ILO presents its responses to COVID-19 at Geneva Environment Dialogues

The ILO participated in the Geneva Environment Dialogues, organized by Geneva Environment Network, to present ILO's research results on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world of work, as well as its guiding framework to respond to the crisis.

News | 08 May 2020
On May 7, 2020, the ILO participated in the Geneva Environment Dialogues, organized by Geneva Environment Network, to present ILO's research results on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world of work, as well as its guiding framework to respond to the crisis. The Geneva Environment Dialogues' special COVID-19 series are being held bi-weekly to discuss the impacts of the pandemic on the global environmental agenda. The focus of the series this time was on the pandemic's impacts on jobs.

Presentation by Employment Policy Department (EMPLOYMENT)
Mito Tsukamoto, Branch Chief, Development and Investment (DEVINVEST)

Ms. Tsukamoto indicated an alarming level of estimated damage to livelihoods, particularly among the working poor of the informal economy and people in fragile contexts who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, as highlighted in the "ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. Third edition." Although it is clear that with COVID-19 in this initial phase we are looking at ensuring that the unemployed or vulnerable have a safety net or income, it is also important, Ms. Tsukamoto reiterated, to look at how we can build back better and bridge the short-term with the longer-term to ensure sustainable solutions to address increasing inequality. The ILO Recommendation No 205 on Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience (R205) is an effective instrument for governments, employers and workers organizations to address the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On the environmental challenges, she pointed out that the ILO, for over half a century, has been working on offering employment-intensive approaches in delivering green works through essential infrastructure development such as irrigation, flood control, rural transport, agricultures, water and soil conservation and reforestation. Green works contribute to environmental preservation, rehabilitation and improvement of natural resource management, reduction of greenhouse gases, increased carbon stock and overall addressing climate change adaptation and disaster risk resilience. In face of these global challenges, the ILO calls for a human-centred response and recommends its member states to respond to the crisis through 4 pillar solutions, namely:
  1. Stimulating economy and employment
  2. Supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes
  3. Protecting workers in the workplace
  4. Relying on social dialogue for solutions
Presentation by Sectorial Policy Department (SECTOR)
Casper Edmonds, Head of the Extractives, Energy and Manufacturing Unit

Mr. Edmonds summarized the ILO’s analysis of the impact of COVID-19 across different sectors, of which civil aviation, tourism, culture, garments, transport and shipping were among the hardest hit. The new heroes were workers in health and public emergency services, as well as those in education, food retail, and waste management that made sure societies continued to function. He also indicated that women are overrepresented in the most affected sectors and that migrant workers are among the most vulnerable – often out of work and unable to go home. The sectorial constituents of the ILO – governments, employers and workers – had called for immediate and better targeted support for the sectors that were hardest hit and particularly to employers and workers in developing countries. The ILO will continue to work with its 187 member States and sectorial constituents to find solutions on how to build back better and bring about more resilient, inclusive and sustainable sectors. In this regard, Mr. Edmonds emphasized that a just transition to environmental sustainability and circular economy approaches will be in focus in the future.

Presentation by Governance and Tripartism Department (GOVERNANCE)
Manal Azzi, Senior Specialist on Occupational Safety and Health

Ms. Azzi’s intervention focused on ensuring occupational safety and health (OSH) at work in the face of a pandemic. There are numerous types of OSH risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, including the risk of contagion, chemical risks, environmental risks, psychosocial risks and ergonomic risks. For example, in regards to chemical risks, certain chemical agents frequently used to disinfect against the virus, such as alcohol or ammonium-based compounds, can cause dermatological, respiratory and reproductive health effects. She emphasized that certain OSH measures that will be implemented to control the contagion will have a direct effect on the environment. Even as global travel decreases, there will be a move away from collective means of transport (such as public transportation) to individual means. In addition, there will be an increased use of disposal materials, both for personal protective equipment, as well as for individual consumption needs (i.e., disposal cutlery in workplace cafeterias).

She further noted that the implementation of workplace risk assessments, following the OSH Hierarchy of Controls is essential for business continuity and return to work plans. Importantly, risk control measures should be adapted to the needs of workers, based on their particular risk levels, taking into account exposure and susceptibility, as well as non-occupational risk factors. Finally, Ms. Azzi underscored that workers’ participation in preventative OSH measures is essential; and that a collaborative approach among world of work stakeholders is crucial towards the protection of workers, their families, as well as communities worldwide.

Presentation by Enterprises Department (ENTERPRISES)
Moustapha Kamal Gueye, Coordinator, Green Jobs Programme

At his presentation, Mr. Gueye pointed out that response to COVID-19 must go hand-in-hand with environmental responses. From the past months, the world has seen drastic measures taken by governments to contain the virus. It demonstrated the capacity to respond in a drastic manner when there’s the will to do that. Environmental agenda can also be put forward in a drastic manner and ambitious actions can be taken. He emphasized that we are not going back to a new normal but going back to a better normal. We can choose a new path – of climate action, of well-being for people and planet, about people’s jobs, health, education, opportunities and future. Mr. Gueye illustrated how the ILO supports constituents in responding to the crisis from both an employment perspective and an environmental point of view. With Climate Action for Jobs Initiative, the ILO is engaging with countries to help them at the national level, through interventions helping policy measures that facilitate the just transition.

Access to the agenda and summary of the Geneva Environment Network.