Balkans: Minority employment principles, an ICG proposal
ICG proposes that the High Representative adopts a set of Minority Employment Principles for incorporation by foreign investors, companies and donors in their contracts with Bosnian enterprises and government authorities. This proposal is motivated by concerns similar to those that led to widespread acceptance in the 1980s of the Sullivan Principles, which called on companies doing business in South Africa to adhere to a set of minimum fair employment standards, as well as the MacBride Principles concerning US investment and multiethnic hiring in Northern Ireland.
Some initiatives to condition business, aid and/or investment on minority hiring have already been taken in Bosnia. A small British assistance package to a factory in Jajce, for example, has demonstrated that conditioning aid on the hiring of minorities can be effective. The French company Pechiney stopped doing business with the aluminium factory in Mostar after it prevented pre-war Bosniac workers from returning to their jobs. And USAID includes a non-discrimination clause in its contracts.
The Principles should go further than prior efforts in two main respects. First, prior efforts have been piecemeal. Some policies apply to government authorities that receive foreign aid, some to companies that receive international contracts, such as for housing reconstruction. Some aid agencies have non-discrimination policies, others have no such policies or fail to monitor their implementation. Foreign companies have not been urged to condition their investments or purchases on implementation of non-discrimination policies. The Principles should apply to all donors, investors and companies that provide assistance to, or do business with, Bosnian enterprises or government authorities. Exceptions could be made for aid or contracts below a certain amount or for exceptional projects that advance multi-ethnicity in other ways and the viability of which would be threatened by compliance with the Principles.
Second, anti-discrimination principles are not enough: such principles can and have been interpreted to require only that a company not dismiss minorities, not discriminate against them in hiring, and in other ways treat them no differently than members of the majority group. If, however, no minorities apply for jobs, then arguably there is no discrimination. Thus, the Principles should call on donors, purchasers or investors to enter into contracts with local companies or government authorities only on condition that they hire returnees and other minorities consistent with guidelines established by the High Representative. For instance, the Principles might call on companies and authorities to hire 10 percent more minorities than are currently represented in the population during the first year, including for management (and, where applicable, governing board) positions, with the percentages to increase every year. Minority hiring targets could be based on such factors as the number of employees, the current and pre-war population figures of the municipality, and the most recent municipal election voter registration figures, as well as the amount of foreign assistance or financial benefit involved. The greater the financial benefit to a recipient company or government authority, the more ambitious the minority-hiring targets reasonably could and should be.
The Principles should also include a prohibition of discrimination on grounds of political affiliation, opinion or gender, and might include a clause explaining that the affirmative minority hiring goals are necessary to redress past discrimination and thus do not violate the prohibition of discrimination.
The High Representative might also consider adopting a mark or label to identify products, such as lumber or clothing, produced by companies that observe the Principles. One successful precedent is the "child labour free label" developed by the anti-child labour lobby in Europe and North America; manufacturers of certain consumer products -- carpets, clothing made in named countries, footballs -- are urged to affix the label or mark if they are indeed compliant with certain standards, and an anti-child labour non-governmental organisation employs inspectors who monitor compliance. As a result, sales of these products without child labour-free labels have declined noticeably. A label to identify a company that complies with the Minority Employment Principles might read, for instance, "Made in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Multi-ethnic Labour" or "[company name], a Company for Peace".
A logo could be developed for imprint on consignments of bulk products such as lumber or aluminium.
The Principles would promote acceptance of minority returnees into a community, given that employment opportunities for others would hinge on their continued employment. Moreover, minority (or returnee) hiring would enable minorities, in the first instance, to work in their home areas without actually having to move there. They could commute until they decide, and are able, to reclaim their pre-war homes. Pending a decision to move back, they could still live in an area in which they belong to the majority, and thus enjoy the security, schools and other amenities of living with their own ethnic group. This would also reduce one of the major current return problems, namely, that minority families that return tend to do so in phases, and thus occupy two homes for a period of time. Families with at least one job in their home area would be more likely to return together. Indeed, minorities employed pursuant to the Principles could be asked to commit, if and when they are able to regain their pre-war homes, to vacate their temporary accommodation immediately.