‘Labor Rights Are Human Rights’: An Interview with Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association


  • Tula Connell




globalization, workers' rights, human rights


Although the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association among its thirty articles, more than sixty years elapsed before working people’s rights to form unions and assemble was accorded attention by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The omission of worker rights’ issues reflects a global international perspective that historically has not embraced workplace rights within the larger human rights framework. The UNHRC’s appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in 2011 marked a noteworthy step in broadening the dialogue. Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has strongly argued that a first step toward addressing the harsh effects of globalization on millions of workers around the world begins with the eradication of the artificial distinction between labor rights and human rights. As Special Rapporteur, Kiai has underscored the centrality of the global working class, and argued that the ability of the working class to exercise fundamental workplace rights is a prerequisite for a broad range of other rights, whether economic, social, cultural or political.