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Why it pays for cities to fight road deaths – and how they can get better at it

18 April 2017
by Guest author

Alexandre Santacreu, policy analyst for road safety at the International Transport Forum and project manager of the Safer City Streets network. Today’s post is also being published on the ITF blog Transport Policy Matters

Every minute of every day, someone loses their life in a traffic crash on a city street. With  cities growing rapidly and urban motor traffic also increasing dramatically in many cities, the situation is likely to get worse, not better in years to come.

More and more city authorities are realising that dangerous traffic conditions on their streets have a toll that goes beyond the human tragedy and economic loss caused by road   deaths and crash injuries. Dangerous traffic makes people feel unsafe, and people who feel unsafe will refrain from doing normal things – letting their children walk to school or cycling to work, for instance.

Thus, high level of urban road safety is more and more seen as a critical component of a liveable city.  It improves citizens’ quality of life, it increases choices, it opens up opportunities. Ultimately, safer city streets are about enhanced personal freedom.

Safer streets equal more liveable cities

This was recognised in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in 2016. There, governments agreed (in goal number 11) to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” and as part of that committed to “improving road safety,… with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations”.

The link between the different objectives is easy to spot: improving road safety makes cities not only safer, but also more sustainable because it enables people to walk or cycle without having to fear for their lives. It also makes them more inclusive because those who cannot afford cars can be mobile without running lethal risks.

But in practical terms, what can mayors and city authorities do to enhance traffic safety in their city? One obvious answer is: Do not reinvent the wheel – learn from what others are already doing. Many good practices for urban road safety exist around the world and only wait to be copied. A second, maybe less obvious answer is: Get your data in shape. Measure what is happening on your streets and how it changes, so you can base policy decisions on evidence, not assumptions.

When cities learn from each other

These two thoughts are the driving ideas behind Safer City Streets, the global traffic safety network for liveable cities. Little more than six months after its launched in October 2016, a total of 38 cities are working together in the Safer City Streets network, ranging  from Astana in Kazhakstan to Zürich in Switzerland and including global metropolises such as New York City, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, London,  Berlin, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Montreal and many others.

The Safer City Streets network, which holds its first meeting in Paris on 20 and 21 April (with more than 50 participants expected to attend),  provides the first global platform for cities and their road safety experts to exchange experiences and discuss ideas. At the heart of Safer City Streets activity will be efforts to improve the collection of data about urban road crashes to enable cities to compare themselves with others and base policy decisions on reliable evidence. A methodology for the database has already been developed and many of the cities have started feed it in their numbers.

The flying start has been helped by the fact that Safer City Streets itself is building on previous experience: It is modeled on the highly successful International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group (IRTAD), the International Transport Forum’s permanent working group on road safety which brings together countries and national road safety stakeholders. Fittingly, the annual IRTAD meeting is held back-to-back with the inaugural meeting of Safer City Streets – which will also include a joint workshop with POLIS,  a network of European cities and regions, on how to bring cities from both networks together in order to find the best solutions for data collection.

Cities who are interested in finding out more about Safer City Streets are invited to contact the author. They should also know that membership of  Safer City Streets is currently free thanks to a very generous grant from the Fédération International de l’Automobile (FIA).

The Sahel and West Africa had a good agricultural season, so why does food insecurity persist?

11 April 2017
by Guest author

Ousman Tall, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

Every year the identification, analysis and mapping of areas at risk and populations affected by food and nutrition insecurity in the Sahel and West Africa are carried out. Conducted within the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA), this process is co-ordinated by the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS). It analyses country-level information of the 17 countries in the region using a harmonised, common framework called the Cadre harmonisé (CH). The CH analysis is based mainly on annual agricultural production and information from household and market surveys. Developed by West African actors, using international standards, the strength of the CH lies in its broad objectivity, consensual analysis and the incorporation of a wide range of stakeholder analyses.

The 2016-17 agro-pastoral season just ended in the Sahel and West Africa region and the agricultural and food situations are generally satisfactory. The CH analysis shows good rainfall and hydrological situations as well as crops and livestock production. Cereal and tuber production is estimated at 67.2 million metric tonnes and 166.7 metric tonnes constituting 17% and 15% increases compared to the past five year averages, respectively. Despite these gains, approximately 9.6 million people are in a food security crisis situation.  The report published following the March 2017 RPCA Experts’ meeting in Dakar and based on the CH analysis, highlights some of the causes of food and nutrition insecurity to include prices, markets and the conflict along the Lake Chad basin.  Building upon the report, there is a need to further expand on some of the other conjectural factors that affected food and nutrition security during the 2016-17 season.

The global economy has been faced with weak aggregate demand, decreasing commodity prices and high financial market volatility. There is a sharp decline in the prices of commodities such as rubber, crude oil, iron ore and gold that has led to substantial cuts in export values and fiscal revenues in the region. This has led to the depreciation of local currencies in Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone; amid increasing rates of inflation. The Nigerian economy which represents over 65 % of West Africa’s GDP has been particularly affected by the continuous depreciation of the Naira, which has negatively impacted the economy of the region. Nigeria’s population is more than 167 million, representing over half of the total population in the region. With 60% of this population living below the poverty line, a general depreciation of the Naira leads to increased food prices and affects households’ access to food. This was the situation during the 2016-17 agricultural campaign.

The promotion of regional trade and markets in West Africa and the Sahel has helped to stimulate agricultural development and food security. National policies promoting regional integration have also helped to strengthen trade across the region through advocacy for the free movement of goods and services. Integrated markets and trade across the region have led to increased economies of scale in production, especially in the agricultural sector where surpluses produced by smallholder farmers are linked to local and regional markets.  However, regional integration has been hindered by a number of constraints including inefficient transportation and trade barriers along corridors and at borders, resulting in high transaction costs and, inevitably, high food prices.

Rapid urbanisation is also impeding the attainment of food security in the region. In West Africa, it is projected that the urban population will reach 400 million in 2050. The youthful population is migrating to urban areas, leaving behind an ageing farming population in an agrarian economy that is highly labour intensive. The agriculture and food systems have not transformed adequately enough to take advantage of the youthful population migrating into urban areas.  This is becoming a serious social and economic issue for most countries in the region. Unfortunately, information on the nature of the food insecurity situation in urban areas is limited due to the focus of the food security analysis on food availability and other rural indicators.

The RPCA has developed the efficient tools and platform needed for the analysis and discussion of food security in the Sahel and West Africa. The CH has been expanded from its use in the Sahel to gradually incorporate the rest of West Africa. Nigeria is the last country to be incorporated in the CH analysis, with 16 of its 36 States covered. The next challenge is to analyse other structural and conjectural drivers of food and nutrition security from a national and regional perspective in order to better explain why a large number of the population is always food insecure despite good agricultural campaigns. Policy makers need to broaden the food security interventions beyond food availability to include other dimensions of food security: access, utilisation and stability.

Useful links

RPCA Food and Nutrition Situation in the Sahel and West Africa – final communiqué, March 2017

Maps & Facts: Food & Nutrition Situation, March 2017

 

Depression: let’s talk. And act

7 April 2017
by Guest author

Emily Hewlett, OECD Health Division

Winston Churchill famously called it the ‘black dog’. “It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad,” said JK Rowling.  “I don’t want to see anyone. I lie in the bedroom with the curtains drawn and nothingness washing over me like a sluggish wave… I am inadequate and stupid, without worth. I might as well be dead” wrote Margaret Atwood, in Cat’s Eye.

They were talking all about depression.

Across the world, millions of people are struggling with their own black dog. The OECD estimates that one in two people experience a mental illness in their lifetime, and some 20% of the working-age population is experiencing mental ill-health at any given time[i]. According to the WHO, depression is now the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide; globally, more than 300 million people are living with depression[ii]. While some people experience depression only briefly, others find themselves battling the black dog for long periods, or find it returning again and again. And when people are suffering from a mental disorder, it has big consequences across their lives: when people are living with mental ill-health they have poorer educational outcomes and a higher risk of dropping out of school[iii]; they are more likely to be dismissed from work and 2-3 times more likely to be unemployed[iv]; and in serious cases depression can lead to people harming themselves, or even dying from suicide[v].

The good news is that there are some very effective ways to help prevent mental illness and promote mental wellbeing, to treat depression and other disorders, and to support people who are living with mental ill-health. For instance, actions to prevent depression and anxiety can bring life-long economic benefits to mothers and children, while certain workplace interventions could reduce the cost of lost productivity – notably sickness absence and presenteeism – by up to a third[vi]. We know, too, that evidence-based services – like psychological therapies, early intervention approaches, or pharmacological therapies – can facilitate and speed-up recovery from depression. And we know that if employers and workplaces can provide a supportive environment, and thoughtfully facilitate return to work after a sickness absence for depression, then this can be good for the individual’s mental health and good for workplace productivity.

However, places where these effective, evidence-based policies have been rolled out are the exception, not the norm. People with depression too often face unsupportive or disengaged schools or workplaces, find inadequate treatment provision or long-waits to get help, and are still weighed down by a heavy burden of stigma. Today, on World Health Day, policy makers across the world must commit to putting care for depression and mental illness at the centre of their health systems, and their health policy priorities. More needs to be done.

We need better information, to understand what works, and where countries are falling short; at OECD, we are particularly keen to further improve, international benchmarking of data and policies so as to drive improvements across countries. We need innovation to find the effective, novel, adaptable and affordable policies that work, for depression and for all mental disorders. And we need implementation, so that better policies for depression can already start transforming peoples’ lives.

More needs to be done, and we should start today.

Useful links

[i] OECD (2015), Fit Mind, Fit Job: From Evidence to Practice in Mental Health and Work, Mental Health and

Work, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264228283-en

[ii] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/world-health-day/en/

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid

[v] OECD (2015), Health at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/health_glance-2015-en

[vi] OECD (Forthcoming, 2017), Understanding Effective Approaches to Promoting Mental Health and Preventing Mental Illness.

Building tax systems to foster better skills

6 April 2017
by Guest author

Shutterstock

Pascal Saint-Amans, Director, OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration and Andreas Schleicher, Director, OECD Directorate of Education and Skills. Today’s post is also being published on the OECD Education and Skills Today blog

Investing in skills is crucial for fostering inclusive economic growth and creating strong societies. In an increasingly connected world, skills are particularly important for citizens to get the most out of new forms of capital, such as big data and robotics. More and more, policy makers are recognising that rapid change in technologies and work practices mean that people will have to continually upgrade their skills throughout their lives.

This new reality raises many questions for governments, firms and individuals, including: who is to pay for all these skills investments? In many OECD countries, student debt is rising, and in many others, public debts are persistently high. How can policy makers decide on the right financing mix for students and governments?

This is where taxes have an important role to play. In a nutshell, delivering educational services will depend on taxes, and good tax income will depend on good educational services.  A new OECD Tax Policy Study, Taxation and Skills,  released today, highlights the role of the tax system in ensuring that the right financial incentives are provided for investments in skills. This means making sure that governments, individuals and firms all share the costs and the benefits of better skills.

In addition to raising the revenue to finance government spending on skills, every OECD country uses the tax system to provide support for skills investments. Provisions such as tax credits, tax deductions and reduced tax rates on student income help governments support skills investments both early on and later in life. Sharing the costs in this way can make investing in skills more affordable, although these tax provisions need to be well-designed.

Besides helping share costs, the tax system divides the returns to skills between governments and students. When investments in skills yield returns, it means that individuals get higher wages, and governments get more tax revenue.

The results published today show that these returns to skills are substantial. In almost every country examined, both students and governments earn a sound return on skills investments. In some countries, however, policies could be improved to better share the returns to skills between individuals, firms and governments. Rising earnings premiums paid to skilled workers across OECD countries means that the returns to skills may grow into the future. This means better wages for individuals, more profits for firms and more sustainable public finances for governments, a win all around.

In spite of these high returns, many workers do not have the right financial incentives to make the necessary investments in their skills to succeed throughout their lives. Unlike physical assets, like property and equipment, human capital cannot be used as collateral for borrowing to finance investments. This impedes access to credit for individuals’ skills investments. Firms may also underinvest in skills because they worry that newly skilled workers may be poached by competitors. Often, individuals and firms do not have access to the right information to make informed choices about how they can invest in their skills.

Designing tax and spending policies to encourage skills investments is crucial. Useful policy approaches can include refundable tax credits for lifelong learning, income-contingent loans for tertiary education, or extra tax deductions for firms that invest in their workers’ skills.

OECD governments are increasingly looking at how policies can be designed to raise productivity, innovation and growth. We hear a lot about how tax systems can encourage investments in physical capital and innovative technologies through R&D tax credits and other measures. The report released today shows the importance of tax policies that are equally geared towards incentivising investments in human capital.

Useful links

OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration

OECD Directorate of Education and Skills

Timor-Leste: Life beyond oil

5 April 2017
by Guest author

Knut Ostby, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Timor-Leste

The end of the oil era may be coming, but the lights will stay on in Timor Leste. Almost two-thirds of the population are younger than 24, and they are keen for a chance at a better life. With the right mix of inclusive planning, grassroots development and support for a vital private sector, the transition to a non-oil economy may signal bright days ahead for this young nation.

Timor Leste has achieved remarkable progress since restoration of independence in 2002. In terms of stability, the country ranks above average for its cohort in the Human Development Index. As it heads into its fourth round of presidential and parliamentary elections, all signs point to a stable and peaceful process. Average life expectancy has increased by almost a decade, gross national income has nearly quadrupled, and Timorese children now remain in school for over a year longer.

Still, significant challenges remain. Food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty are widespread. Many Timorese lack adequate access to basic social services such as health, education and justice. The oil wealth has not lifted all boats.

Indeed, current oil fields, which generate 90 percent of domestic revenue for Timor Leste, are expected to be depleted in 2021, making economic diversification a matter of priority for the future government. The development of the country is largely funded by domestic public finance; foreign aid accounts for only about five percent of the gross national income. The challenge of accelerating the non-oil economy, and of moving the country towards the Sustainable Development Goals, will top the next government’s agenda.

There are some policy initiatives the new government could pursue from day one.

Investment in infrastructure must continue. But rather than focus exclusively on high-profile projects and main roads, infrastructure investment should prioritize inclusion, by ensuring that local communities throughout the country benefit as both producers and consumers of infrastructure. Work is already ongoing through local development initiatives, such as a UNDP-supported project that engages communities to build and maintain small-scale infrastructure like water supply systems and access roads. Such projects promote sustainability, ownership and awareness of relevant climate change and environmental issues.

Communities also have a greater role to play in making public administration more efficient, responsive and transparent. By decentralizing the provision and management of public services, including with appropriate funding at the municipal and village levels, communities can contribute directly to their own betterment and that of the country at large. With support from UNDP and other partners, the Government has already started its decentralisation programme, which will help focus on improving planning and administration capacity at the municipal and village levels. Expanding options for local e-governance, which can integrate several government agencies into a one-stop shop for service delivery, can further improve transparency and empower local planning and priority-setting.

The development of a healthy private sector is central to the transition to a non-oil economy. Currently, domestic public finance is already the key source of funding for all development activities – but in a post-oil Timor Leste, it is domestic private finance that will need to play a greater role. The government should therefore continue to create conditions for domestic and foreign direct investment. Here are some principles that can help:

  • Focus on human resource development. Access to qualified human capital is at least as important as tax incentives in attracting investment.
  • Stimulate investment in non-oil sectors, including agriculture, agri-processing, mining, construction, tourism and manufacturing.
  • Encourage local entrepreneurship, particularly among youth, to spur job creation at the municipal and village levels.
  • Ensure transparent public institutions, a level playing field and the rule of law.

We at UNDP are supporting these important transitions in Timor-Leste, as the country works toward its stated aim, shared with its global partners in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to ‘leave no one behind’. Fifteen years of oil revenues have demonstrated that merely accumulating wealth is no guarantee of inclusive development. Now, facing a new era beyond oil, Timor Leste must draw upon its considerable advantages to widen the path forward for all its citizens.

Useful links

Information on Timor Leste from OECD

 

Tax Crimes – The Fight Goes Digital

4 April 2017
by Guest author

Melissa Dejong, OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration

Tax has been a high profile topic in recent years. People may often think of large scale tax avoidance by huge multinationals – which the OECD has estimated at between USD 100 – 240 billion in lost revenue annually. However, tax evasion and fraud goes on every day, and may be happening right in your local restaurant, bar, grocery store or hairdresser.

In the digital world, every day tax evasion can be facilitated even more, with taxpayers using readily available technology to evade tax. Previously, tax evasion in small businesses could be undertaken simply by accepting cash under the table, or keeping a separate set of books.

Now, the same outcomes can be achieved even more efficiently, using software such as “zappers” and “phantomware.” Zappers physically prevent sales appearing on the records. Phantomware creates virtual sales terminals for the same purpose. Both allow businesses to selectively delete or reduce their sales figures, without leaving a trace of any alteration. The taxpayer reports lower sales and lower taxable income, all the while retaining the actual profit. This type of evasion and fraud (called “electronic sales suppression”) makes it hard for tax authorities to detect any discrepancies. These types of tax evasion technologies are also now becoming available over the internet – which can make it harder for tax authorities to control and penalise.

Not only that, but taxpayers can also evade tax by over-reporting their deductions. This can occur by creating false invoices that look genuine, but where no outgoings have actually been paid. This fraudulently reduces taxable income, causing substantial revenue losses to the government. For example, in the Slovak Republic, during the years 2014 and 2015 the amount of risky VAT detected in domestic invoicing fraud was more than half a billion euro.

Tax authorities also face challenges in the online sharing economy, through ride-sharing or home-sharing online marketplaces. These online sharing platforms – which are of course legal – can generate taxable income for taxpayers, but which may not be reported and stay under the radar of the tax authority.

However, tax authorities are catching up.

The OECD’s new report Technology Tools to Tackle Tax Evasion and Tax Fraud shows how technology is being used by tax administrations around the world as a powerful tool to swiftly identify and tackle tax evasion and tax fraud. The report details countries’ technical experience and revenue successes from implementing technology tools, particularly to counter electronic sales suppression and false invoicing.

It demonstrates how easy and effective these technology tools can be. For example, a number of technology solutions to combat electronic sales suppression are available, which can include a tamper-proof black box installed in point of sales machines as well as real-time transaction reporting to the tax authority. The results are impressive, such as:

  • Sweden has experienced increased tax revenue by EUR 300 million per annum.
  • Mexico brought 4.2 million micro businesses into the formal economy as a result of e-invoicing.
  • Rwanda saw a VAT increase of 20% within two years of introducing its solution.
  • Hungary saw VAT revenue increase by 15% in the first year of operation, which more than covered the implementation costs.
  • In Quebec in Canada, not only was substantial revenue recovered, but the solution also increased the efficiency for the tax authority to conduct audits, with the number of inspections being increased from 120 to 8000 per year.

The report also shares successes in using technology to tackle false invoicing. Countries have already shown that using electronic invoicing solutions can prevent and reduce tax evasion, such as where invoices can be verified as authentic using digital signatures and online verification tools. It can also make tax compliance easier for businesses where electronic documentation can replace paper-based audits or reporting obligations.

Finally, the report describes the emerging tools tax authorities are using to detect online business activity, and notes that this is likely to be a growing area for tax authorities in the digital world.

As well as detailing the technical features of these solutions, the report also explains best practices for effectively implementing these solutions. By sharing these successes and best practices, it is hoped that other tax authorities can leverage this information and give consideration to how they might quickly implement similar solutions. Not only can this mean more revenue for public services, but it has a preventative and deterrent effect, and levels the playing field for compliant businesses that have already been paying their fair share of taxes.

This report is part of an ongoing series of reports on tax and technology, which is produced by the OECD’s Task Force on Tax Crime and Other Crimes. The Task Force furthers the work of the Oslo Dialogue, which promotes a whole of government approach to fighting tax crimes and illicit flows.

Useful links

OECD work on tax and crime

OECD reports on tax and crime

Championing workers’ rights at a Nissan plant in Mississippi: Will international labour standards stand the test?

30 March 2017

John Tarver, communications expert and founder of Atriptyc Communications, www.atriptyc.com. John can be contacted at [email protected]

Morris Mock used to be a small-town guy with a simple life. He is the son of a preacher and lives in Pearl, Mississippi where he enjoys eating out and going to church with his wife and daughter. A few years ago, his biggest claims to fame were singing in the church choir and being notoriously recognizable for the red baseball cap that rarely leaves his head.

Today that’s changed. Morris still sings in the choir but he also appears regularly in local, national and international media with the likes of Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover, the American Senator Bernie Sanders, and Members of the French Parliament. What’s the reason for this change? He has become a brave spokesperson for his colleagues at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi who want to form a union but the plant’s management has been using intimidation tactics and threats to keep workers from voting to unionize.

For over a decade, workers at the Mississippi plant have struggled to overcome management’s intimidation and scare tactics. Workers claim that management has threatened to fire employees who show interest in or share information about unions. Management has also stated that union activity could lead to the plant’s closure.

Nissan has partnered with Renault in a global joint venture.  The CEO of this Renault-Nissan Alliance, Carlos Ghosn claims the company has no problems with unions – after all, it works with unions all over the world. However, evidence shows that management uses intimidation and anti-union videos to dissuade workers from holding a fair election to unionize.

So why don’t the workers hold a vote? “The workers are so scared.” Says Morris. “A lot of them support the union. But even with a majority, there is still too much fear, too many threats, too much intimidation.”

Threatening to fire workers for unionizing is illegal in the United States. In 2014, the U.S. National Labor Rights Board, after its own independent investigation, issued a complaint against Nissan for violating workers’ rights when a supervisor threatened to fire employees for being openly pro-union. This complaint is all the more significant since: only six percent of workers’ charges resulted in a Board complaint in 2014. Nissan has said it would continue to defend itself against this complaint.

Two months later, Renault-Nissan’s CEO, Mr. Ghosn, testified before the French Parliament’s Economic Affair’s Commission. Renault is the largest shareholder of Nissan, and the two are rapidly converging key business functions. The French government is the largest shareholder of Renault. When asked in a meeting of the French parliament’s Economic Affairs Committee about the situation at the Mississippi plant, Mr. Ghosn said that the plant respected American labor laws.

Morris met with parliamentarians in France – and with national labor groups – in hopes of receiving support and to participate in protests. His newly found PR skills are working. A group of 35 French MPs and Members of the European Parliament addressed a letter to Mr. Ghosn asking him to explain the state of affairs in Canton. That was in early 2016; they are still waiting for a reply.

In between meetings with elected officials, Morris has been learning about international initiatives that are meant to protect workers from intimidation and threats. One such initiative is the United Nations Global Compact, of which Renault and Nissan are participants. In Nissan’s 2016 Sustainability Report, Mr. Ghosn recalled, “We… continued our decade-long commitment to the core principles of the United Nations Global Compact.” Principle 3 of the compact states that “Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining”.

So, is Nissan living up to its commitment to international standards in pursuing an aggressive campaign against workers’ freedom of association? It would appear not. When asked about the discord between their actions in Mississippi and their commitment to international standards, Nissan replied that “international labor standards … do not apply to private enterprises like Nissan. Rather, they apply to governments, which then use them as guidance to structure national law.” This certainly raises the question why businesses such as Nissan have formally committed to the principles of the Global Compact.

Another set of international guidelines has come to Morris’ attention: the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (MNE). Two labor organizations filed an OECD complaint that was accepted by the U. S. State Department’s national contact point; the contact point helps resolve non-compliance issues related to the guidelines.  While the State Department found that the issues raised were substantiated, Nissan refused the State Department’s offer to mediate “because long-established guidelines for bringing a union vote already exist”.

Morris and his colleagues haven’t let that discourage them. Their supporters at international labor organizations have filed OECD MNE complaints against the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Nissan and Renault in The Netherlands, Japan and France, where the three entities are respectively incorporated. They are hoping the companies live up to their commitments and undertake real human rights due diligence.

While waiting to find out if the OECD complaints are accepted, Morris and his colleagues staged the largest labor rights demonstration held in Mississippi since the 1960s.  Joined by Danny Glover, Senator Bernie Sanders and several thousand people in Mississippi, they came together on March 4 to demand that Nissan respect the workers’ fundamental right to form a union. From Paris and Brussels, French and European members of parliament sent strong messages of support for their cause. The workers reported that intimidation tactics intensified in the lead up to the protest. There was even a new video that aired in the plant to dissuade workers from attending.

Most people are aware of the long and violent history of voter suppression in Mississippi. Morris lives close to where Medgar Wiley Evers was assassinated for his activity in favor of voters’ rights, and only a few hours’ drive from where Martin Luther King met with the same fate for supporting labor rights. Morris sees his struggle as a continuation of Mr. Evers’ and Dr. King’s efforts.

Yet despite all of this, when Morris talks about his company, he remains very objective, even respectful of his employer. “This is the poorest state in the country, and Nissan is paying good money—for Mississippi, but we still need to educate folks. The worker needs a voice in the workplace.”

Amen to that.

Useful links

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises