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The Economy Must be Made to Serve People: President Jacques Chirac Addresses at the International Labour Conference


Press release | 11 June 1996


GENEVA (ILO News) - "In order to make a success of globalization for the benefit of all (...) the economy must be made to serve people, and not people the economy", said President Jacques Chirac in a speech delivered today before the delegates to the 83rd International Labour Conference.

Guest of honour of the Conference, the President of the French Republic addressed the delegations of the 173 Member States of the International Labour Organization, during a special sitting of the Conference at the Palais des Nations.

"Today, the International Labour Organization is seventy-seven years old. More than any other multilateral institution, it takes a long-term view of its mission."

(...) "In the face of totalitarianism, the Organization was a tiny flame in the night that no ill wind could snuff out. It was the guardian of a certain idea of humanity, of freedom and the long-term survival of the social standards it had framed."

(...) "France (...) is convinced that the International Labour Organization has, more than ever, an essential role to play.

(...) "One is bound to acknowledge, however, that this process of globalization has its downside also. In the industrialized nations, it is imposing rapid, and consequently painful restructuring, with adverse effects on the employment situation. In the poorest countries, meanwhile, it is liable to lead to greater inequality. And it is accentuating the risk of certain parts of the world becoming marginalized."

"We must therefore learn to control this process of globalization better."

(...) "We first need to create the conditions for sustainable, jobs-creating growth. We must take full advantage of all the possibilities the new technologies afford us, and especially the information technologies." (...) "We must also develop the service sector, and define new forms of work organization that answer both the needs of employers and the aspirations of employees."

"Above all, we need to invest in people, allowing each and every worker access to lifelong vocational training."

(...) "We must learn to replace the concept of a "job for life" by that of "employability". For behind this ungainly word in fact lies a new approach to organizing our society: it is up to government, employers and the unions to figure out together ways to allow all workers to move from one job to another, throughout their working lives, and to receive appropriate training while retaining their welfare protection."

"But we must also work to prevent and combat the exclusion of low-skilled workers, by lowering indirect labour costs wherever these place an undue burden on the cost of unskilled labour. We need active policies to help the most vulnerable people in society to return to work, by adjusting our tax and welfare systems so as to "make work pay."

"To make a success of globalization, each of us must remain faithful to the cultural models we have inherited from our history, and to our conception of mankind. That explains my deep attachment to the European social model, based on the idea of welfare to protect people against the vicissitudes of life; based on a tradition of social dialogue and collective bargaining, and on the role of the State as guardian and guarantee of national cohesion."

(...) "But it is to the poorest countries that we must turn our thoughts also, and in the first place."

(...) "Having access to neither capital nor markets, the poorest countries face the threat of marginalization."

(...) "I want to make development aid one of the main themes of the G7 Summit which I shall be hosting in Lyon, in a few days' time."

"Our ambition must be to keep official development aid at a sufficiently high level, and to increase its effectiveness by reforming the international institutions with development responsibilities. But this new partnership also implies the need for the developing countries to put in place appropriate policies."

"In order to make a success of globalization for the benefit of all, whether in the industrialized countries or in the countries in transition, in the emerging countries or in the very poorest countries, the economy must be made to serve people, and not people the economy."

(...) "The World Summit in Copenhagen underscored the role and expertise of the ILO. It called upon all States to ratify and implement the fundamental standards drawn up by your organization, and entrusted it with the task of participating in the application of the Summit's action programme in the field of employment and social development."

"Convinced of the importance of the ILO's role in tackling the social aspects of globalization, I insisted that the ILO should be fully involved, on a par with the OECD, in the preparation and follow-up to the G7 Jobs Conference in Lille."

(...) "How can we fail to (refer to) the social dimension of international trade? The ILO may take pride in being the first world forum to engage in a constructive debate on this issue, notwithstanding the hostility of some, the perhaps exaggerated hopes of others, and the apprehension of many."

(...) "Can we, in this great global market, admit grave breaches in the fundamental rules of social democracy? Can we tolerate more or less disguised forms of adult or, worse still, child slavery?"

(...) "Trade liberalization, the development of employment, and respect for a certain number of universal rules guaranteeing people's dignity, are inseparable."

"We know what these fundamental rights are: they are enshrined in several ILO conventions, and the Copenhagen Summit issued a reminder of the need to uphold them. They concern freedom of association and collective bargaining, the abolition of forced labour, and the prohibition of the exploitation of child labour."

(...) "France believes we must seek a way to link respect for the social dimension as expressed in the fundamental standards I have just referred to, on the one hand, and the liberalization of international trade, on the other."

"I would like this question to be placed on the agenda of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization, in Singapore."

(...) "If we are to overcome the current opposition between the economic and the social dimensions; if we are to place people back at the heart of development in our societies, then yes, we must rely on the International Labour Organization, and, first of all, we must give it our full support."

"Tomorrow, as in the past, France will stand by it."