GENEVA (ILO News) ─ Amid widespread uncertainty in the world of work, ranging from financial turmoil and economic downturn to growing unemployment, informality and insufficient social protection, the governments, workers and employers of the International Labour Organization (ILO) have adopted a landmark Declaration designed to strengthen the ILO’s capacity to promote its Decent Work Agenda and forge an effective response to the growing challenges of globalization.
The “Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization” (Note 1) and an accompanying resolution, were adopted by acclamation of member States, workers and employers attending the 97th International Labour Conference meeting here following months of negotiations among its tripartite constituents representing its 182 member States.
“The demands of the modern world of work are changing and this Declaration strengthens our effort to respond through the Decent Work Agenda”, said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. “Not only does it signal a major change towards balanced economic and social policies, but it equips the ILO with a formidable tool to pursue the promotion of a fair globalization based on Decent Work.”
Through the Declaration governments, employers and workers from all member States call for a new strategy to sustain open economies and open societies based on social justice, full and productive employment, sustainable enterprises and social cohesion. The Declaration acknowledges the benefits of globalization but calls for renewed efforts to implement decent work policies as the means to achieve improved and fair outcomes for all.
Specifically, the Declaration establishes a new foundation on which the ILO can effectively support the efforts of its constituents to promote and achieve progress and social justice through the four strategic objectives of the ILO through the Decent Work Agenda – employment, social protection, social dialogue and tripartism, and fundamental principles and rights at work. What is more, the Declaration also underscores the fact that failure to promote any one of these objectives would hinder progress towards promoting the others by stressing their mutually supportive nature and interdependence.
At the same time, it gives ILO constituents a key responsibility to contribute, through their social and economic policy to the realization of a global and integrated strategy for the implementation of the Decent Work Agenda. The Declaration also asks the ILO to invite other international and regional organizations to promote decent work, adding “as trade and financial market policy both affect employment, it is the ILO’s role to evaluate these employment effects to achieve its aim of placing employment at the heart of economic policies”.
The Declaration highlights that globalization is reshaping the world of work in profound ways. It states that on the one hand it has helped a number of countries to benefit from high rates of economic growth and employment creation, to absorb many of the rural poor into the modern urban economy, to advance their developmental goals, and to foster innovation in product development and the circulation of ideas. On the other hand, it has caused many countries and sectors to face major challenges of income inequality, continuing high levels of unemployment and poverty, vulnerability of economies to external shocks, and the growth of both unprotected work and the informal economy, which impact on the employment relationship and the protections it can offer.
The Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization marks the most important renewal of the Organization since adoption of the historic “Declaration of Philadelphia” in 1944. In addition, it marks a significant step forward in respecting, promoting and realizing the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work adopted by the ILO in 1998.
That Declaration stresses the fundamental principles of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of all forms of forced labour, the effective abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation as the Organization’s bedrock principles. The Declaration adopted this year underscores the particular significance of these rights as enabling conditions for the realization of the ILO’s four strategic objectives.
“What we now have is a compass” for the ILO and its members, said Jean-Jacques Elmiger, chairperson of the Committee on Strengthening the ILO’s Capacity, adding that “it is now up to all of us to shape the future while the Declaration and the Resolution show us the way to take”.
In his presentation to the plenary, the reporter of the Committee, Mr. Sergio Paixao Pardo said that the Declaration will have “a direct impact on living and working conditions of women and men in developed and developing countries”. He called it a “guide for generations to come”.
Worker vice-chair Ebrahim Patel said the Declaration “addresses the big themes that will certainly resonate with the contemporary concerns of societies, workers, entrepreneurs and governments, and, we hope, also anticipate the emerging issues of the future”.
Employer vice-chair Emmanuel Julien said “with this Declaration, the Organization is equipped with the best tool it has ever had to change so as to meet the challenges of globalization”, adding that it would also lead to the ILO “delivering more whilst adhering to our fundamental values”.
The Declaration includes a follow-up mechanism to ensure the means by which the Organization will assist the Members in their efforts to promote the Decent Work Agenda, including a review of the ILO’s institutional practices and governance; regular discussion by the International Labour Conference responding to realities and needs in member States and assessing the results of ILO activities; voluntary country reviews, technical assistance and advisory services; and strengthening research capacities, information collection and sharing.
Note 1 – ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization and Resolution on strengthening the ILO’s capacity to assist its Members’efforts to reach its objectives in the context of globalization. http://www.ilo.org/global/What_we_do/Officialmeetings/ilc/ILCSessions/97thSession/pr/lang--en/docName--WCMS_094042/index.htm