In its report of 9 December 2010, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) had observed serious failures to implement the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which resulted in the withdrawal of benefits arising from additional tariff preferences for SriLanka to trade with the EU.
There are three main variants (arrangements) of the GSP Scheme:
* the standard/general GSP arrangement, which offers generous tariff reductions to developing countries. Practically, this means partial or entire removal of tariffs on two thirds of all product categories.
* the “GSP+” enhanced preferences mean full removal of tariffs on essentially the same product categories as those covered by the general arrangement. These are granted to countries which ratify and implement core international conventions relating to human and labour rights, environment and good governance;
* ” Everything but Arms (EBA) arrangement for least developed countries (LDCs), which grants duty-free quota-free access to all products, except for arms and ammunitions.
Applying for GSP+ and implementing these covenants has a twofold impact on SriLanka. First is that GSP+ supports developing countries to assume the special burdens and responsibilities resulting from the ratification of 27 core international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental protection and good governance, as well as from their effective implementation and therefore drives better governance and protection for our people. The other impact is for businesses where the special tariff preferences will increase trade with the EU and bring economic prosperity to our people. Only shortsighted people would like to think that there’s no benefit accruing to a developing country like ours with an awful track record on human and labour rights, environment protection and good governance.
Because of the monitoring process for compliance with the core conventions more indirect benefits will accrue to our people, due to-
* Sri Lanka having to strengthen the national institutions for tackling human rights, labour rights, environmental protection and good governance;
* Further action required to effectively implement the international conventions covered by the GSP+ arrangement;
* Building capacity and technical expertise to improve reporting to international monitoring bodies, including various UN agencies, such as the ILO.
Some benefits that are listed in the Report on assessment of the application for GSP+ by Sri Lanka prepared by the EC staff, are already having some impact on governance, for example:
* The 19th Constitutional amendment which reinstated the Constitutional Council as a guarantee of the independent appointments to key institutions, such as the Human Rights Commission, the Attorney-General, the Inspector General of the Police etc.
* Initiating a Constitutional reform process which should offer the opportunity to address structural deficiencies that contributed to human rights violations.
* The government has started a legislative process to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act and is making good progress in releasing persons detained under it.
* The President and the Commanders of the armed forces have issued instructions to security personel to ensure that the fundamental rights of persons arrested or detained are respected and that such persons are treated humanely, as well as that strict actions will be taken against human rights violations.
* Several legislative processes are underway to improve the rights of women and children, for example, with regard to discrimination, domestic violence, the minimum age of marriage, marital rape, sexual exploitation and hazardous work.
* In September 2015 Sri Lanka decided to co-sponsor the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” and is taking steps to implement it.
The monitoring process under the GSP+ will definitely ensure that our government and its agencies pay due respect to good Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights, to improve the lives of all Sri Lankans. Therefore, GSP+ will result in SriLanka losing its title as a ‘banana republic’ and joining the civilized world!