Pakistan has submitted with the European Union an eight-point National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (2021-26) during the review of progress on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus scheme.
The government has approved the action plan, which will not only be a step towards positive image building but it will also improve Pakistan’s position during the review.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the current GSP scheme would be replaced with a new arrangement, which would come into effect in January 2024.
Officials said that the cabinet, in its meeting held on September 28, approved the action plan for presentation to the EU.
At present, the commerce secretary is participating in the GSP Plus review taking place in Brussels.
According to the officials, all political parties should endorse the action plan like the way they supported the National Action Plan on Security to give a positive signal not only to the EU but also to the entire world.
Sources said that the EU Parliament was set to take up a draft of the new GSP scheme. At present, EU member countries are reviewing the draft.
In the cabinet meeting, the Human Rights Division apprised the forum that the Ministry of Human Rights, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had developed Pakistan’s first National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
It is based on the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights. It is a policy document that proposes actions by federal and provincial governments in addition to business entities to meet Pakistan’s commitment to the protection of human rights from the adverse impact of a business activity and create an environment conducive for fostering corporate respect for human rights.
The action plan has been prepared after a two-year nationwide consultative process with stakeholders from the government, civil society, business and academia.
The plan has been structured around 69 proposed actions related to the enactment, strengthening and implementation of legislation, policies, institutions and enforcement mechanisms.
Read EU’s GSP+ review mission due next month
It has eight priority areas which include financial transparency, corruption and human rights standards in public procurement contracts; anti-discrimination, equal opportunity and inclusion; human rights due diligence; labour standards and informal economy; child labour; forced or bonded labour; occupational health and safety; and access to remedy.
It is a five-year plan covering 2021-26 and if approved by the federal cabinet, it will not only be Pakistan’s first such action plan but will also be the first of its kind in South Asia and third in Asia.
The implementation of the action plan will ensure the protection of human rights in business activity, serve as a step towards positive image building of Pakistan and improve Pakistan’s ranking/ position during the forthcoming parleys on the GSP Plus.
The cabinet reviewed a summary titled “National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights”, submitted by the Human Rights Division, and, in principle, approved it.
“We are sensitising EU capitals that both sides are benefitting from the EU GSP Plus scheme not only in terms of enhanced trade, but also in the creation of jobs and promoting rights-based sustainable development,” Pakistan’s Ambassador to Italy Jauhar Saleem said.
Pakistan is using the more equitable market access made available by the GSP Plus facility to create economic opportunities as well as enhance the legal and institutional infrastructure for social development.
Pakistan’s performance on the 27 GSP-linked UN conventions has been that much positive that in the previous review of the scheme, Islamabad’s individual status was not even discussed.
Responding to a question about Pakistan’s prospects to qualify for the new GSP, Ambassador Saleem said that the new scheme had a strong focus on environmental safety and climate change.
“Pakistan has emerged as a champion of global environment protection, so we are optimistic about the new scheme,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2021.
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