An official website of the United States government

U.S. Statements on Contemporary Forms of Slavery / Human Rights and Toxic Waste
September 14, 2011

Human Rights Council 18th Session

Geneva, September 14, 2011


Clustered Interactive Dialogue on the Reports of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences and the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

Delivered by Osman Tat


Thank you Madame President.


The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery for putting a spotlight on a  human rights abuse that has received minimal international attention – the issue of modern slavery involving children in the artisanal mining and quarrying sector. As written in Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,  “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; and slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Children are one of our most precious resources. When they are deprived of their childhood, their health and access to education due to exploitation and abuse, we are stunting not only their development but also the future wellbeing of our countries and the global economy.

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, is one of the more recent international treaties in our toolkit that seeks to combat the compelled service of a person by another as well as promote measures to prevent trafficking and protect the victims. We want to emphasize that in many of these cases, these children would be considered as victims of trafficking and should, therefore, be eligible to receive protection and assistance regardless of whether they crossed an international border. Trafficking is not about movement but rather about the use of means such as force, fraud or coercion over a person for the purpose of exploitation.

We support the recommendation made by Ms. Shahinian, to encourage governments to provide incentives for companies to explore technologies allowing minerals to be traced to their source.

Finally, we welcome some of the best practices that the Special Rapporteur highlighted and would like to know if, during the course of her research and travels, Ms. Shahinian has found an example of a government successfully prosecuting a mining or quarrying company that enslaved its workers.


Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxic Waste


The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur Georgescu for his report.


As noted in the Report, there are a number of international forums actively working to address the negative environmental and human health impacts from improperly managed medical waste, including the Basel Convention.  The United States participates in and contributes to these forums and we strongly support their continued work to address the environmentally sound management of wastes.  We consider an immediate priority to be strengthening the effective implementation of the relevant existing Conventions, which will further the environmentally sound management and disposal of wastes, including medical waste.


Given the number and scope of existing conventions and policy frameworks, we consider the elaboration of a new framework to regulate the sound handling, transport and disposal of hazardous waste generated by hospitals and health-care facilities inappropriate, particularly in this human rights forum.  Among these policy frameworks, we also note the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management or “SAICM” is another forum in which this issue might be further addressed.   SAICM has as its overall objective the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle (including wastes) so that, by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment.  SAICM uniquely brings together governments and the broad range of stakeholders to address chemicals management across a variety of sectors.  We note that some SAICM regional meetings have already discussed medical wastes.


The United States is also actively engaged in the ongoing negotiations to develop a global-legally binding instrument on mercury.  We are committed to concluding a robust instrument that will produce meaningful reductions of mercury pollution.


Thank you, Madame President.