Rio+20: Remarks by Juan Somavia on "Looking at the way forward in implementing the expected outcomes of the Conference" -

Intervention of Mr. Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) at the Rountable on Sustainable Development, "Looking at the way forward in implementing the expected outcomes of the Conference", Rio + 20, Rio de Janeiro, 22 June, 2012.

Statement | Rio de Janeiro | 22 June 2012
The draft outcome document text for Rio+20 emphasizes the essential role of promoting full employment and decent work for all as a key element of sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Productive, quality jobs and social protection are at the core of an integrated approach to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. This is clearly reflected in the outcome document of this Conference (paragraphs 147 to 157).

The transition to a greener economy will lead to major changes in production and consumption patterns, in economic sectors and in enterprises, with considerable shifts in the labour market. The transition will vary from sector to sector and according to the specific conditions of countries and regions. The transition will certainly create new job opportunities in growth sectors but most likely destroy jobs in others. Moreover, it will change the nature of many jobs with major potential for upgrading job quality.

In this regard, the ILO offers three practical deliverables to Rio+20 and its follow-up process:

1. A sectoral analysis of the impact of greening the economy on jobs, with particular focus on opportunities for youth.

In support of its advisory services to member states, the ILO has developed a model to analyse which sectors are most affected by the changes, what new job opportunities arise, in particular for youth, but also what challenges may result in the labour market. The sectoral approach takes into account the drivers and policy instruments for greening and allows for the identification of potential job creation and losses, formal versus informal employment, as well as implications for income levels and distribution. The results can be used to apply the ILO methodology for quantifying human resources needs to assess the transformation in skills requirements and the consequent impact for vocational guidance and training policies.

The sectoral analysis also allows identification of the scope for the creation of work opportunities for youth in sustainable enterprises, in infrastructure investment and natural resource management, as well as the need for support to micro- and small enterprises, in particular for young entrepreneurs.

A global analysis has been carried out by the ILO in seven key sectors of the economy which are highly resource- and climate dependent, and/or are large consumers of resources and/or significant polluters, and that have considerable potential to reduce environmental impacts. They are: agriculture, fisheries, forestry, energy, resource-intensive industries, recycling, building and transport.

The global analysis has permitted to identify the technical and economic drivers of greening economies: employment gains or losses, transformation of jobs with new skills requirements, scope for lowering environmental impact of existing enterprises, productivity and income levels, formal and informal work.

Deliverable: The ILO offers assistance and cooperation for the application of the approach and the analytical methods to countries willing to embark on the path to sustainable development by greening key economic sectors. It is also working with UNEP and other partners on a concrete initiative to make new job opportunities benefit youth.

The recent ILO International Labour Conference adopted a plan of action for youth employment, which embodies a set of policies and measures tested in various countries under different circumstances to tackle the problem of youth unemployment in the transition to a greener economy.

2. Social Protection Floors:

Nationally-defined Social Protection Floors can smooth structural transitions and their effects by protecting people and facilitating the adaptation of workers to new production patterns and labour market needs while empowering them to seize new economic opportunities.

The Bachelet Report has shown that the implementation of social protection floors is widely recognized as a core pillar of social cohesion and stability and a powerful tool to combat poverty and social exclusion. They can also serve as an automatic stabilizer during economic crises and structural transitions and are a fundamental component of inclusive and fair development strategies.

Recently, a growing number of countries have implemented policies linking social protection floors with environmental objectives. (In India and South Africa, large-scale employment guarantee and public work schemes link job creation for the poor to green public infrastructure construction, improving energy and water efficiency and increasing resilience to climate change. In Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, cash transfers to families living in rural communities are associated with environmental targets like forest preservation.

Social and environmental policy coherence and coordination between institutions around the social protection floors can contribute to attaining both environmental and social targets. Rio+20 offers a unique opportunity to acknowledge the importance of national social protection floors in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and to stimulate linkages between social protection and environmental policies towards a socio-environmental protection floor.

Deliverable: Building on the UN Chief Executive Board (CEB) initiative concerning social protection floors, we propose to strengthen the capacity of national governments and stakeholders to design and implement integrated social protection floor policies, including synergies with environmental policies and leveraging South-South and Triangular Cooperation. The recent ILO International Labour Conference adopted a Recommendation on Social Protection Floors which can be a useful guide for each country to implement its own social protection floor approach in accordance with its specific reality.

3. Social dialogue to ease the transition to a greener economy:

Social dialogue among governments and the actors of the real economy and other stakeholders is fundamental to balance interests, guarantee legitimacy and enhance political sustainability in the transition to a greener economy. The potential impacts on the creation and loss of jobs, as well as measures to minimize the social cost and enable a just transition will expose diverging interests which need to be reconciled. Numerous country experiences demonstrate that dialogue with the social partners – employers’ organizations and trade unions- informs policy, identifies opportunities and needs, such as for skill development, thus increasing the benefits and reducing the cost of the transition. Social dialogue also generates consensus, buy-in and a stable policy signal, which are essential for successful implementation.

Deliverable: Building on the “Green Jobs Initiative” between ILO, UNEP, IOE and ITUC, we propose to raise awareness and mobilize stakeholders through tripartite events and build their capacity through training courses at regional and national level. This action will provide inputs to national policy making and benefit from global guidance through the adoption of Policy Conclusions by the International Labour Conference 2013 and by a series of global dialogues in the key sectors affected by the transition.

Finally, we are working together within the UN system to have one coordinated and coherent response to all these issues, integrating the three pillars of sustainable development.