“How the UAE local laws meet international UN Conventions to protect the rights of workers and society at large “.

EXPO 2020 UAE, the leading international mega event is going to be started on October 1st, 2021. Since Sustainability, Environment, human rights, labor rights and governance [ ESG] are one of the most important topics of our times both at public and private levels, so we have tried to analyze the Supplier Code of Conduct in the context of UAE national laws and the relevant international treaties and conventions approved by United Nation and how it better protect the rights of workers and society at large.

 

EXPO 2020 SUPPLIER CODE OF CONDUCT.

How the UAE local laws meet international UN Conventions to protect the rights of workers.

Expo 2020 has been the most awaited mega International Event that has been hosted by the UAE

for this term. The Expo celebrates human brilliance and achievement with the involvement of

190 countries and millions of visitors. It is an opportunity to bring people from different parts of

the world together. UAE has been a nation that welcomes sustainability and technological

development for the betterment of the economy and its people. A major step for doing that is by

ensuring that the Expo is inclusive and accommodating to all kinds of people.

 

The Expo 2020‟s theme is „Connecting Minds, Creating the Future‟ by allowing people to

experience the best of art, geography, science, technology and culture in real time. This involves

the exchange of information, technology and labour from all parts of the world. Thus, it is

essential that all the functions before, during and after the Expo correspond to the highest form

of values and integrity. The UAE has ensured that by protecting the parties involved within the

transactions. Since suppliers to the Expo are from various countries, it was vital to lay down

rules to protect their interests

 

This was well-achieved by the UAE as it laid down the Expo 2020’s Supplier Code of Conduct

(“Code”) that ensured the rights and duties of the Suppliers of Bureau Expo Dubai 2020 are

promoted and protected. The Code of Conduct has laid down specific clauses that centre on the

protection of the working rights and safety of the people who.

 

The definition of a supplier has been laid down within Clause 2.1.1 of the Code, as any external

that provides the required materials, goods and services/ works and covering the entity‟s parent,

subsidiary, agents, representatives and principal and other business that is inclusive of the trade

names, and other practices and materials from all over the world for the Expo.

 

Elements such as Human Rights, Ethics and Morals, Environmental Policy, Safety and Security

have been covered within the Code. The main objective of the Code is to offer protection to the

workers as under Clause 3.17.

 

1: The above-mentioned elements are a part of major International Law Principles in consonance to

the standards met by the local laws which have been further elaborated below:

 

  • Human Rights:

 

Human Rights are enshrined within Clause 3.1. of the Code, it states that all workers deserve a

fair and ethical work environment and must be treated with dignity at all times. The Supplier

must uphold and maintain human rights standards while working and lay down a mechanism for

reporting any violations (anonymously as well).

 

The UAE is a party to various international standards such as the UN to which it became an

official party on 9th December 1971 and the Code is established keeping in mind the

Conventions of the same. One of the piece of legislation, The Arab Charter on Human Rights

(ACHR), adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States on 22 May 2004, affirming the

UN Charter principles alongside Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

(“UDHR”) also support the implementation of the provisions contained in the code. The UAE

labor law has laid down the Federal Law no. (8) of 1980, that is regarding the organization of

labor relations, which talks exclusively about workers and labourers in general. The UAE has

established an authority that aims to protect the human rights of women, children, laborers, the

elderly and people of determination.

 

It has become possible only with the aid of newer methods of implementation by the UAE

government. The Federal Law No. 12 of 2021 that was adopted on August 31st of 2021 has

given birth to the National Human Rights Authority/Institution (“NHRA/ NHRI”). The UAE

has ensured that protection of human rights on the regional and international level is its priority.

The creation and implementation of the NHRA is a part of UAE‟s plan to develop networks,

individuals and institutions all over the world that would reach the objective of ensuring that the

vulnerable sections of the society are empowered and are treated with integrity.

 

The Authority is established under Article 2 of Federal Law No. 12 of 2021 as an independent

body and is granted discretion as well as financial and administrative autonomy in order to carry

out its functions as per Article 3 of the Law. The NHRI has its headquarters in Abu Dhabi with

additional branches set to open in other emirates as well. According to Article 4 of the Law, the

NHRI aims to promote and protect the rights and fundamental freedoms that are within the

Constitution of UAE. This Institution not only aims to develop a national plan to protect and

 

2: promote human rights but also aims to recommend a suitable mechanism for its easy

implementation.

 

The core principles enshrined within the law are according to the Paris Principles adopted by the

United Nations General Assembly. Chapter Seven of the Paris Convention requires the States

to establish a framework such as the NHRI, the UAE is a member to the Paris Convention and

has aimed to embody its 1993 Paris Principles by the formation of this mechanism. This new

Initiative by the UAE government will aid in creating awareness among the people of their

human rights through campaigns and public education. This is also a testament to the National

Strategy of UAE to join the best countries to support human rights.

 

  • Anti- Trafficking and No Forced Labour

Another important check as per Clause 3.2. of the Code is that the suppliers for the Expo work

voluntarily and are not subject to trafficking or are slaves or other types of indentured labour.

This is usually verified by checking the workers‟ document of identification. It is important that

these documents should not be confiscated and the workers must be free of any kind of

restriction by their employers.

 

There are various domestic legislations that are created to combat and criminalize forced crimes

such as Labour and Human-trafficking. The UAE has established it by the application of Federal

Law No. 51 of 2006 and its amendments in Federal Law No. 1 of 2015 which has

criminalized sex trafficking and labour trafficking and hence these need to be complied with

in accordance with the code. There are two International Labour Organisation (“ILO”)

Conventions that focus on the abolition of indentured labour and Anti- Trafficking in

persons/workers: Forced Labour Convention, 1930 which was the first of its kind to come into

force combating issues such as forced labour and unlawful trafficking and the UAE ratified this

convention in 27 May 1982. The second alongside many others is the Abolition of Forced Labor

Convention, 1957, mainly Article 1 and 2 which call each member state which ratifies the

convention to abolish forced labour as well as undertake effective measures to secure the

immediate and complete abolition of the same. The UAE ratified the convention on 24 Feb 1997

as per the ILO‟s official website.

 

  • No Child Labour

 

3: Children are assets to the future of the nation and the UAE prohibits the employment of any

underage workers/ minors (where minors are defined as those who have not reached 16 years of age). There are provisions within the UAE Labour law that aim to protect children from work

that would endanger their health, physical, mental, spiritual, moral, social, education, safety, or

morals and ensure personal growth.

 

The core principles from the UN standards have been enshrined within the Labour Law from

Article 22 to 26, and have been incorporated within the Code. These articles lay down the

procedures and steps that the Employer must take in case of employing a juvenile, there must be

a special register for the juveniles and must be protected from jobs that are hazardous. Article 25

states the maximum number of hours of work must be six hours per day and not more, this

establishes that they must be given proper work hours. This is in consonance with the Palermo

Protocol which the UAE ratified in 2009, the three UN protocols that were adopted by the

United Nations to supplement the 2000 Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the

Palermo Convention) of which the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in

Persons, especially Women and Children which is intended to prevent and combat such crime

and facilitate international cooperation against it, is applicable. The ILO Conventions; Minimum

Age Convention, 1998 which the UAE ratified on 02 Oct 1998 and the Worst Forms of Child

Labour 2001 which was ratified on 28 Jun 2001 as per the official ILO updates are also complied

with for this provision of the code.

 

  • Right to Work and Treatment of Workers

According to Clause 3.4. of the Code, the suppliers must not discriminate or mistreat the

workers on the basis of any distinguishing characters such as race, age, disability, ethnicity,

gender, pregnancy, marital status, parental status, social status, national origin, political or union

affiliation, religion, sexual orientation. All the operations at the workplace must function in

accordance to the ILO, adhering with Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

  • Safety and Hygiene

It is vital that the supplier ensures that the workers work in a safe and healthy environment that

would include good temperatures, noise levels, clean and hygienic washrooms, sufficient

lighting, and adequate ventilation. Clause 3.6. of the Code clarifies all the measures for

appropriate workplace training for safety and health. It includes that every incident at the

workplace must be reported and investigated appropriately and precautionary methods must be

 

4: taken up proactively. All kinds of emergency plans, response procedures must be developed and

implemented.

 

Chapter V under which Articles 91 to 100 of the UAE Labour Law lays down in detail, the

safety and protection of the employees, which is an extension of the international standards and

the protection given under the Code.

 

  • Remuneration

 

Remuneration is an essential part of the code, Clause 3.7. lays down that the suppliers shall

ensure that the wages must be met at the minimum legal or collective agreement bargain. It must

meet the basic needs of the worker and their family and other reasonable needs. Deductions of

any sort must not be made for disciplinary issues or other reasons not given in the applicable

regulations.

 

The Equal Remuneration Convention, 1997 and Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, 1919 of

the ILO has been ratified by the UAE as a step towards the overall protection of the employees.

The UAE has included specific provisions within the UAE Labour Law under Section 4 on the

rules for remuneration and it is provided not only to protect the workers from exploitation but

also to ensure that they are remunerated according to the skill they possess. It is important that

the wages they are paid must be in accordance with the pay given by the competitors in the

market.”

 

The UAE Ministry of Labour has also established the Wage Protection System (“WPS”) of

2009, which has amended Federal Law No. (1) for 1972 and Federal Law No. (8) for 1980.

 

Article 55 to 57 lays down that remuneration must be paid lawfully and on a yearly or monthly

basis and the method followed for any other form of payments which is equivalent to Article 1

of the WPS. Article 3 of the WPS had also iterated the periods in which the salaries must be

transferred. The workers are well protected as their settlements are made only with written

records and anything contrary to that agreement is null and void according to Article 58. The

workers are not restricted in any sense by the employer, especially in the case of purchasing

commodities such as food and groceries. The workers are also protected by safeguards under

Article 60 and 61 which entails the exceptional cases where deduction in the wages can be made

such as fines, debts and advances. The Code also iterates that these elements fall within its ambit

and are vital for safeguarding the interests of the workers. The WPS also ensures that there exists

 

5: A mechanism and process to follow if the employers have been found violating their duties and

not transferring the salary or not submitting the statement as mentioned in Article 5 of the WPS

within a month of the salary due date, then the work permit would be suspended. Another

protection given is under Article 63 wherein only the Minister of Labour and the Social Affairs

set up the minimum salary and the cost of living allowances that is payable for a particular

profession.

 

  • Anti-Discrimination/ Legal Right to Work

 

Ensuring that any and all rights remain with the workers with complete absence of any form of

discrimination is crucial in any workplace more so in an international exhibition involving

laborers from around the globe. Clause 3.4 discusses in its entirety the practices of a supplier

which would be regarded as discriminate. It prohibits the Supplier from discriminating any

worker on the basis of race, age, disability, ethnicity, gender, pregnancy, marital status, parental

status, social status, national origin and so on and clarifies the need to hire workers on the basis

of their mandatory documents being available including their work permits being timely

obtained.

 

The Federal Decree Law No.2 of 2015 on Combating Discrimination and Hatred Article 6 and 7

in specific which aims to protect all UAE citizens raising social and labour security to higher

standard is enshrined within the code. In accordance to the Article 25 of the Constitution of

UAE, it provides that all persons are equal before the law without discrimination between the

citizens in regard to race, nationality, religious belief or social status. The ILO convention on

Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) also explicitly lays

down discrimination in regards to employment and the UAE having ratified the convention in

2001 made its provisions applicable to the code.

 

  • Environmental Sustainability/Awareness

 

A significant addition of the code is its incorporation of the essential need to have all the

standard routine measures being compliant with the environmental needs. Clause 3.11 of the

code clarifies that a Supplier is to conduct its operations in a way that minimizes the impact on

the environment, its customers, and Workers and shall make every effort to reduce water, energy

and natural resource consumption. Clause 3.11.6 sets out that a “Supplier shall ensure that its

operations comply with local laws related to air emissions, water consumption, toxic substances

and hazardous waste disposal.”

 

6: The primary legislation for environmental protection in the UAE is Federal Law No. 24 of 1999

for the protection and development of the environment (Environmental Law) which the code

explicitly states to be followed and complied with. The UAE also ratified the United Nations

Sustainable development goals, the UN SDG 2030 and as per the 17 main Goals, Goal 12;

Responsible Consumption and Production, 13; Climate Action, 14; Life below Water as well as

15; Life on Land all lay implications to the addition of this aspect of the code.

 

  • Intellectual Property

 

There is a wide scope for creation of newer technology, art and literary works, products,

inventions and innovations that must be protected. All the suppliers must ensure that the

Intellectual Property Rights (“IPR”) and Expo-related information provided by and for the

Expo must be protected and respected without any form of breach. In the case that the

Intellectual properties have been developed during the time of the Expo then it would have to be

owned in accordance with the UAE IPR laws. The major IPR laws that the suppliers would be

bound to are Patents and Industrial Design Law No. 44 of 1992, Copyrights and Neighboring

Rights Law No. 40 of 1992 and Trademarks Law No. 37 of 1992. The Federal Law No. 15 of

1980 establishes that all forms of digital assets must be appropriately used and it regulates all

publications and publishing of the same. The UAE has also become a member of the Berne

Convention (Literary and Artistic Works) and its ties with The Agreement on Trade-

Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) has aided in ensuring

global trade ties. The accession to the World Trade Organization has also aided UAE in its

foreign multinational action in the past and future.

 

  • Anti-Corruption and Transparency

 

It is highly crucial to ensure suppliers conduct in an anti-corrupt and transparent way complying

with all the international standards. As per Clause 3.16 of the code, suppliers shall not engage in

any form of corruption i.e., collusion, bribery, extortion, coercion or fraud. Suppliers shall also

operate in accordance with all the domestic and international laws for anti-corruption where they

operate. Clause 3.17 lays down that the Suppliers shall carry out their activities in a way that

facilitates the traceability of their decisions as a preventive measure versus any type of

corruption specified in 3.16. They shall not manipulate workers, documents, make false

misrepresentations or withhold any information regarding the Expo.

 

7

The specific provisions for Anti-Corruption are included in a number of federal and local laws

including the UAE Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 (as amended) (the “Penal Code”); the UAE

Federal Law No. 21 of 2001 concerning Civil Service; the Dubai Government Human Resources

Management Law No. 27 of 2006; and the Abu Dhabi Law No. 1 of 2006 concerning Civil

Service in Abu Dhabi (the three latter laws are also known as “Civil Service Laws”). Other

provisions are also included in various other Federal laws. The UAE has also ratified the United

Nations Convention against Corruption and the code has to comply with its provision.

 

These above articles have clearly laid down the required provisions for ensuring that the

suppliers follow compliance during all their functions. If any of the National Regulations or

other Conventions and Collective Bargaining Agreements governs the same issue, then the

provision of law that would offer greater protection would prevail over the other. This provision

is essential as the Suppliers for Expo 2020 stem from all over the world and it is necessary to

ensure the applicability of International Law within the scope of their functions.

 

By complying with the Code as under Clause 1, the suppliers take upon themselves complete

accountability for their actions for the procurement process and repercussions to not adhering to

the Code. This is a check and balance mechanism with which they can achieve the highest

ethical standards for the duration of the Expo. Therefore the Supplier Code of Conduct has been

laid down in order to provide a workspace that runs with integrity and harmony.

 

Being the first Middle Eastern Country to host the EXPO, The UAE has undoubtedly outlived

the expectations for their efforts in trying to comply with all functions with internationally set

standards. Laying out a crystal clear, basic and easy to grasp set of rules and laws for every

supplier to follow in the form of the Supplier Code alongside various other initiatives, the UAE

has so far done a remarkable job in the planning of this global event. Moreover, to ensure the

Health and Safety to the utmost standards, the COVID-19 safety measures as per the World

Health Organisation (WHO) have been fully implemented and the site‟s safety is ensured with

every given attendee despite the irrefutable reality that a great deal of workers as well as visitors

attend the site on a daily. The UAE and its noteworthy efforts are not only commendable but also

a step in the right direction in accordance with the SDG 2030. The EXPO is set to start on 1st

October 2021 and the execution of every initiative and laid down provision is yet to be seen.

 

Written by ,

Shakeel A. Mian

Managing Partner,

Prudential Middle East Legal Consultants UAE .

Thanks for special cooperation from Zahra Shaikh and Caron Jennifer in research.

Contact – Info@pmealc.com

 

Disclaimer: The above article is written for the general information of the readers and

should not be considered as a formal legal opinion.