United Nations General Assembly

5 Take-Ways: UN High-Level Week Calls for Green Jobs, a Human-Centred Approach to the Future of Work and an End to Violence and Harassment

Everything you need to know from the most important week at the UN.

News | 04 October 2019
NEW YORK (ILO News) – As the most critical time of the year, the high-level week gathered world leaders at the UN Headquarters in New York to voice their visions for the future, raise issues on the global agenda and come together with partners, stakeholders and allies. These are the 5 key take-aways:
1. Strong call for multilateralism and decent jobs from the Secretary-General
During the UN Secretary-General’s, Mr. António Guterres’, opening speech during the General Debate of the UN General Assembly, he stated that it was necessary to “maintain a universal system – a universal economy with universal respect for international law; a multipolar world with strong multilateral institutions”. Many leaders echoed the need for strengthened multilateralism in an increasingly interconnected world. There was an overarching call for a surge in diplomacy. The Secretary-General also acknowledged people’s concerns, including machines’ impact on jobs. He made it clear that people had the right to well-being and dignified standards of life with social protection and decent jobs, especially for young people.
2. Climate action took center stage with a new initiative on green jobs
The UN Climate Action Summit took place on Monday, September 23, after months of work among member States and agencies, spearheaded by the UN Secretary-General. Contrary to most meetings during the high-level week, member States and other stakeholders were only allowed speaking time if they were making a concrete commitment to climate action. This unique moment pushed the agenda further than ever before. The President of the Government of Spain, H.E. Mr. Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón, announced a new Climate Action for Jobs Initiative that will create decent jobs and protect livelihoods, as the world moves to a carbon-neutral economy. The ILO was invited to spearhead its implementation with support from other partners in the Social and Political Drivers Action Area, including the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Organisation of Employers. In addition to commitments made by nearly 50 countries to include social and labour issues as part of their Nationally Defined Commitments for COP25 in Chile.
Concerns related to climate were also echoed by SIDS during the midterm review of the Samoa Pathway. A political declaration was endorsed, urging increased investments in SIDS for their economic growth and diversification, including in ocean-based economies and creative and cultural industries. SIDS’ vulnerabilities had to be reduced and resilience had to be built in order to maintain jobs and ensure sustainable development.

3. Member States and leaders welcomed a human-centred approach to the future of work
During the Leaders’ Event on Mobilizing Solutions to Shape the Future of Work, co-hosted by the ILO and the Ford Foundation on Monday, September 23, leaders gathered to follow up on the recently adopted ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work. The Declaration calls for strengthened investments in people’s capacities, institutions of work, and decent and sustainable work for all. The Declaration was officially welcomed by UN member States in the lead-up to the UN high-level week.
H.E. Mr. Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden, made it clear, in his keynote remarks during the Leaders’ Event, that a tripartite approach to the future of work was essential. Commenting on the role of technology, H.E. Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia, stated that it was changing traditional jobs and creating new ones. Key leaders from ITUC, IOE, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Salesforce.org, Oxfam and 3M agreed that a prosperous, sustainable future of work, with decent work at its core, was possible, but innovative rethinking of solutions was needed.

4. Stakeholders urged governments to ratify the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment
During the meeting on the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work (No. 190), on September 25, Ministers and government representatives from Namibia, Spain and Argentina, highlighted that protecting workers would lead to decent, inclusive and more sustainable work, and noted that violence and harassment had a significant gender component. The Director of Open Society Foundations’ Women’s Rights Program, Ms. Kavita Ramdas, described the Convention as a “true, collective commitment to a future of fair work, one that would be particularly fair to workers”. The CEO of C&A Mexico and UN Global Compact also voiced their support for the Convention. It was clear that ending violence and harassment in the world of work was a priority to the general public; Global Citizen gathered almost 40,000 signatures from individuals encouraging governments to ratify the Convention.
A key outcome of the meeting was Namibia’s commitment to ratify the Convention, which was announced on stage during the annual Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, New York. As the first African country to commit to ratifying, Namibia is trailblazing the path nationally, regionally and globally for a world of work free of violence and harassment.

5. Progress on the SDGs is not fast enough
As 4 years has passed since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, governments gathered for the SDG Summit, which took place September 24-25. While most member States have integrated the SDGs into their national plans and there is broad support for the Agenda at large, concerns were raised regarding the pace of progress and lack of resources. Many member States also voiced concerns regarding climate change and youth unemployment, hindering overall development. Data collection was seen as a challenge as well. Accelerated actions were needed to reach the SDGs by 2030, and member States expressed a strong sense of urgency.
The SDG Summit resulted in the adoption of the Political Declaration, “Gearing up for a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”. The Declaration reinforced the need to “create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all, taking into account different levels of national development and capacities”. World leaders called for a decade of action to deliver the SDGs by 2030 and announced actions they are taking to advance the agenda. More than 100 acceleration actions have been announced.
Throughout the SDG Summit, partnerships were seen as a key element that had to be increased, both with the private sector and civil society. Building strong partnerships for youth employment was the subject of an event co-hosted by the ILO on September 23, with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation and the company Lukoil. The event benefited from the participation of high-level representatives from governments, workers and employers from the Russian Federation, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. Representatives from other regions also participated, including Ministers from Ecuador and South Africa, who emphasized the need to strengthen ties with the private sector. The sharing of experiences highlighted the significant opportunity that partnerships present to young people in quest of decent jobs.