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Time for policy rethink to tackle global economic crisis, head of the ILO says

In his opening speech to the 101st International Labour Conference, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Juan Somavia, focused on the youth employment crisis, social protection floors, Myanmar, the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories, the Eurozone crisis and basic labour rights.

Comunicado de prensa | 30 de mayo de 2012
ILO Director-General Juan Somavia
GENEVA (ILO News) – “We have an agenda that goes to the heart of the disquiet and insecurities in our societies: youth employment, social protection and rights at work,” Juan Somavia told hundreds of delegates, including government representatives and leaders of workers’ and employers’ organizations from the ILO’s 184 member States.

“This conference is meeting at difficult and uncertain times for all, particularly workers, small enterprises and government budgets,” he added.

The ILO estimates that the world needs forty-five to fifty million new jobs each year for the next five years just to get back to the situation prior to the 2008 crisis.

“We are at a turning point where crisis brings the opportunity to change course. I see a critical role for the ILO in capturing the opportunities that lie ahead,” Juan Somavia said. He referred to the policies being pursued in the Eurozone as extremely worrying for the ILO. 
(See News item: "Eurozone: Extreme policies could produce extreme reactions")

Turning to the challenges young people are facing across the world Juan Somavia said “we have been failing our young women and men for some time now.” According to Somavia, “there is little intergenerational solidarity when the adult generation which formulates policy, lets the young generation carry a heavy share of the burden of the crises.”

Referring to a possible Recommendation on social protection floors to be adopted by the Conference, he called it a commitment to a decent society, a platform that enables hundreds of millions of women, men and children to progress on a strong footing. He also pointed to the positive economic impact of such a floor.

Mr. Somavia warned that with a weak and fragile global recovery, respect for fundamental principles and rights at work had come under great pressure and underlined the role of fundamental principles and rights at work in maintaining the link between social progress and economic growth. He made a strong call for greater respect for these principles and rights which “are today universally accepted basic rules of the game for the world of work”.

On 14 June, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar will address the Conference.

“Last year she sent a video. This year she honours us with her presence. It reflects some political changes underway which we should welcome and must seize and expand the opportunities they represent,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.

The Director-General also committed to continuing “to work with our Palestinian constituents through concrete policies and programmes, as they build a fully viable Palestinian State.”

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla Miranda attended the opening of the International Labour Conference (ILC), where she said that decent work can play a key role in strengthening crisis-hit economies.

”It is clear that decent work should be at the centre of macroeconomic, financial and growth policies, particularly within the context of the crisis and as part of the decent jobs pact,” she said at the annual conference in Geneva.

The 101st session started with the election of its officers. Mr. Rafael Francisco Alburquerque de Castro, Vice-President of the Dominican Republic was elected President. The Conference elected as Vice-Presidents, Mr. Blaise Matthey (Employers) from Switzerland, Mr. Francis Atwoli (Workers) from Kenya, and Mr. Rajab Sukayri (Governments) from Jordan. Nearly 5,000 delegates requested accreditation to the Conference.

Each member State has the right to send four delegates to the International Labour Conference: two from government and one each representing workers and employers, each of whom may speak and vote independently.