ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

276th Session
Geneva, November 1999

Committee on Employment  and Social Policy



Preparations for the Special Session of the General Assembly
of the United Nations on the Implementation of the Outcome
of the World Summit for Social Development
and Further Initiatives


1. The proposal for a Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in the year 2000 to conduct an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development was put forward at the Summit itself and subsequently endorsed by the General Assembly. The Special Session will be held in Geneva from 26 to 30 June 2000. The main purpose of this event will be to reaffirm the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action, to review implementation so far, and to recommend concrete action and initiatives to further efforts towards their full and effective implementation.

2. The aim of this document is to inform the Governing Body of developments that have taken place since the beginning of the preparatory process and of the steps that the Director-General has taken or intends to take in order to ensure that the ILO plays an important role in preparations for the Special Session and at the session itself. The Director-General will keep the Governing Body fully informed of all developments relating to the session in order to seek its guidance and to fully associate it with all aspects of the ILO's participation in the preparatory work for this event.

I. Background

3. The World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen from 6 to 12 March 1995, adopted the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action, which touched on a wide range of issues of interest to the ILO. The ILO's concerns were well reflected, particularly in Commitment 3 of the Declaration (Promoting the goal of full employment) and Chapter III of the Programme of Action (Expansion of productive employment and reduction of unemployment). Regarding the implementation of and follow-up on the Copenhagen agreements, the ILO was given a special role in the field of employment and social development "because of its mandate, tripartite structures and expertise".(1) 

4. This satisfactory outcome was largely due to the Organization's heavy involvement in the preparations and to the fact that ILO constituents from all three groups played a very active part throughout this process and also at the Summit itself. The Governing Body played a major role in providing policy guidance and monitoring the ILO involvement in the Summit and its preparatory process and set up a working party for this purpose. The International Labour Conference adopted a resolution concerning the World Summit for Social Development at its 81st Session (June 1994).(2) 

5. The ILO was prompt in giving effect to the outcome of the Summit. The Governing Body started discussions on action to be taken by the ILO in March-April 1995, and has since had various opportunities to discuss this issue, especially in the Committee on Employment and Social Policy. An Informal Tripartite Meeting at the Ministerial Level was also organized during the Conference in June 1995 in order to consider the ILO's role in follow-up on the Summit.

6. As regards "promoting the goal of full employment as a basic priority of our economic and social policies, and to enabling all men and women to attain secure and sustainable livelihoods through freely chosen productive employment and work" (Commitment 3), the Office has implemented a wide range of activities. The ILO led the ACC Task Force on Full Employment and Sustainable Livelihoods(3)  which oversaw the implementation of six country employment policy reviews (CEPRs).(4)  The Office has also conducted, and is still completing, its own set of CEPRs(5)  reflecting the parameters of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action and has implemented activities in various areas in the field of employment and labour issues. These activities have been reflected in the Office report prepared for the International Consultation concerning Follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development (Geneva, 2-4 November 1999).(6) 

7. The Copenhagen Declaration, and Commitment 3 in particular, has also significantly guided action in the campaign launched by the Director-General for the ratification of core labour standards. The adoption of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work by the 86th Session of the International Labour Conference in 1998 was a major step towards responding to the Summit's call for promoting and safeguarding the "basic rights and interests of workers".(7)  The Office has also focused on specific activities related to the elimination of child labour, in particular through the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and the adoption by the International Labour Conference in June 1999 of a new Convention and its accompanying Recommendation on the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour.(8) 

II. Preparations for the Special Session

8. Through its resolution 52/25, the General Assembly established a Preparatory Committee for the Special Session. At its organizational session (New York, 19-22 May 1998), the Committee elected Ambassador Cristian Maquieira (Chile) to be its Chairperson and invited the ILO "to contribute to the overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcome of the Summit, particularly relating to its activities to implement the Summit commitment on employment as part of promoting social development".(9)  Responding to this invitation, the ILO prepared a report which was submitted to the Preparatory Committee at its first substantive session (New York, 17-29 May and 15 July 1999). During this session, the Chairperson presented a working draft text that would shape the final document of the Special Session. As no agreement could be reached at this stage on the full text of the Chairperson's draft, it was decided to focus only on the specific role of the United Nations system in relation to further initiatives for inclusion in the outcome of the Special Session. A decision was adopted in that regard at a resumed session of the Committee in July 1999, inviting all relevant bodies and specialized agencies, within their mandates, to elaborate and submit review reports and to prepare proposals for further action and initiatives to implement the outcome of the World Summit.(10) 

9. As reflected in this decision, the requests directly involving the ILO refer to various commitments of the Copenhagen Declaration, in particular to Commitment 3 (Promoting the goal of full employment) as reflected in paragraph 11 which:

10. In paragraph 10 (related to Commitment 2: Eradication of poverty), the Committee also "invites the Secretary-General, in cooperation with relevant organizations, in particular the ILO and the International Social Security Association (ISSA), to prepare a report for the Preparatory Committee at its second substantive session containing recommendations for further action in the field of social protection, taking into consideration the particularities of region and countries, their level of development and the need for international cooperation to support the efforts of developing countries in this regard within the overall goal of the eradication of poverty". Other requests addressed to the Secretary-General in conjunction with relevant organizations of the UN system that are of interest to the ILO include references in Commitment 1 (An enabling environment for social development) to "the impact of globalization for social development", "the development of guidelines on the role and social responsibilities of the private sector" and "the undertaking of social impact assessments" of financial crises; to the promotion of social integration in the context of post-conflict situations (Commitment 4: Promoting social integration); to equality and equity between women and men (Commitment 5); to the acceleration of development in Africa and in the least developed countries (Commitment 7) and to the inclusion of social development goals in structural adjustment programmes (Commitment 8).

11. The Preparatory Committee reviewed the Chairperson's working draft during inter-sessional, open-ended informal consultations (30 August to 3 September 1999). Part III of the document is dedicated to further initiatives to be considered by the Special Session and contains issues of particular importance for the ILO, especially as regards Commitment 3 (the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), social dialogue, employment policies, etc.). There are still a number of contentious issues, including in particular the proposal concerning the principles on social policy.(12)  This issue is of special interest to the ILO and the Office is participating in the ongoing process on this matter, including a technical contribution to an informal debate being organized by the UN secretariat. Once a decision on this issue is taken by the Preparatory Committee, the Organization is expected to make a substantive contribution on the subject.

12. An agreement was reached during the consultations on the accreditation and participation of NGOs at the Special Session and a formal decision was adopted at a resumed session of the Preparatory Committee on 21 September 1999. Although no explicit reference is made to employers' and workers' organizations, they will have an opportunity to participate actively in the Special Session, since the major international confederations of employers and workers enjoy consultative status with ECOSOC.

13. From 6 to 8 October 1999, the UN General Assembly considered Agenda Item 37 "Implementation of the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development". Regarding the Special Session and its preparatory process, the consensus that the commitments agreed at Copenhagen should not be renegotiated, but reaffirmed, was confirmed in the debate. Delegates emphasized that the Special Session should identify progress made and obstacles encountered in implementing the Programme of Action and agree on new initiatives. It was noted that the preparatory process had revealed the limited achievements of member States in these efforts and that a frank assessment of the factors hampering further implementation was needed. Many speakers also stressed that the outcome of the Special Session should include a substantive, balanced and concise political declaration. During the plenary debate, ample references were made to the ILO's concerns and activities (the ILO Declaration, child labour and Convention No. 182, a global employment strategy, the creation of productive employment opportunities, employment expansion, small businesses, youth unemployment, training, the social impact of financial crises, social protection, social exclusion, gender equality at work and social dialogue).

14. At its 38th Session (8-17 February 2000), the Commission for Social Development will undertake the overall review of the implementation of the outcome of the Summit and will be immediately followed by a second round of inter-sessional, open-ended informal consultations (New York, 22-25 February 2000). During these consultations, a new integrated Chairperson's working draft text and the compilation of the summaries and proposals taken from the documentation provided by the United Nations system will be considered with a view to preparing a further, revised Chairperson's working draft text to be submitted to the Preparatory Committee at its second and last substantive session (3-14 April 2000).

III. The ILO contribution to the preparatory process

15. The Director-General has already taken a number of steps to ensure that the ILO plays an important and influential role in the preparations for the Special Session and at the Special Session itself. He has entrusted the Bureau for External Relations and Partnerships, under the leadership of its Director, to assume central responsibility in the Office for the ILO's participation in the preparatory work for the Summit. The Bureau is responsible for liaison with the United Nations, other organizations and partners on matters relating to the Summit and for mobilizing cooperation throughout the Office in the preparation of the ILO contribution. It will also ensure, in close coordination with the Bureau for Gender Equality, full coherence with preparations for the Special Session of the General Assembly concerning follow-up on the Fourth World Conference on Women. Moreover, the ILO, as the only UN agency to have detached an official on a full-time basis to work as an integrated member of the UN secretariat team responsible for the preparations of the Special Session, thereby has a unique opportunity to contribute directly to work with the UN secretariat in New York, to feed the ILO's concerns, information and knowledge into the process and to receive continuous feedback on the preparations under way.

16. The Office is already engaged in a process of ensuring the internal planning, guidance and coordination of the relevant technical inputs on issues being dealt with by various units. Consultations have already been held and contributions are being prepared by the units concerned. The ILO is expected to contribute to the preparatory process from various perspectives:

17. The ILO intends to submit review reports on various issues related to the Special Session. In that regard, the ILO's main contribution will naturally relate to Commitment 3 and will be based on the background document prepared for the International Consultation concerning Follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development (Geneva, 2-4 November 1999) which gives an assessment of progress regarding the outcome of the Summit in relation to employment issues. Relevant ILO studies and reports on other areas of Decision 1 that fall within the ILO's mandate will also provide important contributions to other Commitments, notably Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8.

18. Regarding the identification of proposals for further action and initiatives, the Director-General envisages submitting a consolidated contribution that would provide an integrated ILO response to all issues mentioned in Decision 1 relevant to the ILO's mandate and concerns. The ILO contribution will be articulated against the background of globalization, highlighting the centrality of the world of work at the intersection between markets and society, and geared towards recognizing the interaction between social and economic, financial, trade, and development issues now being dealt with separately and in different bodies by the international community. The ILO proposals for further initiatives will focus on action to promote the ILO's primary goal today, as synthesized in the concept of decent work as opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. It will therefore take into account its priority concerns on the four strategic objectives, the two cross-cutting issues and the eight InFocus programmes. As requested by the Preparatory Committee, this contribution will be as succinct as possible and concentrate on concrete and operational proposals for further initiatives. The ultimate objective of these proposals should be to assist ILO constituents in accelerating progress towards the full implementation of the Commitments adopted in Copenhagen, on the basis of the ILO's foreseen programme of work in the coming years. The regional perspectives will be taken into due consideration and strong emphasis will be put on the role of social partners.

19. The outcome of the International Consultation, which is directly related to preparations for the Special Session, is expected to provide recommendations on further initiatives to be proposed by the ILO for adoption by the Special Session. Several other activities relevant to the requests for ILO inputs to the Session will also be taken into consideration and integrated in the overall ILO contribution. These will include: the results of the Second ILO Enterprise Forum (Geneva, 5-6 November 1999); the outcome of the 87th Session (1999) of the International Labour Conference and its follow-up, based on the Report of the Director-General and the Conference discussions on the Programme and Budget proposals for 2000-01, the adoption of the new Convention on the prohibition of, and immediate action for the elimination of, the worst forms of child labour, the follow-up on the Declaration and the conclusions of the Committee on Technical Cooperation; the activities of the Working Party on the Social Dimensions of the Liberalization of International Trade; the Governing Body's discussions concerning follow-up on the ILO Declaration and on the Programme and Budget proposals for 2000-01; the Governing Body's recent discussions on technical cooperation; and the discussions on the Asian financial crisis in the Governing Body and on economic and financial crises at the Conference in 1999.

20. Several parallel events and public information activities will be organized during the Special Session. The ILO could consider participating actively in such activities, by organizing meetings, panel discussions or seminars on issues on the agenda of the Special Session that are close to its concerns and of interest to ILO constituents. A close collaborative effort will be made with the UN secretariat, the host country, other UN entities, donors and other actors.

21. In preparing itself for the Special Session, the ILO will make every effort to ensure that its activities are perfectly in line with the Governing Body's and the Conference's views and concerns. The Office also intends to collaborate fully with other agencies of the UN system that have agreed to take the lead on issues that are also of interest to the ILO. This exercise should provide an excellent opportunity to develop and project to the international community at large an integrated approach of the ILO's vision, knowledge and capacity for action.

22. The Committee may wish to provide guidance regarding the ILO's contribution to the preparatory process of the Special Session, taking into account the outcome of the International Consultation concerning Follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development.

Geneva, 25 October 1999.

Point for decision: Paragraph 22.

1. Para. 98(c), Chapter V of the Copenhagen Programme of Action.

2. International Labour Conference, 81st Session, Geneva, 1994, Provisional Record No. 19, pp. 45-46.

3. The ACC Task force was composed of the ILO (Chair), FAO, IMF, IMO, ITU, the UN secretariat, UN regional commissions, UNCHS, UNDP, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNIDO, UNHCR, UPU, World Bank, WFP, WHO and WTO.

4. These concerned Chile, Hungary, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal and Zambia.

5. These concern Barbados, Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Pakistan, Thailand, Ukraine, as well as, within a comparative framework, four European countries: Austria, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands.

6. FWSD/1999.

7. See Commitment 3, para. (i), of the Copenhagen Declaration.

8. Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182) and Recommendation (No. 190), 1999.

9. A/53/45.

10. A/54/45(Supp.).

11. ibid.

12. Following a proposal made by the United Kingdom at the 1998 annual meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions, a draft note on "Principles and good practice in social policy" was prepared by the World Bank and submitted to the Development Committee in April 1999. Ministers agreed that further development of these basic social principles was best pursued within the framework of the United Nations, as part of the international community's follow-up on the Copenhagen Declaration. Ministers encouraged the World Bank to help countries mobilize the necessary domestic and external resources to implement these principles and to share knowledge of best practices on the effective use of such resources. Ministers asked the World Bank to report back to the Committee at the annual meetings on associated policies and practices that could support the national and international implementation of these objectives. A document entitled "Managing the social dimensions of crises: Good practices in social policy" was submitted to the Development Committee on 27 September 1999.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.