BUDAPEST - The debate over globalization has been marked by loud sturm und drang over the past decade. But at a special session of the 7th ILO European Regional Meeting, key ministers gathered in the ornate delegation room of the Hungarian Parliament and were remarkably unambiguous.
"This meeting has seen enormous support for the report" of the ILO-appointed World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia summarizing remarks made by those at the meeting. "It was a big risk for us as an institution to take on this report. It wasn't clear at the beginning that we would be able to arrive at something positive and creative regarding this major issue. The response to the report has shown that our gamble paid off."
What was clear from the discussion was, in fact, the strength and breadth of convergence between the objectives of the European Commission and the ILO, said Mr. Somavia. The interventions at the meeting showed great interest in both the internal and external roles of the EU on social and economic policies, and great support for the notion of coherent policies for EU Member States at home and internationally.
In his own intervention, Vladimir Spidla said the emergence of countries such as China, India and Mexico as magnets for jobs from the industrialized economies presents a new challenge, and that many consider globalization in this context to imply factors of instability and insecurity.
"These developments call for better global governance and a more just social policy", said Mr. Spidla.
The EU is also attempting to support positive social policies externally, said Mr. Spidla. The Union will expand with additional candidate countries from Southeastern Europe, and through its neighbourhood policy attempt to play a stabilizing role on its Eastern border and in the Mediterranean area.
Internally, the next challenge for the EU is for the next European Council meeting in Brussels on 22 and 23 March 2005 to make a fresh start on the issue of social justice by adopting an action program in line with the Lisbon strategy, according to Mr. Spidla. The two main goals will be to create more employment and better jobs, and to establish the conditions for strong and sustainable growth.
Strengthening the EU's knowledge base and innovation capabilities will play an important role in these efforts, said Mr. Spidla. Meanwhile, a new social agenda will propose new dynamism for industrial relations, creating an operational framework for transnational bargaining at sector and enterprise level.
The EU's policies are based on rights and common values, including economic, social and environmental values, said Mr. Spidla. Both the EU and its Member States support these values - which is why the EU supports the ILO in its efforts to promote the ratification of conventions on fundamental social rights.
Global efforts needed
Noting repeated calls at the meeting for coordinated international efforts, Mr. Somavia recalled that the Millennium Summit has the goal of reducing poverty by half by 2015. "This needs to be based on jobs, not just aid", the Director-General stressed. This will require greater cooperation among international organizations. Many participants at the meeting stated that the role of the ILO needs to be reinforced in this process."
"Of course we are going to take on our responsibilities - that's what this report is all about", said Mr. Somavia. But the help of governments is also needed to achieve these goals, by demanding, for example through their ministries of finance in contact with other organizations, a greater emphasis on social governance. "The ILO will always be open to dialogue, but there is a limit to what we can do institutionally. Coherence needs a political push."
Commissioner Spidla agreed that greater international coordination is needed. "Promoting decent work throughout the world is a priority", he said, supporting the efforts of the ILO toward the establishment of decent work and social governance objectives within the United Nations framework. He also supported the proposal of the World Commission to create a global forum on decent work.