Our responsibility as consuming countries includes ensuring that everyone in the entire supply chain of a product – for example, a bar of chocolate – has the right to decent work, a living wage and a living income. Only when workers and smallholder farmers in our global supply chains earn a living wage or income can we effectively address major challenges such as poverty, hunger, deforestation, climate change and child labour.
Living incomes and wages go beyond just making ends meet. It means that a family cannot only provide for its food, housing, health care, education, transport and other essentials, but can also build sufficient financial reserves to become resilient to unforeseen circumstances or crises and break the cycle of poverty.
Living incomes and wages thus constitute a fundamental human right, as included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular in Article 23: “Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity.” The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights articulates this right as binding legal obligations.
Unfortunately, still way too many workers and smallholder farmers worldwide are living in poverty due to insufficient incomes and wages.
This is why in January 2021, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development and the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development have signed a Joint Declaration on Living Wage and Living Income. During a High-Level Meeting in Berlin on 21 June 2022, the Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation and Major Cities announced its willingness to join as a third signatory. In September 2022, the Luxembourgish Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs expressed his willingness to sign the Joint Declaration.
Today, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Liesje Schreinemacher, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Svenja Schulze, Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation and Major Cities, Caroline Gennez, and Luxembourgish Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Franz Fayot, are delighted to announce that Luxembourg and Belgium have signed the Joint Declaration on Living Wage and Living Income.
The Joint Declaration proposes a number of concrete actions such as a dialogue between consuming and producing countries with regard to adequate minimum wages and incomes, support for the International Labour Organization (ILO) in order to develop international definitions and indicators, and support for social dialogue, which will empower workers in producing countries. Furthermore, the like-minded countries pledge to work together to put the issue on the agenda of EU regulation and policy.
The four signatories of this Joint Declaration support an ambitious EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDDD) which protects the rights of workers and smallholder farmers in global supply chains. The inclusion of living wages for workers and living incomes for smallholder farmers is a pivotal element for structural changes in our partner countries and must therefore be an integral part of the upcoming EU Directive. Without them secured, there is a risk of a vicious cycle where those already vulnerable are left even further behind. Downstream operators risk pushing the cost of compliance with sustainability due diligence upstream onto those already struggling to make ends meets. This will only exacerbate their vulnerability to human rights abuses and environmental degradation and lead downstream operators to disengage from such risky contexts in a bid to minimize legal risk. Upstream suppliers also need longer-term financial and planning certainty to be able to shoulder the necessary investments into more sustainable practices. Longer term contracts may be part of downstream operators’ smart investment in sustainability throughout their supply chain.
We, the signing Ministers, explicitly welcome the position of the European Parliament from 1st June 2023 in this regard, which proposes to include living incomes for producers and smallholders in the upcoming EU-Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence.
By signing this Joint Declaration, the four like-minded countries underline their commitment to living incomes and wages worldwide. We have a responsibility towards smallholder farmers, producers and workers to ensure they can afford a decent standard of living from their daily labour. Adequate wages, responsible purchasing practices and fair prices that allow for living wages and incomes are a crucial step to break the cycle of poverty in global supply chains.
Press release by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs