Charter, UNHRC serves as the main forum for dialogue and intergovernmental cooperation on a variety of human rights issues. The Council was established through the UN’s adoption of Resolution A/RES/60/251 and is tasked with the responsibility of addressing and making recommendations concerning particular human rights violations.
Topic A: Human Rights in the Textile Industry
The rate of clothing production has increased over the past decade to accommodate global demand for cheap and on-trend clothing. At the same time, conditions for garment workers have not improved. Often, large garment corporations pay laborers poverty wages. Poverty wages are commonly defined as a payment of less than USD 1.90 a day but can change depending on the cost of basic needs within a country. Even those who are paid more than this, such as Los Angeles factory workers, are still not paid enough to survive. Those that live off this paltry sum often borrow money to fulfill their family’s needs and sink into debt. In addition to low wages, garment workers are exposed to hazards. Workers cannot access adequate safety equipment, such as gloves and masks, to protect them against harmful dyes and chemicals. Additionally, they rarely receive breaks or time off and are vulnerable to abuse and discrimination. Further, workers often have no protections against workplace harassment, and when it occurs, they have no recourse. There have also been some instances of modern slavery and forcible employment. Vulnerable members of society may be coerced into contracts in the industry or simply forced to work. Furthermore, many of the world’s production centers are in lower-income countries. In these areas, the negative impacts of the garment industry are multiplied by preexisting poverty levels and resource scarcity. As the UN pursues sustainable development goals such as zero poverty, responsible production, gender equality, and decent work, it must improve conditions for the workers. The HRC is responsible for protecting garment workers’ rights and holding businesses accountable for their harmful business practices.
Topic B: Promotion and Protection of Human Rights on the Internet
The past few decades have witnessed the explosive growth of digital technologies in our daily lives. The COVID-19 pandemic made this even more apparent, as many activities were forced online during periods of quarantine. The increasing reliance on the internet has made protecting our digital human rights more important than ever. In fact, NGOs and even some countries have advocated for making access to the internet a human right. Without the internet, it is often impossible to fully participate in government. Digital tools also accelerate and promote the progress towards the completion of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, countries are also interested in controlling the internet, sometimes in ways that may violate the right to free expression. There are also new concerns about safety on the internet, such as privacy issues, surveillance technologies, and online harassment. In this debate, the UNHRC will work to help laws and regulations catch up with modern technology. Delegates must develop a clear framework for internet use that both respects free speech and protects the most vulnerable people.