5-9 December 2011, FAO headquarters, Rome
ILO Solution Exchange Forum on social protection, decent work and food security
6 December 2011: Report on the Forum
Background: Today close to one billion people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger, while the current trend of rising food prices continues to exacerbate income inequalities and increase poverty, hunger, social unrest, and political instability. Since production and food purchasing capacity are both rooted in employment, the Decent Work Agenda, which provides an integrated approach to pursue the objective of decent work for all, is central to strategies to achieve global food security.
Addressing decent work challenges across all sectors of the food system (including agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture production, food manufacturing and packaging, transport and storage, trade and retail distribution, as well as food services) through a set of integrated actions promotes increases in the quantity, quality and distribution of food to vulnerable groups. This could be achieved by, among other means, improving working conditions to foster productivity; promoting sustainable enterprises in relevant sectors; promoting the development of cooperatives, mutual benefit societies and other types of associations; or addressing decent work challenges in key sectors related to market access and distribution.
Sectoral strategies that invest in decent and productive employment and social protection can accelerate economic growth, stimulate food production, processing and accessibility, and provide incomes to allow large parts of the population to exit poverty and food insecurity. Social protection is being increasingly recognized as an effective instrument in addressing food insecurity. Guaranteeing income security through social protection schemes has a direct effect on both consumption and production. Evidence from developing countries has shown that regular cash transfers are mostly spent on food and investments in livestock or agriculture. Increased consumption also supports agricultural demand for local services, which has a direct knock-on effect on agricultural production. In addition, there has been increasing international recognition of the importance of social protection as a strategy against child labour.
Ms. Alette van Leur, Director, ILO Sectoral Activities Department, recalled target 1B of MDG 1 (eradicating extreme poverty and hunger) to highlight the link between food security and decent work: if people can effectively sustain themselves, hunger can be reduced. The ILO programme on decent work for food security targeted decent work challenges in sectors throughout the food value chain, including agriculture, food processing, storage, transport, roads, catering services and commerce.
Mr. Sammy Nyambari, Labour Commissioner, Kenya, stated that South South cooperation should embody an integrated and holistic approach in which the social partners, different ministries and other stakeholders worked together to foster efficiency and effectiveness in labour markets. Food and nutrition policy in Kenya was partly informed by the Brazilian Food and Nutrition Security Programme through South South cooperation. Adequate nourishment was a basic human right, but only 13 per cent of the population enjoyed some form of social protection: there was hence a need to cover the rest of the population, especially vulnerable groups.
The Brazilian experience was based on three pillars that included social security, social health insurance and social assistance. A central lesson learned from Brazil was that the labour dimension was an indispensable part of food security policies. The Government of Kenya had adopted a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary process for the establishment of a protection policy and strategy, and was in the process of implementing a single management and registry system and an integrated policy for social protection. Successful social protection initiatives included decentralization of social protection programmes, intensive and comprehensive training of civil servants, strategic investment in social protection programmes and most importantly leadership skills. All this had to be anchored in political will.
In East Africa the EAC Protocol on the free movement of goods and labour addressed labour market issues, and especially social security, and had influenced practice in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, and consolidated horizontal exchanges. A bilateral agreement between Kenya and South Sudan had led to capacity development of personnel in the public sector, whereby public servants of South Sudan were trained in Kenya; public servants and experts from Kenya have visited South Sudan to support them with training; and the Government of Kenya, in a partnership with the ILO and the World Bank, had supported the reconstruction of the South Sudan labour administration system.
The development of a labour migration policy inspired by the Philippines had led to bilateral agreements with middle eastern countries, and had established benchmarks and standards. This could be used to address labour migration issues in a holistic and integrated manner so as to protect and regularize vulnerable migrants and harmonize diaspora remittances, which were a major boost to the Kenyan economy. South-South and triangular cooperation added value to labour markets when based on an integrated approach.
Mr. Renato Bignami, Deputy Labour Inspector of Brazil, shared the Workers’ Feeding Programme (PAT) whose objective was to improve workers’ nutritional status, with a positive impact on their lives. Developed by the Ministry of Labour's Safety Health at Work Department, it was voluntary and targeted low-income workers. Accountability was provided by the tripartite PAT Commission composed of government workers and employers. It proposed improvements in regulations and their revision, and improved nutritional patterns, registering firms providing food. The programme cost less, was easily accessible and controlled by the labour inspectorate, generated opportunities, and fostered social dialogue because it was based on tripartite consultations. Advantages to the employer included a discount of up to 4 per cent of tax, and various positive effects, such as absenteeism reduction, fewer accidents at work, and fewer occupational diseases. The model had some South-South cooperation potential, especially in MERCOSUR countries.
Ms. Vicenta Trotman, representing an indigenous community in Panama, shared experience of the Programme for Intensive Employment and Investment, which was implemented in nine indigenous communities. This was a good example of a UN-ILO triangular cooperation initiative, supported by the MDG Fund. The programme could be replicated in Paraguay, where she referred to the Chako community, encouraging gender empowerment and access of women to productive resources. The goal was to strengthen equity and overcome obstacles to safe water and sanitation, and empowerment of the local population, which required a sense of ownership, greater participation by the community, knowledge sharing and awareness.
There had been a drastic reduction in poverty as a result of access to water, participation of women, investment at the local level, and the training of community guards to strengthen the work of the local community. There was now a greater number of organized communities; 350 entrepreneurs were involved, and exchanges of knowledge took place through the network between the communities: for example, experience had been shared with Paraguay’s Chako community because of the importance of horizontal approaches to managing water and sanitation.
Ms. Anita Amorim (ILO) gave a presentation on behalf of Say Sam On (Coordinator, Cambodian trade unions) describing the involvement of trade unions in Cambodia in combating child labour in fishing, an approach that was replicable or adaptable through SSC. The ILO had implemented a variety of national policy frameworks that would have an impact on child labour, such as the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals and the National Plan of Action on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. Various stakeholder groups were specifically targeted to participate in capacity building efforts, and various agencies had implanted various parts of the programme: the Provincial Department of Planning had identified target children through individual household interviews. Employers’ associations collaborated with the community to remove hazardous working conditions for children above the minimum working age. Trade unions had been established and sensitized, and had drawn up codes of conduct and disseminated information resources to all members, with the aim of achieving child labour-free provinces. Trade unions would continue to monitor activities in the region and share lessons learnt through regional trade union meetings to encourage south-south cooperation. Another south-south opportunity was twinning "child labour-free provinces" with different countries in the Global South: one of the objectives of the project supported by the unions was to create a child labour free zone.
Mr. Guiherme Delgado, IPEC Researcher, Brazil, discussed the social security and food security system: positive policies in Brazil targeting agricultural workers included the award of benefits in the event of incapacity and affirmative action for women, and this was protected by a social protection floor benefit on the basis of social security entitlement. The cost was 1 per cent of GDP as a result of the inclusion of agricultural workers. The effects of the system on food security were that it created institutional demand for the production of food, combating nutritional risks.
The last part of the panel included the launch of the “FAO-ILO Guidelines for addressing child labour in fisheries and aquaculture: Policy and practice” [pdf, 1.5MB]
Ms. van Leur said that even though the ILO’s child labour Conventions (Nos. 182 and 138) were among the best ratified Conventions of the ILO, many children were still to be found working in the fishing sector. Coherence was necessary at the national level, especially in ministries. It was necessary to eliminate child labour, which continued in various economic sectors. The FAO and the ILO were working together to enable experts to share experience and complete the Guidelines so that it could be implemented.
Mr. Rolf Willmann, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, FAO, stated that child labour was high where migration was widespread. The consequences were a vicious circle of poverty whereby children substituted for adult labour to reduce labour costs. The FAO-ILO Guidelines were bringing together various ministries responsible for child-related issues, such as ministries of labour and education. National workshops were to be held in Cambodia and Malawi in early 2012.