Speech at the ILO Workshop on Training of Trainers Concerning ILO Standards and Cambodian Labour Law

by Ms Mitsuko Horiuchi, Regional Director, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Statement | Phnom Penh | 18 July 2000

H. E. Mr Ith Sam Heng, Minister in charge of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation;
Distinguished participants;
Ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you here today to this ILO Training of Trainers workshop, focusing on ILO Standards and Cambodian Labour Law. Last year you became only the second country in the Asia-Pacific region to ratify seven ILO fundamental Conventions B something that is an encouraging sign both in our region, and globally. This decision demonstrates that you fully subscribe and commit to building a "social floor" even though your country’s development needs are still significant. The UNDP’s Human Development Index for 2000 ranks Cambodia at 136, of 174 countries. It is particularly encouraging that you are pursuing economic development together with human rights. You are recognizing that these fundamental rights are not luxuries to be added later; development without fundamental rights is like a meal with no rice.

We all know, that ratification is a significant step towards guaranteeing and protecting workers’right - but alone, it is not enough. These rights must become a part of daily life, something that each and every woman and man can count on.

We must put the message carried by the ILO’s fundamental Conventions into every workplace in the world. This training course is intended to help you start your journey towards that goal in Cambodia. The course will deepen your understanding of these core Conventions, and thus help entrench these principles in your world of work. These principles form the basis of the ILO’s primary goal, our decent work agenda. During the next four days, we will be providing you with the knowledge that you need to move towards effective implementation.

I must also thank the Labour Minister Mr. Ith Sam Heng, and through him, his staff, for their efforts last December - which contributed greatly to the success of the ILO/Japan/US Regional Seminar on the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, held in Phnom Penh. Once again, it was very pleasing to learn, through our experiences at that meeting, just how seriously this fundamentally important issue is taken here.

At that same seminar, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen gave us three reasons why your country is placing such importance on the promotion of fundamental workers’ rights. First, he said, looking back to Cambodia’s early history, there were then no serious problems in the areas covered by the fundamental rights areas. Second, he said, although most of Cambodia’s history had been peaceful, its experience with one genocidal regime and savage forced labour had given people a clear understanding of the importance of principles and rights at work. And, third, the past has left Cambodia with a relatively high number of women and young persons who should be protected by proper labour standards.

At the ILO, we welcome your ratification of these Conventions, and we welcome the opportunity to work with you to achieve full implementation. We all know that your ratification decisions came just one year ago, and, of course, perfect implementation is not achieved overnight. Training courses such as this one, combined with your dedication and hard work will, though, bring us closer to our goal.

In today’s globalizing economy, the importance of these fundamental rights is even more apparent. The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights - which had its beginnings at the 1995 World Summit for Social Development - can provide a badly needed social floor for the global economy. Whatever its merits, globalization is a part of the world we live in today. The revolution in information and communications technology that has occurred over the past two decades has changed the face of the world in which we live and work. Investment flows are massive. Markets are volatile. It is a world that offers opportunities, and risks. Cambodia is now, of course, one of the ASEAN 10, and is therefore connected with the economic integration that is underway in this region. Building fundamental principles and rights at work into every Cambodian workplace will help you to take advantage of the opportunities, and minimize the risks. Achieving this will call for a committed partnership between the government, the social partners and NGOs. This cooperation, and this commitment, will help us to move closer to a day when decent work is a reality for all Cambodians.

Once again, I wish you well with your work here today, and with the series of workshops to come.