Opening speech by Dan Cunniah, Director of ACTRAV

Speech by Dan Cunniah,Director Bureau for Workers’ Activities at the opening session of Trade Union Meeting of Experts on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (ILO Geneva, 21-22 May 2013).

Statement | Geneva | 21 May 2013
Mr Gilbert Houngbo, Deputy-Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships,

Sisters and Brothers,
Dear colleagues,

On behalf of the ILO Bureau for Workers’ Activities, I would like to welcome all of you to this Trade Union Meeting of Experts on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

You will recall that in the year 2000, Heads of State and Government met at the UN General Assembly and adopted a set of goals and targets within the framework of the UN Millennium Declaration. These goals, which are now known as the Millennium Development Goals, have been the main framework for development policy and development cooperation since then. The goals that were set were not very far reaching. However, for the first time since decades, development actors were focusing not on structural adjustment policies, but rather on the reduction of world poverty. So in many ways, it was a step forward. The MDGs stressed the need for development results with measurable time-bound outcomes.

With less than 1000 days before we reach the target date for the MDGs, what progress have we made in the attainment of these goals? In many areas like the reduction of extreme poverty, enrolment in primary education, reduction in child mortality and so on, progress has been real and even significant. However, this progress has been uneven. Numerous low income countries often lag behind the attainment of the goals. Most of the progress on poverty reduction is attributable to China. Furthermore, the MDGs do not seem to have eliminated the root causes of global poverty. In fact, the imbalances and unjust structures in the global economy which created the global crisis further undermined the attainment of these goals. And so today, we still have around 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty, 870 million people go hungry every day; 6.9 million children under five die every year.

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Yes, there has been progress but these figures tell us that this is not good enough. Considering the enormous resources at our disposal, humanity can do better.

As the target date for the attainment of the MDGs approach, consultations are taking place on the Post-2015 development agenda. So far 83 national dialogues are under way in all continents and across a range of countries. Eleven thematic dialogues are also taking place on areas that are contained in the MDGs. At the same time, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development - Rio+20, called for the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals and coherence between the MDG follow-up process and the Rio+20 follow-up. As a result of the above, these two processes are hopefully converging into a new global development compact after the year 2015 which will be called Sustainable Development Goals.

It is against this background that ACTRAV has taken the initiative to organise this Experts meeting. Why? Because before we try to define a new global compact, we must continue to put pressure on our respective governments to meet the targets of the current MDGs. Why? Because no new development agenda should be developed without the active involvement of trade unions to ensure that the agenda is in line with the aspirations of working men and women. Why? Because we have drawn lesson from the PRSP process. A that time, trade unions were slow to engage in that process and so their effectiveness in influencing the design and implementation of Poverty Reduction Strategies was hampered.

But we also wanted to organise this meeting for a lot of positive reasons. The current global crisis has had a major impact on the lives of the workers and their families. Millions of poor people, living on less than US$1.25 a day have been negatively impacted by a crisis for which they were not responsible. Today, as we try to deal with the effects of the crisis, the austerity programmes and the rising unemployment, the labour movement is challenged to come up with viable policy alternatives to move out of the crisis. The ILO is also called to support its constituents, including the labour movement in this work. That is a crucial reason for this meeting. What policies are needed in a future development agenda? Will it be business as usual or should we be proposing new ideas for a more inclusive development – for a more sustainable world – for the creation of more and better jobs?

We in the ILO believe that Decent Work is a key means for the reduction of poverty. Decent work provides a decent employment, with a decent income and social protection, with the protection of rights and the possibility to dialogue. For the poorest, decent work provides more than a decent income. It provides protection from vulnerabilities; it provides the protection that enables the poor to fight for their rights; it provides a sense of worth and dignity to the person. These are the values that we should fight for in the Post-2015 development agenda.

We hope that this meeting will equip a group of trade union leaders to enable them to act at national, regional and international levels to ensure that decent employment becomes a central goal in the future development agenda.

Poverty is an injustice. A central mission of trade unions is to fight injustice. Let us work together over the next two days and propose solutions to make the world a better place to live in – for us and for our children.

I therefore wish you a very fruitful meeting.

Thank you.