|A Quarterly Newsletter for and about International Cooperation with Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Cuba|
|Volume 10, Issue 1-2||September 2000|
SA8000 -The Global Humane Workplace Standard
In 1997, Social Accountability International (SAI) introduced Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000), a global humane workplace standard that combines core labor rights with independent monitoring by accredited certification bodies. The standard was developed and is overseen by an advisory board with members from business, trade unions, government and human rights organizations. Facilities seeking certification to the standard must undergo an independent audit by an organization accredited by SAI, which requires an extensive background in systems auditing, training in SA8000, and the institutional capacity to assure quality auditing. Companies can implement SA8000 by seeking to certify individual facilities or through Signatory Membership, which involves issuing a plan to move facilities to SA8000 certification over time and publicly reporting on progress. SA8000 incorporates worker, trade union and NGO participation through the auditing process, free training, a complaint and appeals process, and workshops.
For more information about SA8000, visit SAI’s website www.sa-intl.org or contact SAI by phone at 212-358-7697, ext 238 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS From the Editor... Laos Comes Under Attack
The Lao Peoples Democratic Republic has achieved the dubious honor of becoming the latest focal point for attack by those who wish to roll back the political transformation of Indochina twenty-five years ago.
Laos is committed to economic liberalization and institutional renovation, but their efforts have been damaged by the economic impact of the Thai financial crisis and baht devaluation. With memories fresh of a long destructive war, stability remains the paramount goal. Official mechanisms to maintain a single-party state are in place, but the country is vulnerable to outside penetration because of a long uncontrollable border with Thailand, a country with a similar language and culture, a population ten times larger, and much greater economic power.
Most of the population of Laos has not been affected greatly by the economic decline, since the lives of 80% are tied to subsistence agriculture. However, employees of the government and of state enterprises saw their real income decline precipitously when the kip tumbled, particularly in terms of purchasing power of imported goods. Presumably, opponents of the government outside of the country imagined that economic hardship would translate into political dissatisfaction.
The first sign of a new effort to destabilize the government was increased activity among Hmong insurgents, members of clans which Vang Pao led into war-time partnership with the CIA. The still unexplained disappearance of two Hmong Americans in April 1999 in a particularly lawless area of the Thai-Lao border became more intriguing when it was revealed that one of them was a nephew of Vang Pao and the other had a history of war time assistance to US forces. Accusations have been published in Thailand that they were carrying weapons and money for insurgents.
(US officials feel Laos still has not been sufficiently cooperative in determining their fate. Other sources doubt that the government knows or can find out much about events in a region which is notorious for the illegal production of amphetamines.)
The second sign that something was amiss was an aborted demonstration in front of the Presidential palace in October 1999. Authorities detained a small group of people but have not yet brought them to trial. Accounts in Thai papers and among overseas Lao portrayed the event as far larger with participation by students from the National University but that account is not sustained by my conversations in Vientiane.cont'd p.53