H.E. Ms. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Addresses 100th International Labour Conference

In the first ever visit of a German Chancellor to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), H.E. Ms. Angela Merkel today addressed the Organization’s annual conference. Speaking to the historic 100th session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) Ms Merkel highlighted the increasing role played by the ILO in closer international cooperation. The G8 and G20 meetings would be “unthinkable without the wealth of experience of this Organisation”, she said, adding that the ILO’s involvement was the only way “to give globalization a form, a structure” (in German).

Date issued: 14 June 2011 | Size/duration: 00:07:38

Transcription in English:

Juan Somavia, Director-General, International Labour Organization:

“Let me highlight your distinctive sense of policy coherence. Since 2007, you have regularly convened in Berlin the heads of the IMF, World Bank, WTO, OECD and the ILO, and urged us to strengthen our cooperation, and this with a view to building a strong social dimension of globalization and greater policy coherence among our mandates.

These dialogues, under your guidance, have been followed up actively by the ILO with important joint initiatives with all of them, whose leaders have all addressed the Governing Body of the ILO. You have been a strong voice for a fairer, more balanced globalization in which much needs to be done by all international organizations.”

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany:

“Universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice.” This is the first sentence of the Constitution of the ILO and I also wish to start my speech with these words, as they clearly express what the ILO is all about and what it

is trying to achieve: universal peace. From its very inception, the International Labour

Organization showed its commitment to serve humanity by placing itself at the service of social justice.

This is why I underline yet again how important I deem this principle of social partnership that is guiding you in your work, and that Governments and Workers’ and Employers’ representatives are shaping policy together. Obviously this will inevitably lead to situations in which one or the other side will claim that their interests are not being sufficiently represented. You must take this seriously but not stray from your course – the one of dialogue between the social partners.

The International Labour Conference strives to integrate and not to separate, and this is what lends a high degree of legitimacy to your Conventions and ensures they are binding. If we stop to consider the sheer diversity of the situations that you have to contend with – the situation for example in the industrialized countries, the situation in the emerging economies, and also the situation in the developed countries – we get an idea of the enormity of issues you have to handle. But we must never lose sight of the fact, as stated in our Constitution in Germany, that human dignity is inviolable. This should be a guiding principle all over the world, irrespective of the situation on the ground in the respective countries.

In Germany we have had a very positive experience with social partnership, and I should like to tell you something about this. Mr Somavia has already said that “short-time work” (kurzarbeit) is fast becoming an international word, and I am pleased that we are not talking about German angst for once, because kurzarbeit is at least productive. And I would like to tell you how we approached the crisis on the basis of our long-term experience of the social market economy. In 2009, our economy contracted by almost 5 per cent because we are so heavily dependent upon exports. As our country basically does not have any natural resources, we had to pause and consider what it is that makes Germany strong. What is the treasure that we have? And it was clear that, on the one hand, our strength lies in our employers – not only our large companies but also our small and medium-sized enterprises – and, on the other hand, our workers, who have often been with a company for a long period of time. We understood that it was vital to keep this bond between employers and employees during difficult times, because we were dealing with very highly skilled workers, and we would have incurred an enormous loss if we had not retained them by extending them a hand.

As I have just been discussing with Mr Somavia, it is therefore vitally important in this connection that you have now adopted this Convention on domestic workers. This is an area which has often lain in the shadows of official employment and for which standards are now being established, step by step, which fully uphold the principle that all human beings have an equal right to protection of their dignity. I wish you every success as an Organization with the application of this Convention; it is bound to take quite a while for it to be ratified by all countries. This can be a milestone for the ILO in establishing fair and equitable conditions of work in whole new areas.

The Decent Work Agenda is a universally recognized instrument that now has to produce results, and it is particularly in the emerging economies where we have tremendous dynamism with people’s working environment changing every day. I just

think of the sheer numbers of people every year in India and China moving from rural to urban areas to work under completely new conditions. In the interests of social and economic peace in these countries, it is crucial to establish the concept of social partnership from the outset to ensure that peaceful and equitable development is sustained. In recent months the headlines have been filled with the situation in North Africa, which has undergone colossal upheaval and enormous suffering. This has also been the experience of people in other countries, including Syria and Yemen. Naturally we want these countries, too, to enjoy freedom and democracy. This will be inextricably linked to creating reasonable prospects for the many young people who want to work.

Especially in the context of the G20, we must ensure that discussions do not simply become an abstract debate on the rules of the financial markets, important though these are. We need to show people throughout the world that this is about them, about their future and their destiny. That is why, as Mr Somavia has also said, it has been a long-standing wish of mine that international organizations – such as the IMF, the ILO, World Bank, the OECD and the World Trade Organization – should cooperate more closely because they exist, after all, for the people of the world and they are the institutions that are shaping globalization and giving it a structure.”