Message by the Director-General of the ILO International Human Rights Day

Statement | Geneva | 10 December 2012
“My voice counts” - the theme of this year’s observance - is part and parcel of the make-up of the ILO, established as it was in 1919 on a foundation of social dialogue.

Voice is a precondition for effective and meaningful social dialogue and participatory processes between governments, and employers’ and workers’ organizations aimed at producing just and balanced outcomes of policies and decisions in and for the world of work.

The global crisis has aggravated pre-existing challenges of unemployment, under employment and job quality. Respect for the rights and freedoms that underpin voice and dialogue assumes even greater importance today if the voices of the world of work are to be able to contribute to finding inclusive, equitable and sustainable ways forward.

Many of these rights and freedoms enable employers and workers to organize and ensure that their collective voices may be heard. Yet in many places they are being undermined and social dialogue is under strain.

Women and men around the globe are demanding to be heard, putting on the table their demand for jobs and social protection that bring the prospect of better lives. Enterprises – especially small and medium-sized enterprises where most jobs are created and their organizations, also strive to be heard in policy debates that affect enterprise growth and development.

There is a growing recognition that a sustainable response to poverty and towards prosperous and inclusive societies must be based on productive strategies and employment-led recovery with respect for human rights, including labour rights, participation and social dialogue, and accompanied by measures for social protection – the Decent Work Agenda. The promotion of decent work helps to ensure voice and voice counts for the realization of the Agenda.

The ILO’s fundamental Conventions on freedom of association, child labour, forced labour, and non-discrimination, together with the principles and rights, at work set out in our 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, define basic human rights which create enabling conditions for inclusive and sustainable economic and social progress.

It is unacceptable that 80per cent of the world’s population lacks adequate social security coverage – and many have no protection. The ILO’s new Recommendation No. 202 on nationally determined social protection floors sets out a clear and compelling framework for establishing and monitoring such floors and promotes their progressive extension.

Millions of domestic workers many of whom are women migrants – among the most vulnerable of workers – have long struggled for their voices to be heard, seeking respect for their rights, with just and safe conditions of work to which they are entitled. Their voice has counted. A major step forward came with the adoption of landmark ILO Convention No. 189 concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers adopted last year and it will enter into force in 2013. I encourage all ILO Members to ratify and implement this important Convention showing them that their voices continue to be heard.

The world of work, where most women and men spend a large part of their lives, is a privileged entry point to address and ensure human rights.

Labour rights are human rights and indispensable to securing economic growth with social progress. Voices calling for respect for these rights must count.