The project “Workers Watch: Community-Based Response in Advancing Human Rights and Corporate Ethical Practices in Mindanao” answers a relevant need to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms in areas where there is rapid development expansion, particularly in the island of Mindanao, Philippines.

Mindanao is the country’s food basket and is where a bulk of its export agricultural products comes from. The country’s development policies are hinged on the tapping of Mindanao’s agricultural resources and agricultural development.

Yet for the people of Mindanao, especially those who work in these high-value industries (mining, plantations, canning), development has come at a cost. Despite their critical role in the national economy, agricultural workers represent among the poorest and most vulnerable members of the Philippine society.

This action recognizes that the full exercise of people’s social and economic rights cannot be realized if their civil and political rights are not respected. Hence, the action is designed with the aim of helping workers’ communities claim not only social and economic rights but also their civil and political rights. Through its community-based approach and focus on utilizing existing tripartite mechanisms, the envisioned result is that communities become capacitated to act as strong human rights defenders.

This initiative is in line with EIDHR Global Objective 2: To support other priorities of the Union in the field of human rights where the Union has an added value or specific thematic commitment, as well as UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (BHR) by providing the necessary support for workers’ organization and support groups to link with business and government to advocate for the mainstreaming of worker’s human rights in the enterprise level.

Through its various activities, the Action is designed to align with UN’s BHR Framework: Protect-Respect-Remedy.

  • the state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business;
  • the corporate responsibility to respect human rights;
  • and greater access by victims to effective remedy, both judicial and non-judicial.

The project’s implementation is based on a strong partnership with local communities, national government agencies, and business. Its design takes a holistic view proceeding to three levels of intervention: on a macro level, it seeks to propose new legislation that will mandate mainstreaming of human rights and labour rights education at the enterprise level; on the meso level, the project’s goal is to strengthen the capacities of local communities so that they are able to become strong human rights defenders; and finally on the micro level, the initiative promotes education, training, protection, and access to services (legal, psycho-social, and health).

Target Beneciaries

(1) Organized and unorganized workers in banana and pineapple plantations, mining, fishing vessels, fish ports, and canneries across five regions in Mindanao

(2) Community leaders, particularly purok leaders, members of the grassroots organizations, Sangguniang Kabataan members/leaders, and GKK leaders.

(3) Women workers in the covered industries.

(4) Children of the workers in the covered industries.

Stakeholders of the Project

(1) Workers in banana, oil palm, pineapple plantations, fishing, and mining industry.

(2) Workers’ communities surrounding such industries.

(3) Businesses/Employers, to include big companies and contract growers.

(4) Government agencies particularly the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).