ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

276th Session
Geneva, November 1999


Report and conclusions of the
Fourteenth American Regional Meeting
(Lima, 24-27 August 1999)



1. The Fourteenth American Regional Meeting of the ILO was held in Lima, Peru, from 24 to 27 August 1999.

2. The Meeting was attended by 157 delegates and advisers from 25 countries. They included 75 Government representatives, including 19 ministers, 38 Employer representatives and 44 Worker representatives. The Meeting was also attended by representatives of intergovernmental and international organizations.

3. The Conference unanimously elected Mr. Pedro Flores Polo, Minister of Labour and Social Mobility of Peru, as Chairperson, and Mr. Rafael Alburquerque (Secretary of State for Labour of the Dominican Republic), Mrs. Nivia Castrellón (Employer, Panama) and Mr. Federico Ramírez León (Worker, Venezuela) as Vice-Chairpersons.

4. Before opening the discussion, Mr. Ricardo Márquez Flores, First Vice-President of the Republic of Peru, welcomed the participants and expressed how privileged he felt to be representing President Alberto Fujimori to express Peru's interest in promoting policies to improve the labour and employment situation in his country, in the Americas and throughout the world, thus contributing to social development. In the Director-General's report entitled Decent work and protection for all: Priority of the Americas, particular emphasis was placed on the monitoring and administration of economic issues by Latin American countries, pressing issues that had been faced at the beginning of the current decade and which had now been overcome -- on the one hand, controlling the unbridled increase in inflation and, on the other, promoting growth and economic investment (both domestic and foreign). However, as the Director-General's report pointed out, those achievements had unfortunately not stopped unemployment (and underemployment) rates rising in Latin America. In other words, economic progress had not resulted in a significant improvement in the employment situation and income of Peruvian workers. This was not a national phenomenon; globalization presupposed the influence of many factors on the development and growth of a country, factors that had recently made it impossible to improve the labour situation adequately at the regional level. Peru, in keeping with international thinking, considered the elimination of child labour to be a fundamental issue. There was international agreement on the need to do away with child labour; this would however take time at the global level because the culture and traditions of many States condoned the work of children and adolescents, even where very often it did not contribute significantly to the family income. There was unanimous agreement, which his Government fully supported, as to the need for immediate action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour -- those that endangered the education, health and normal development of children.

5. The Director-General of the ILO noted that, when he was elected by a solid majority of the Governing Body, he had interpreted that support as a mandate to renew and modernize the Organization on the basis of the values to which it was committed. His principal concern had been to listen to, gather together and interpret the demands made of the ILO by government, employer and trade union leaders, and also to understand what it was that people wanted. Though the demands were many and varied, they could be grouped around four major expectations:

(a) First, there was an expectation that the Organization should make a significant contribution towards allaying the sense of insecurity prevailing as the century was drawing to a close.

(b) Secondly, the ILO was being asked to contribute more actively to establishing a link between economic and social development in order to bring about an appropriate balance between macroeconomic and macro-social considerations. He recalled that the central message of the Copenhagen Social Summit was to promote economic and social efficiency simultaneously. He stressed that closer links between economic and social factors meant that the ILO needed to establish a closer, more equitable and constructive relationship with international financial and trade bodies, such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank; in this way, the ILO could become the social pillar of globalization. Working together with these bodies and forging a more decisive role for the ILO in the multilateral dialogue on globalization was one of the principal demands of the ILO's constituents. A first step in this direction was the invitation extended to the ILO to participate as an observer in the Interim Committee of the International Monetary Fund and in the Development Committee of the World Bank. Another specific aspect of the link between economic and social factors, and one which was of particular importance in the region, was the social and labour dimension of economic integration. It was very satisfying to see that the countries in the region and their institutions had progressively taken steps to incorporate the labour factor into their process of economic and trade integration, and that this was very largely based on the ILO Conventions relating to fundamental rights at work.

(c) Thirdly, the Organization must have an integrated vision of current problems in the world of work, and go beyond the traditional sectoral responses based on a partial vision of reality.

(d) Fourthly, it was hoped that the ILO would promote and, where appropriate, play a leading role in addressing new causes of concern to individuals and to the international community. The main concern currently was the gradual reduction of child labour, beginning with the urgent elimination of its worst forms, as agreed in Convention No. 182.

6. The demands made by constituents, and by those who looked to the ILO with hope, gave rise to four mandates:

(a) A historical mandate to ensure full respect for fundamental rights at work, as laid down in the ILO's core Conventions, as well as in those which, while not fundamental, nevertheless constituted what had quite rightly been called the outcome of the development of the social conscience of humanity.

(b) A political mandate to achieve the creation of the greatest possible number of quality jobs; in essence this meant generating better opportunities for decent employment which went hand in hand with enterprise creation.

(c) An ethical mandate to do all that was necessary to enhance the coverage of social protection. In the region a large majority of the population fell outside any system of protection against the risks of unemployment, occupational accidents, illness and old age. It was that lack of protection, together with the increase in informal, precarious and unregistered employment, which was one of the main sources of the high level of uncertainty and insecurity in which so many families lived.

(d) An organizational mandate to contribute to the strengthening of social institutions, particularly those of employers and workers, and of encouraging constructive dialogue between them in the framework of cohesive and creative tripartism. He recalled his words to the delegates at the latest session of the International Labour Conference: "There is no influential social dialogue without strong employers' and workers' organizations; there is no effective tripartism without strong labour ministries and modern labour administrations. I personally feel that a great many initiatives lie ahead in order to strengthen the social actors, and I am prepared for the ILO to move in this direction."

7. On the basis of this fourfold mandate and the social demands underlying it, the Director-General recalled that he had proposed four strategic objectives and two cross-cutting issues to the Governing Body and the Conference as the guiding principles of the Organization. These objectives and issues had been approved and constituted the framework for institutional development. They should now be examined in the light of the particular situation of the countries of the Americas in order to establish a regional agenda focused on promoting and applying fundamental rights and principles at work, creating greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment and income, enhancing the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all, and strengthening tripartism and social dialogue. It could be seen from his Report that each strategic objective gave rise to regional programmes that were part and parcel of the international InFocus programmes that had been approved by the ILO Governing Body in March 1999. Those were operational priorities for ILO action in the coming years, and a considerable part of its activities would focus more and more on those programmes. Furthermore, each of the strategic objectives and InFocus programmes should take into account development and gender dimensions. This applied to the region as a whole, and particularly to Latin America and the Caribbean where most countries were in the process of development and where women had played a vital role in the success of survival strategies in times of crisis.

8. He emphasized that all those aspects should be reflected in technical cooperation policies that gave due consideration to the diversity and specific nature of individual constituents and the problems in their countries, as well as to the need for integrated rather than sector-specific responses. For this reason the ILO should consolidate and develop a strong technical structure and obtain additional extra-budgetary resources. In the sphere of technical cooperation, special attention should be paid to certain particularly significant general measures: firstly, the promotion of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up; secondly, the push for social dialogue to lead to a tripartite alliance which would prepare and apply policies to generate decent work; thirdly, commitment to the progressive elimination of child labour and the ratification of the new Convention targeting the elimination of its worst forms; and fourthly, the active backing of initiatives currently under way so that the ILO could work more closely with other international institutions active in this area at the global level, and in particular in the Americas. He was confident that these and other aspects would make the Regional Meeting a practical opportunity to develop minimum social standards for the continent and to further the democratic practice of consultation. He invited the Meeting to undertake on behalf of all countries in the Americas region to ratify Convention No. 182 before the next session of the International Labour Conference, to be held in June of the year 2000. While the main objectives set out for the ILO were ambitious, they were within reach. Moreover, an appropriate response to the demands on the Organization and the mandates in place made it imperative to achieve them.

9. The Chairperson of the Meeting observed that the new context in which the countries of the region found themselves made it necessary to reaffirm the principles that had led to the establishment of the ILO in order better to adjust to the constant change in the socio-economic and political environment and structures, as that was the only way to achieve a global economy that would generate prosperity in a climate of respect for social justice. It was imperative to foster a culture of social responsibility and to favour measures to promote economic growth alongside social development. He then proposed that the discussion should address the agenda items in the following order -- general discussion, employment and training, social protection, workers' rights, social dialogue and technical cooperation. It was so agreed.

General discussion

10. The Government representatives of the Dominican Republic and Uruguay, as well as the spokespersons of the Employers' and Workers' groups, underlined the importance of formulating, for the following decade, an agenda based on the four strategic objectives proposed by the Director-General in order to achieve the equitable distribution of economic benefits as a condition of sustainable social progress. They emphasized the need for the ILO to be involved in initiating a dialogue between the countries of the region and the Bretton Woods institutions and in forging closer links between them, and suggested that the possibility be considered of a regional campaign in favour of the prompt ratification of Convention No. 182. They welcomed cooperation with the Organization of American States, the United Nations system and the regional development banks; they supported CINTERFOR; they recognized the importance of the Regional Office and the ILO multidisciplinary advisory teams; and they welcomed horizontal technical cooperation as a means of ensuring that efforts to improve the competitiveness of the countries in the region and to increase the productivity of their enterprises would go hand in hand with decent work and greater social protection. They underlined the importance of strengthening tripartism and social dialogue as well as a new culture of service to employers and workers in labour administration in order to combine economic development and social justice.

11. The Chairperson and spokesperson of the Employers' group, Mr. Funes de Rioja (Argentina), noted the timeliness of the Meeting and said that it should produce concrete results. He emphasized the importance of the steps taken to shift the focus of the Organization back to its constituents and the necessity of keeping headquarters informed of the situation in individual countries and regions, so as to make the ILO more effective. The focus should be on the opportunities offered by globalization and not just on its negative repercussions. He agreed with the Director-General that social exclusion sat ill with democracy and said that the region's employers did not believe in mechanisms that affected trade between countries. He called on the ILO to concentrate on technical cooperation, which would strengthen the social partners and promote dialogue. The Employers wanted the ILO to provide concrete support for the building of efficient enterprises and the generation of productive employment, labour standards that were realistic, cooperation in the creation of an effective and properly funded network of protection for workers, vocational training in line with new technology, and assistance for small and medium-sized enterprises -- and specifically to help them move out of the informal sector.

12. The spokesperson of the Employers' group solemnly confirmed the commitment of the Employers' group to the priority objective of combating the most intolerable forms of child labour. The unanimous adoption of Convention No. 182 by the Conference in June 1999 was the product of considerable effort in which the Employers, as members of the International Organization of Employers (IOE), had fully played their part. Concern about the problem of child labour had already led to the adoption of a resolution by the IOE in 1996. He solemnly called on the governments of the region to make it an absolute priority to ratify and apply the Convention; it was a moral imperative and an indispensable stage in the development of their peoples. He said that it was an honour to take such a public stance and that he was certain that their joint effort had the support of the governments and workers of the Americas; the fact that such action was based on broad consensus and targeted priority and universal objectives in a realistic manner confirmed the validity and relevance of the ILO's new approach to standard setting. In conclusion he asked the ILO to intensify its technical cooperation in helping the parties involved to apply the Convention, particularly the social partners who were key players in the process.

13. The Chairperson and spokesperson of the Workers' group, Mr. De Barros (Brazil) pointed to the need to guarantee trade union action in the region and recalled the role that workers had played in restoring democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean. He regretted the persecution and even the assassination of trade union leaders in their region and stressed the importance of the state of law for the exercise of effective participative democracy. He also regretted that economic and commercial decisions that could lead to the elimination of workers' rights and jobs were being taken at the international level without the participation of the social partners and at times without sufficient transparency. He noted the close link between employment and the question of the issues of social protection and the promotion of fundamental workers' rights and principles, and said that the items on the agenda of the Meeting should be seen as a whole. Due consideration should be given to the situation of agricultural and migrant workers.

14. The Government delegates of Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay and Venezuela expressed their agreement with the analysis presented by the Director-General in his report and concurred that the new labour market situation deserved the care, reflection and special attention of governments. Many delegates noted that the great challenge was to promote sustainable economic progress, encourage the relocation of professionals to new productive areas and ensure the necessary protection of workers. That should be done in conditions that guaranteed decent work, encouraged formal employment relationships, sought to eliminate child labour and other forms of degrading work, and gave due attention to occupational safety and health. Many speakers stressed the importance of modernizing labour relations and promoting stronger social partners so that through social dialogue they could find ways of addressing the crisis and speeding up decision-making in order to achieve economic development with social justice. With respect to rural employment, some delegates said it was important to seek alternatives to contracting manpower in rural areas and to combat informal employment, so as to give employers greater flexibility and ensure that workers' rights were upheld. A number of speakers highlighted the importance of gender issues and the need to create the appropriate conditions for adolescents to enter the labour market for training.

15. Many speakers mentioned the role to be played by ministries of labour in the new environment in orchestrating a move towards self-regulation through collective bargaining. The reorganization of these ministries in the framework of administrative streamlining should make them the true facilitators of economic progress with social justice, enhancing their supervisory capacity and promoting dialogue in a suitable regulatory framework. Several delegates emphasized that employment and work in Latin America must be seen in the context of the far-reaching changes taking place on the global economic stage. Many speakers underlined the importance of economic stability, as no greater misfortune could befall workers than inflation. A number of speakers welcomed the fact that economic integration processes consolidated social areas in which social rights were both recognized and accepted. Some expressed their appreciation that the ILO dealt with labour issues from a multidisciplinary perspective, as that approach was imperative to understand them in a global context that was undergoing structural change. The speakers said that all the seven core Conventions had been approved or would shortly be ratified by their national legislatures, and emphasized their support for the urgent ratification of Convention No. 182.

16. Regarding the same agenda item, a number of Worker representatives referred to the influences underlying far-reaching changes in the Latin American economies -- globalization, macroeconomic adjustment policies and the reform of the State. They drew attention to economic processes that had given rise to precarious employment, poverty and social exclusion. They noted that the ILO agenda for the following decade reflected both their analysis of the situation and the consensus of ILO constituents; however, in their view it would require a shift in priorities in order to promote social dialogue and the growth of balanced societies capable of responding to the challenges of production. By way of example, they said that employment creation in Latin America and the Caribbean called for concerted policies as regards monetary and fiscal matters, capital flows and joint intellectual property schemes. This in turn would help to generate structures that were conducive to the better integration of the world economy, rather than strengthen the external competitiveness of the area and thus widen the social divide, render employment more precarious and introduce greater distortions into the distribution of income. They emphasized the importance of creating a better State in order to create productive and decent jobs.

17. They also stressed the need for training, for ending sexual discrimination, for protecting the weakest groups and for eliminating child labour. They called for the ratification of not only Convention No. 182 but also of Convention No. 138, and spoke of the need for strategic alliances with civil society that went beyond tripartism. As far as integration in the region was concerned, there was a twofold challenge: integration within the individual countries, and integration in a more dynamic productive structure capable -- albeit not necessarily automatically -- of generating greater well-being. They said that they would like ILO meetings such as the current one to be held more frequently. They insisted on the need to support the approach being taken by the new Director-General. The challenges facing the world of work called for comprehensive solutions which would help to restore the social fabric in the region; tripartite consultation was needed to promote employment. They said that they were not prepared to exchange rights and social protection for jobs that were not remotely decent. They emphasized the importance of ensuring that globalization occurred in a climate of democracy and said that the so-called "social clause" should be adhered to. They suggested the possibility of the ILO participating in an institutional capacity in the negotiations currently under way to establish a free trade area in the Americas.

18. A number of Employer representatives stressed that, while they recognized the ILO's standard-setting function, they were compelled to reiterate their call to avoid excessive regulation which would only prove restrictive. They explained that they were not suggesting that there should be no protection and that they were in favour of appropriate, just and balanced respect for standards. They reiterated their endorsement of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, noting its conceptual importance and also its practical dimension. They stressed that efforts should be made to improve education and training, properly geared to the needs of the labour force. Basic education should be reinforced, in order to permit access to higher skills, and greater attention should be paid to the demands of technological progress, all of which would go towards raising the overall level of skills and income. They pointed to the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises in the creation of productive employment. They agreed with the Director-General of the ILO that more and better jobs were the product of economic growth and that this in turn resulted from the level of investment and savings, in a framework of macroeconomic stability and an appropriate distribution of benefits. They pointed out that protection for all, a worthy objective, was both complex and difficult to achieve.

19. Many of the Employers' delegates insisted on the need to strengthen social dialogue and tripartism, and on the need to build a "new labour culture" which, setting aside obstacles and confrontations, would lead to greater participation and cooperation. They expressed their full support for freedom of association and for the promotion of new machinery for autonomous solutions to industrial disputes. They noted the positive results of the Active Partnership Policy pursued by the ILO and the work of the multidisciplinary advisory teams. It was important for the ILO to go more deeply into the problem of unemployment and to make clearer and more forthright proposals with regard to labour flexibility. They drew particular attention to the action undertaken, through IPEC, to eliminate child labour.

20. The Government representative of Canada asked the ILO to adopt coherent and effective systems to monitor and evaluate its programme both at headquarters and in the field. That would allow the ILO to carry out more technical cooperation work and to demonstrate the high standard of its programme, which in turn would lead to a greater mobilization of resources. That was essential if the Organization was to be effective and credible in its efforts to achieve decent work for men and women throughout the world.

21. An observer from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) referred to the Bank's programmes to fight poverty in the region, and emphasized its interest in technical cooperation activities aimed at strengthening workers' organizations, and assisting ministries of labour to consolidate their services and expertise.

22. The Minister of Labour of Trinidad and Tobago said that it would be particularly useful for his Government, and possibly for the other countries in the Caribbean, to have more details about the InFocus programmes, such as the beneficiary countries, the specific programmes to be developed by the multidisciplinary teams and the impact foreseen in each member State; these details could be set out in a document appended to the report of the Meeting. He explained that the subregion of the Caribbean had tried to enter the Latin American market in order to collaborate in the development of both regions. He expressed the wish to remain closely involved in both the design and the implementation of projects and programmes. He therefore considered it necessary to strengthen ties, harmonize technical cooperation activities and avoid competing for limited available resources.

Employment and training

23. A number of Government and Employers' delegates observed that the creation of more and better jobs was mainly the outcome of high and sustained economic growth. The Government delegates of the United States and Uruguay stressed the role of policies in maintaining the broad macroeconomic equilibrium that was necessary for economic growth and job creation. As the Employers' delegate of Ecuador pointed out, it was very difficult to promote employment without growth. The Employers' delegates of Argentina and Mexico, for their part, emphasized the importance of productive investment and the creation of enterprises as a fundamental means of generating employment; this presupposed the existence of a legal framework that was conducive to investment and the creation of enterprises.

24. A Government delegate of Argentina said that, in the context of globalization, job creation depended more than ever on the competitiveness of enterprises, which was a reflection of lower costs and better quality of production.

25. The Government delegates of Argentina and Chile observed that the globalization of economies brought advantages, such as the creation of jobs in more competitive economies, but also such undesirable features as greater insecurity in employment. The Workers' delegates of Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela observed that economies were more exposed than before to the effects of international crises, especially financial crises. These resulted in fiscal and monetary adjustment policies that had a negative impact on the labour market, particularly in the form of precarious employment and unemployment which in turn led to poverty and social exclusion.

26. The Government delegates of Barbados and Guatemala noted that the process of globalization was a special challenge for small countries and that special measures were therefore needed.

27. A Government delegate of the Dominican Republic noted that, although labour costs were a major factor in competitiveness, the real challenge was to improve productivity. The Government delegate of Uruguay said that collective bargaining needed to be strengthened so as to enhance the competitiveness of enterprises based on full respect for workers' fundamental rights.

28. Several Government delegates observed that economic growth itself was insufficient to generate the necessary quantity and quality of employment and emphasized the need to define and implement active employment policies aimed particularly at the most vulnerable groups, such as women and young people from poor families. The Employers' delegate of Panama mentioned the need to design and implement special programmes for poor women. The Workers' delegate of Uruguay stressed that the social actors needed to participate more directly in the definition of active employment policies.

29. The Government delegate of Chile mentioned the need to introduce unemployment insurance and to extend its coverage so as to be able to respond to the sometimes sudden variations in employment levels. The spokesperson of the Employers' group stressed the State's role not only in fostering a successful economy but also in creating an environment that was more conducive to the protection of the more vulnerable groups.

30. A Government delegate of Guatemala commented that, in the context of globalization, a balance needed to be brought about between the competitiveness of enterprises, the increased productivity of labour and remunerative wages. The Government delegate of Chile observed that economic growth had been insufficient to reverse the trend towards an unequal distribution of income, citing specifically the need to link adjustments in wages more directly to increases in productivity.

31. Several delegates referred to the concept of decent work outlined in the Director-General's report to the Meeting. The Government delegate of the United States said that free trade in the Americas was fundamental to the attainment of decent employment, meaning employment with appropriate levels of remuneration and protection. The Government delegate of Brazil drew attention to the social and labour declaration of MERCOSUR as a framework for the promotion of decent employment.

32. Several delegates from the Employers' group attached high priority to this aspect, emphasizing the need to envisage programmes both for workers and for entrepreneurs that covered the question of employability as well as the development of entrepreneurship and training in the administration and management of micro and small enterprises. The Employers' delegate of Venezuela suggested that the Turin Centre and CINTERFOR could be more active in this area.

33. A Government delegate of Chile said that training was essential if productivity was to be increased; moreover, a better level of skills meant that workers were more employable. He therefore wholeheartedly endorsed the InFocus programmes along these lines proposed by the Director-General. Concurring with his colleague, a Government delegate of Trinidad and Tobago urged that the ILO's technical cooperation be extended in the area of human resources training with a view to promoting employability based on skills and experience. The Employer representative of Ecuador highlighted the importance of training, rather than measures that perpetuated the lack of labour mobility, as a means of enhancing employability.

34. The Employers' delegate of Panama was concerned at the apparent paradox that existed between high levels of unemployment, on the one hand, and the shortage of skilled manpower for available jobs, on the other. In her view, training programmes had a direct and positive impact on employability and at the same time guaranteed quality jobs. In any case, training had to be not only specific but comprehensive, encouraging a sense of responsibility, a spirit of collaboration, teamwork, and so on. She stressed the importance for workers of basic education as an initial step in the development of training programmes, and urged that education and training be part and parcel of harmonious and coherent state policies.

35. The spokesperson of the Workers' group urged that workers be guaranteed a higher level of participation in the formulation and organization of vocational training policies. Inter alia, he advocated their participation in national agreements on employment, wages and productivity, in the incorporation of specific provisions in collective bargaining and in the running of national training institutions and systems. He proposed the implementation of programmes and services at the local and sectoral level, and added that training had to be linked to employment, wages, occupational safety and health, working conditions and environment, social security, etc. Finally, he believed that training programmes should be seen as part of a system of lifelong education and urged that the ILO's technical cooperation in this area be enhanced by increasing the resources of ACTRAV and CINTERFOR in the region.

36. The Employers' delegate of Argentina said that, given the new forms of organization of labour, it was necessary to create a favourable environment for the creation of enterprises and jobs that took into account such aspects as the advent of new employment opportunities in the knowledge society, the significant growth of the services sector, subcontracting, the need to harness the informal sector and the appearance of new forms of self-employment. Given this new environment, thought had to be given to a juridical framework and a system of collective bargaining that took account of the new forms of organization of labour. He also proposed increasing the participation of employers' organizations in the formulation and implementation of training programmes and the design of specific programmes for small and medium-sized enterprises.

37. A Government delegate of Uruguay stressed the role of collective bargaining in promoting cooperation between enterprises, workers and governments on the issue of productive reconversion and technological change so as to improve international competitiveness. She said that to be competitive one had to invest in skills training that was geared more towards versatility and less towards specialization. She advocated an alliance between education and training and called for the formulation and implementation of state policies that encouraged initiatives by enterprises and training for socially excluded sectors. The employability of the labour force needed to be improved, while at the same time protecting workers' rights. The support of CINTERFOR and of the ILO were essential in this respect.

38. A Government delegate of Colombia voiced concern at the poor quality and limited relevance of training programmes in some of the region's vocational training institutions. He maintained, moreover, that the programmes were not geared to the requirements of globalization and were out of step with technological innovation, especially in terms of state-of-the-art technology.

39. The Workers' delegate of Uruguay was worried about the serious economic, social and cultural regression in the region despite the progress that had been made in recent years in know-how and technological development. He pointed to the contradiction in terms between progress and regression. He called for a system that guaranteed more democratic access to training while at the same time emphasizing the need for trade union organizations to participate more in the formulation of state employment and training policies. Without proper respect for trade union democracy it was impossible to strengthen democratic regimes and there could be no progress.

40. The Workers' delegate of Brazil said that much more investment than in the past was needed in basic education, just as it was in training. Like other Workers' delegates, he emphasized the need to increase the involvement of trade union organizations in education and training, while recognizing that they were in any case not in themselves the answer to the problem of unemployment.

41. A number of Government delegates observed that economic recovery in the countries of the region had not generated sufficient protected employment to absorb the expansion of the labour force and that employment in the informal sector was increasingly prevalent. Underemployment was the hallmark of the vast and ever-growing informal sector. Several speakers voiced their concern at the large number of workers who were operating outside the protected labour market, which meant that they could not exercise their rights and enjoy the protection to which the law entitled them.

42. A Government delegate of Ecuador spoke at length on the subject of employment and training and, specifically, on the informal and micro-enterprise sector. He said that the real challenge was how to respond effectively and rapidly to the increase in social pressures. He believed that the informal sector was an interesting social response to the problem of unemployment among young people and women and, given appropriate support, could be a means of promoting human, social and economic well-being. It was, however, necessary to devise support policies that increased the value added of these activities. Micro-enterprises in particular needed information on market opportunities, productive links with large enterprises, adequate and accessible financial support, and a flexible regulatory framework that adequately governed labour relations and social protection. Training can be genuinely valuable in so far as it is real management training.

43. Several Government delegates referred to ongoing national employment and income-generation programmes aimed at micro and small urban and rural businesses and to the corresponding public investment that was planned or had already been undertaken. For example, public small and micro-enterprise promotion funds had been set up and were proving successful. In Brazil a proposal was being considered to change the regulations governing manpower cooperatives so as to encourage large-scale associations for generating employment and earnings and at the same time to ensure the legal protection of the workers involved.

44. A number of Employers' delegates agreed with the Director-General's report that enterprises, including micro- and small enterprises, were a key factor in growth and employment in open economies because of their initiative and creativity in adapting to social changes. They emphasized the need to foster an entrepreneurial culture and to develop an infrastructure of services for SMEs. From the Employers' standpoint the promotion of investment in the creation and development of new -- and especially small -- enterprises was an important feature in any support strategy. SMEs were the most spontaneous expression of free enterprise and were a link between the formal and informal sectors of the economy. In so far as they were a particularly dynamic phenomenon, because of their great potential for job creation and innovation, the multiplication of SMEs contributed to the revitalization of the social body. The spokesperson of the Employers' group invited the ILO to develop technical support programmes for small and medium-sized enterprises through a production and marketing network.

45. The spokesperson of the Workers' group referred to the need for ILO technical cooperation in the promotion of enterprises and employment that was geared to the specific needs of each country. He very much hoped that the gap between the formal and informal world would not be widened by creating isolated pockets of protected workers within the informal sector, and suggested that small productive units be given the opportunity of legalizing their activities. He further emphasized that the SME sector was looking to the State for appropriate support, especially in the form of ongoing training for workers and employers and access to technology.

Social protection

46. The spokesperson of the Workers' group stressed that access to an adequate level of social protection was a fundamental right of all people and was thought to be conducive to the promotion of the general welfare. He mentioned that the ILO had organized a number of activities in connection with the various systems of social protection and their reform. The privatization of social protection systems had been a complete failure. The Workers hoped that such systems would not be based on individual capitalization and denounced the fact that, in those countries that had adopted this system, the national banks had fallen into foreign hands. He proposed that a discussion be held on a new model based on consultation and with the participation of the ILO. He added that pension schemes guaranteed the access of all workers to social protection.

47. Since the debate on social protection was extremely broad, the spokesperson of the Employers' group limited his comments to social security, which he saw as a social protection network covering health, age or forced unemployment. He agreed with the Director-General of the ILO that the issue came under the ethical mandate of the ILO and that there had been profound changes in this respect in the region. He said that the social protection systems in the region had changed as a result of the breakdown of the pay-as-you-go scheme, caused by inefficient administration and excessive red tape, and that civil society had thus been cheated. Even the ILO's social security standards themselves needed to be rethought, as they were now obsolete. This raised a serious question: the Office defended a retirement scheme based on classical parameters, and yet the fact remained that international labour standards had not prevented the system's collapse. These matters had been extensively debated in the region, in Caracas and in Mexico. The speaker said that the set of standards that existed needed to be adapted. As to retirement schemes, what was needed was efficient administration.

48. Regarding unemployment, the spokesperson of the Employers' group agreed that, as far as possible, there ought to be a network against unemployment -- a network that would cater to the needs of the workers and their families during this period rather than encourage the persistence of the phenomenon. At the same time, it should try to facilitate the worker's re-entry into the labour market. He drew attention to the problems that small developing economies might encounter with schemes of this kind, and said that more needed to be known of the experience of some South-East Asian countries so as to see whether they could be adapted and applied to the Americas. The ILO could make a major contribution in this respect. He was convinced that the best protection for the unemployed was the existence of an environment that was conducive to the creation of enterprises and, hence, to the generation of employment. In turn, continuing education and training for workers was a guarantee of employability. He stressed that social protection was only possible in the context of a functioning economy.

49. The speaker went on to observe that conditions of work and the working environment needed to be improved so as to avoid accidents and diseases. This was in the interest both of the employers and of the workers, from the human standpoint as well as from that of productivity, of the distortion of production costs and of labour relations. The institutions responsible for promoting or monitoring safety and health at the workplace ought to modify their approach and focus on education and prevention. He was not against schemes that offered reparation, but the trend ought to be towards more integrated schemes. Rather than sanctions it was prevention that needed to be encouraged.

50. Social security must be accessible to the entire population. Informal labour should be discouraged; what was called for was not so much a social security scheme for informal workers as a legal framework that would enable them to join the formal sector, to pay their contributions and to be properly covered. He stressed that it was essential that new enterprises and their workers be included in the social security schemes, that the formalities be simplified and that obstacles be eliminated; it was also necessary to promote policies aimed at incorporating micro- and small enterprises.

51. The speaker was in favour of private sector participation, but that this did not mean that the State should itself cease to participate; it should provide the necessary legal framework and be responsible for monitoring the system. In conclusion, he was convinced that the ILO's instruments concerning social security ought to be revised and that a tripartite consensus was needed to keep abreast of the times.

52. The Workers' delegate of Colombia said that for the trade union movement the Director-General's report posed something of a challenge, given the structural adjustment programmes that had been implemented in Latin America and the Caribbean. These programmes ignored workers' rights and violated the Conventions of the ILO. Colombia claimed to be reforming its labour legislation but, in practice, it was disregarding workers' rights and doing away with any possibility of social protection -- putting an end to stability of employment, cutting wages, facilitating dismissals and lowering the cost of manpower. A bill currently before the country's Congress aimed at eliminating the retroactivity of pensions for dismissed public employees and at limiting the opportunities for negotiating collective employment contracts. It should not be forgotten that the new challenges for labour had arisen in a bid to impose a neo-liberal model on Latin America and the Caribbean. In Colombia labour standards had been made more flexible, the social security scheme had been dismantled to the detriment of most people and, as a result, poverty and social exclusion were on the increase. Part II of the Director-General's report outlined the activities of the ILO in support of tripartism, but the outcome had not always been very encouraging. Recently, in Colombia, the ILO had suggested simultaneously increasing the number of weeks of contributions for entitlement to a retirement pension from 1,000 to 1,300, raising the age of retirement and fixing higher contributions, without having properly analysed the instability of the labour market -- a common feature in the country -- which made pensions virtually inaccessible. Civil contracts, which were increasingly prevalent in Colombia, did not provide for any contribution towards social security and retirement. Regarding Part III of the report, which dealt with the future of the ILO in the region, the Workers were more convinced than ever that the ILO was the most legitimate body to promote tripartism and build a consensus. In conclusion, the speaker expressed his concern at recent developments in Colombia which undermined the protection of trade unionists and the right to protest. It was now virtually impossible to speak of social protection in Latin America and the Caribbean, given the free rein that was being given to the neo-liberal model, the violation of workers' rights and the destruction of the trade union movement. What was needed was to have a more open debate and to build a totally different Latin America and the Caribbean from which the huge majority of the population in every country could benefit. Unless meetings such as these had the support of the community at large, they would never bear fruit.

53. The Minister of Labour and Social Security of Argentina said that social protection was now one of the most important items on the international agenda. The concept of sustainable development had given rise to a new view of man as the centre of the universe. That development should be reflected in an increase in real earnings and the social development of peoples, including in such areas as occupational safety and health, education and individual liberties, all of which were conducive to a better quality of life. Strategic development planning was impossible without the participation and consensus of the sectors concerned. He drew attention to some of the unexpected effects of globalization on regional groupings -- in some cases positive effects such as the creation of MERCOSUR, in others negative effects such as the conflicts in Eastern Europe. The real challenge was how, by means of dynamic and innovative plans, to close the gap between technology and employment. Whatever one's view of the concept of sustainability, equality of access to natural resources and to social and economic assets was an important factor. The sole objective of the model of development that had predominated since the Second World War was economic development, completely disregarding the social dimension. He concluded that the process of development should be conducive to an environment in which people, both as individuals and collectively, could realize all their potential and enjoy a reasonable degree of social protection.

54. The Workers' delegate of Peru observed, first of all, that the collapse of the social security models had not been the fault of the workers. What was needed was a social security system that was administered on a rotating basis by the three social actors, with shared responsibility, in order better to meet the needs of the people -- and not only to attract resources. He agreed with the views expressed in the Director-General's report to the Meeting along these lines. Secondly, he felt that measures should be adopted to establish an insurance scheme for the unemployed, so that they could continue to receive some remuneration during the period of unemployment and also undergo training so as to find a place in the labour market again. He stressed the principle of solidarity that was involved in an unemployment insurance scheme and concluded that it was time for concrete steps to be taken in that direction.

55. The spokesperson of the Workers' group, taking the floor once again, observed that the administrations of pension funds, as they stood, had not brought any benefits to the workers and that they were therefore no solution to the problem of social security.

56. The spokesperson of the Employers' group, for his part, said that there was agreement on both the objectives and the values of social security but not on its form and scope or on how an efficient scheme of this kind could be introduced. He believed that, as far as the law permitted, the private sector should be involved in efficient schemes offering better benefits and coverage. He pointed, for example, to Chile's 18 years of experience with such a scheme. He observed that the discussion that the subject had given rise to in the Meeting showed how important it was. He maintained that social security schemes must be viable and not just empty promises and that the viability of such schemes was their best guarantee.

57. The Workers' delegate of Chile said that it was not possible to claim that there was any social security scheme in her country. She said that workers in Chile were obliged to save money individually and pointed out that, in practice, no social security machinery had been put into place either by the State or by the employers. Contributions levied on wages were placed in individual accounts that were administered by foreign financial enterprises and over which the workers had absolutely no say. She recognized that the system was successful from the economic standpoint for the authorities administering the pension funds (the AFPs), but for their members that was not the case. It would be possible to see just how successful the individual capitalization scheme really was in the years 2005-10, when most of the workers currently contributing would be retiring. The Government would then have to come up with the benefits that the scheme could not afford. She added that the Workers had already informed the Governing Body that, if it wished to refer to the Chilean model, it would have to consult the owners of the capital and not those who were administering it without the authorization or consent of the workers.

58. The spokesperson of the Employers' group said that the answer no doubt lay somewhere between state-run, pay-as-you-go schemes, which were to all intents and purposes bankrupt, and the alternative Chilean model. He concluded that, in order to find that answer, the whole issue ought to be discussed in depth, since everyone agreed that social security was necessary.

59. Finally, the spokesperson of the Workers' group agreed that there should be a debate with the active participation of all those concerned.

Labour rights

60. A number of speakers referred to the issue of labour rights, both during the general discussion and during the item-by-item examination by the Meeting at its fourth sitting. In his opening speech the Chairperson had placed particular emphasis on the need to promote and ensure respect for workers' fundamental rights, and had underlined the importance of the work to be done by ministries of labour in that regard. He had said that full respect for fundamental labour rights constituted the core element of the notion of decent work as presented in the report of the Director-General.

61. The spokespersons of the Employers' and Workers' groups, along with numerous Government delegates, reiterated their commitment to the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 1998 session. They likened the Declaration to a basic charter of rights that the ILO was giving the international community against the backdrop of the economic globalization processes currently under way. The spokesperson of the Employers' group said that the Declaration was more than just a text -- it also defined a philosophy in that it did not impose any links between labour standards and international trade. Such links, he said, did not protect workers, and only served to justify protectionist measures. He added that the Declaration advocated freedom of association and the autonomy of the social partners, both of which were prerequisites for political freedom and democracy. It also accorded a key role to social dialogue, to which his group fully subscribed.

62. Some speakers referred to the regional and subregional dimension of fundamental rights, saying that the countries comprising MERCOSUR had recently adopted a social and labour declaration designed to give a social dimension to that integration process. On the same subject, the Minister of Labour of Uruguay suggested that the Declaration adopted by the Conference in 1998 could be supplemented by a further declaration, regional in scope, the follow-up on which could be carried out in coordination with the system of the Organization of American States. Various other speakers stressed the urgency for countries to begin harmonizing their labour policies, bearing in mind that integration processes were forcing them to bring all policies into line.

63. A number of speakers noted that the ratification rate of the seven core Conventions was very high in the region; a number of States had already ratified all of them and only a few had ratified less than five of the Conventions. Particular mention was made of the fact that several countries had recently ratified the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), and that the governments of other countries had already submitted it to the competent authorities for ratification.

64. Several speakers recognized that the formal ratification of an ILO Convention did not in itself guarantee respect for fundamental rights at work. Various speakers from the Workers' group observed that the protection of freedom of association and also of the right to collective bargaining left much to be desired in many countries in the region, as demonstrated by the large number of complaints submitted to the Committee on Freedom of Association. This was further evidenced by the high number of observations made by the Committee of Experts owing to the incompatibility of certain national legislative provisions with Conventions Nos. 87 and 98. There was agreement that the application of those Conventions must be improved and that the ILO should provide technical cooperation for this purpose, both in order to bring legislation into line with ratified Conventions and to improve the capacity of ministries of labour to ensure respect for the law.

65. Many speakers referred to the recently adopted Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). A number of Workers' and Government delegates supported the call made by the spokesperson of the Employers' group for its rapid ratification; various ministers and Government delegates indicated that their governments had taken the first steps towards ratifying the Convention, which in some countries had already been submitted to the respective parliaments with the request that the authorization of its ratification be given top priority.

66. Several speakers took up the issue of labour flexibility and described individual experiences. A number of Employer members declared that it was imperative that labour legislation be flexible, given that globalization implied challenges of competitiveness and adaptation to changing markets which could not be responded to under regulations that made mobility difficult and increased labour costs. An excessive number of labour rules discouraged job creation, particularly by small and medium-sized enterprises, which were the very motor the economy relied on to create jobs. They pointed out that rather than seeking protection for workers under the law, collective bargaining could instead be developed, encouraging self-regulation by the social partners themselves. The creation of decent work required a regulatory framework able to adjust to national circumstances, and with excessive regulation that was simply not possible.

67. A number of Employers also emphasized that excessive rules encouraged informal sector work. For that reason realistic legislation was needed which would help bring informal sector enterprises into the formal sector. The same could be said of ILO standards, which must keep in step with reality, without there being any implication that fundamental labour rights should be infringed. Moreover, it was important that prevailing laws should always be respected, and States should make every effort to ensure compliance with them; failure to comply with the law was in many cases a factor in unfair competition which benefited non-complying employers and penalized those who abided by the law. To a large extent that observation was also relevant for international trade -- some countries based their competitiveness on failure to respect fundamental labour standards, which placed other countries more respectful of those standards at a disadvantage.

68. A number of Workers' delegates said that globalization should not serve as a pretext to eliminate workers' rights or their jobs, or to make their employment situation more precarious. For the Workers, the subject of employment was directly linked to the protection of labour rights, and also to the social dimension of globalization. One of the major challenges in the region was to ensure that economic progress resulting from international economic liberalization was reflected in sustainable social progress, and one of the indicators of such progress was labour standards that were able to guarantee decent work. However, this had not been the case for labour reforms undertaken in a number of countries, which had proven unsuccessful in improving international competitiveness. Labour reforms which made employment more precarious probably resulted in less investment in training and human resources, as presumably employers would not invest in training workers who did not intend to stay with their enterprises, and workers would not be motivated to undergo training or retraining for work from which they would probably be dismissed in a more or less short space of time.

69. One Workers' delegate observed that international financial institutions were unjustifiably claiming that labour standards were responsible for a lack of competitiveness, or a lack of foreign investment. He added that for years the example of the Asian Tigers had been used, it being said that their success was due to the lack or low level of labour standards. Nevertheless, the crisis in South-East Asia had shown that the example was much less solid than its proponents claimed. With respect to Latin America, the current situation demonstrated that following two decades of labour reforms their supposed beneficial effect on growth, competitiveness and employment had still not become apparent.

70. A number of Workers' delegates added that the subject of employment was closely linked to the protection of labour rights and the social dimension of growth in globalization, and indicated their willingness to include the subject of the social clause in international trade negotiations.

71. A number of speakers from the Government group referred specifically to experiences their countries had had with labour flexibility. The Secretary of State for Labour of the Dominican Republic said the subject must be examined with care and prudence, as labour flexibility could reduce the effective level of protection of fundamental rights, while its impact on labour costs and competitiveness was in any case hypothetical and certainly considerably less than the potential result of improved productivity following the use of quality manpower. In 1992 his country had adopted a new Labour Code which maintained and even increased protection levels vis-à-vis earlier legislation; in spite of this, his country had since enjoyed growth rates which were among the highest in the region, inflation had remained within reasonable limits, real wages had risen, 400,000 new jobs had been created and social peace had been preserved.

72. A Government delegate of Argentina stated that a task that many countries in the region were depending on the ILO to perform was the objective evaluation of labour legislation reforms which had already been implemented, in order to examine whether they had really served to improve competitiveness and create jobs, as some maintained, or had made existing jobs more precarious without any particular advantages for competitiveness, as others claimed. That evaluation had been carried out in his country and, as a result, in 1998 labour legislation had again been revised in order to do away with a number of forms of precarious employment which had been permitted under previous reforms that had not led to employment creation. It was also necessary to promote the regularization of employment in the formal sector, since it was in formal enterprises that such regularization was easiest to accomplish. He added that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development had reached the conclusion that there was no link between employment and labour flexibility. It would be advisable for similar studies to be carried out in Latin America in order objectively to examine the issue.

73. The Minister of Labour of Uruguay said that workers' basic rights should always be guaranteed, as that was the only way of ensuring that globalization would benefit all. Moreover, labour protection measures should be harmonized and collective bargaining should be strengthened as it offered a meeting point for workers and employers.

Social dialogue

74. During the general discussion on the Director-General's report, many of the speakers stressed the central role that tripartism -- and the social dialogue that it permits -- can play in the construction and consolidation of a democratic State and in the formulation of appropriate national responses to the challenges of economic adjustment and globalization. The State has to be able to offer a credible guarantee that the fundamental conditions and preconditions exist, namely freedom of association and full respect for collective bargaining. It was recommended that a broad social dialogue be organized on employment generation, occupational safety and health, vocational training, social security, and economic and other issues. Recognizing that the Organization had a role to play in supporting all these sectors, the ILO was assigned special responsibility in the training of workers and employers and the strengthening of their organizations. Several speakers further proposed that the social dialogue machinery be extended to include other sectors of civil society, such as academic institutions, associations of micro-enterprises and even political parties. The potential relevance to Latin America of such bodies as the economic and social councils that had been set up in Europe might also be looked into.

75. During the discussion of the agenda, the spokesperson of the Employers' group emphasized that both the consolidation of democracy and the process of rapid economic and commercial change need to be better understood and agreed upon by society at large. Social dialogue was ideal for this purpose but, if it was to be of any use, it must deal with concrete matters and seek to balance and reconcile perspectives and interests that were sometimes conflicting. The ILO's meetings were fine examples of social dialogue in the international arena and should be replicated at the national level. That said, the quality of the social dialogue would depend on the quality of those involved in the process, who should be representatives of free, recognized, autonomous and competent organizations. In conclusion, he emphasized that the concept of autonomy was particularly important inasmuch as it was for society to choose its spokespersons without any state interference. The ILO had a special responsibility in training and supporting the participants in social dialogue.

76. Many speakers said that social dialogue supported the process of change and adjustment by helping to make government decisions and the ensuing legislation more consistent, legitimate and sustainable. Social dialogue could make it easier for ministers of labour to make progress in such areas as labour law enforcement and conflict resolution. Decision-making on labour and socio-economic issues at the national level should take its inspiration from the ILO's own approach, which was one of tripartite consensus -- an altogether appropriate subject for an international labour Convention.

77. Other speakers from the Employers' group observed that the principle and process of social dialogue were not only relevant in the national context; MERCOSUR, for example, already had a consultative body on labour and social affairs. One speaker mentioned that social dialogue could usefully be established and strengthened at the community and municipal levels. New social dialogue machinery should not replace existing and legally established tripartite bodies. It should instead complement the work of these bodies by involving other social actors such as consumers' associations and academic institutions. That said, the question of broadening participation in social dialogue should be embarked upon with some caution, because the sometimes conflicting, sometimes vague, objectives of many non-governmental organizations, along with their limited management and administrative capability, might hinder rather than help the development of a legitimate and productive process of social dialogue based on the concept of tripartism.

78. The spokesperson of the Workers' group said that social dialogue was vital if countries were to overcome the crisis brought about by economic adjustment and the globalization of trade. He added, however, that these new challenges made it absolutely essential to involve other components of civil society such as the scientific, academic and ecological community and welfare institutions, especially those concerned with children. Social dialogue would only work if the negotiations and agreements to which it gave rise were transparent and conducted in good faith, and if ministries of labour were genuinely in a position to influence government decisions.

79. Other speakers from the Workers' group referred to the considerable discrepancy in their countries between the theory of social dialogue and the reality. Although institutions and machinery had been set up under laws and government policies, in many cases they did not work or else left the workers on the sidelines; it was therefore important that the ILO play a leading role in a careful reform of these national processes. In one country, the "new labour culture" was described as having breathed new life into social dialogue and to have allowed great strides to be made in conciliation and conflict resolution. One speaker stressed that Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 were fundamental and that unless these ILO instruments were scrupulously observed throughout the world the whole concept of social dialogue would remain an illusion. Finally, the point was made that the protection of freedom of association was the most important task of any ministry of labour.

Technical cooperation

80. Before concluding the afternoon session, the spokesperson of the Government group referred to the agreement that had been reached with the Workers' group and Employers' group on a joint proposal concerning technical cooperation; it summarized the priorities of all three groups and was based on three specific propositions that he went on to describe. He added that the three groups had expressed the desire that their joint proposal should be incorporated in full in the conclusions of the Meeting. The spokesperson of the Workers' group asked that a reference to strengthening the complementary support of ACTRAV and ACT/EMP be added to the section of the conclusions dealing with technical cooperation, independently of the points referred to in the joint proposal. The motion was wholeheartedly endorsed by the spokesperson of the Employers' group.

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Adoption of the report and conclusions of the Meeting

81. The Fourteenth American Regional Meeting adopted its conclusions and its report by consensus, and noted the following reservation expressed by the Government of Cuba regarding paragraph 23 of the conclusions.

82. The Government of Cuba considered that the possibility of jointly analysing the implementation of the conclusions adopted at the Fourteenth American Regional Meeting should be established according to existing ILO procedures and structures, thus allowing tripartite consultation, including consulting mechanisms with the governments of all member States. In view of the fact that the Organization of American States did not comprise all the countries of the region, the ILO should not in its view subordinate its procedures to those of an organization whose composition was not in accordance with the ILO's membership. To this effect, the Government delegation of Cuba considered that the meeting of ministers of labour of the Americas region, held during sessions of the International Labour Conference, should become an appropriate mechanism for analysing the implementation of the conclusions of the Fourteenth American Regional Meeting.

* * *

83. The Governing Body may wish to request the Director-General --

(a) to draw the attention of the governments of member States of the Americas and, through them, that of their national employers' and workers' organizations, to the conclusions adopted by the Meeting;

(b) to bear the conclusions in mind in executing ongoing programmes and in preparing future programme and budget proposals;

(c) to transmit the text of the conclusions --

Geneva, 27 September 1999.

Point for decision: Paragraph 83.



1. The participants at this Meeting firmly support the four strategic objectives proposed in the Report of the Director-General of the ILO: to promote the application of fundamental principles and rights at work; to promote policies and programmes to create more and better employment opportunities for women and men; to enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all; and to strengthen tripartism and social dialogue. We also support the eight InFocus programmes in the Programme and Budget for 2000-01, approved by the International Labour Conference in June 1999. We also attach particular importance to incorporating gender and development perspectives in all ILO activities.

2. We attach great importance to respect for and the promotion of the ILO's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, adopted by the Conference in 1998. We fully share the proposal to take concrete measures to create decent work in our region. Obtaining decent work is one of the most pressing priorities for the people of the Americas.

3. Economic policies must be balanced by policies of social justice, since economic growth is a necessary prerequisite for creating decent jobs but not sufficient by and of itself. Further, economic policies should be applied which promote productivity growth and guarantee the necessary macroeconomic stability to stimulate savings and investment.

4. Enterprise development is important for employment creation, with due respect for social and labour rights. It is necessary for the State to generate an environment which is favourable to investment and the creation of new enterprises, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises; to ensure easier access to credit; and to foster increased productivity.

5. We agree that priority must be given to the gradual elimination of child labour within the framework of Convention No. 138 and, in particular, to the adoption of immediate actions aimed at the eradication of its worst forms. To this end, we undertake to promote the ratification of Convention No. 182 at the earliest opportunity, preferably before the first session of the International Labour Conference to be held in the new millennium (June 2000), and to implement, with the assistance of the International Labour Office, programmes to achieve the objectives contained in that Convention. We wholeheartedly support the IPEC and urge that it continue to carry out tripartite initiatives and mobilize extra-budgetary resources.

6. We note with satisfaction the increase in the number of ratifications of ILO Conventions relating to fundamental rights at work. However, all necessary efforts must be made to ensure the application of, and effective compliance with, these Conventions. The ILO should, therefore, provide all necessary assistance to governments to encourage those that have not already done so to ratify the fundamental Conventions without delay, and those that have ratified them to ensure their implementation. Every effort must be made for these Conventions to gain broad acceptance among all sectors of society, through dialogue and participation, based on the analogy of Convention No. 144.

7. We are convinced of the importance of real social dialogue. There is a need to strengthen the social partners so that common solutions can be reached which will lend policies greater legitimacy and promote the fair distribution of the benefits of growth.

8. Governments should establish relevant tripartite mechanisms and eliminate any obstacles which hinder the safeguarding of freedom of association for both workers and employers.

9. The ILO should increase its technical assistance for the modernization and upgrading of ministries of labour and shouldstrengthen training activities for workers' and employers' organizations.

10. In order to promote an equitable distribution of the benefits of growth, policies must be the result of broad tripartite social dialogue. This dialogue should lead to programmes to promote the creation of decent work and security for all, which are supported by the social partners. The ILO should, at the request of its constituents, facilitate national and regional initiatives for social dialogue.

11. We believe links must be forged between economic and social policies and programmes at both the national and the international levels, with a view to promoting economic and social objectives. To this end, the ILO should establish constructive relationships with international financial institutions and economic organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank. We request that the Director-General of the ILO work with these organizations in an effort to identify concrete initiatives which aim at an integrated approach to the monetary, financial, social and labour dimensions of the global economy.

12. It is imperative to equip the social partners to participate actively in dialogue with the competent national authorities, and with regional and international financial institutions as regards economic and social policy issues. For this we request the technical support of the ILO. In this context, the ILO should identify joint projects with the pertinent multilateral institutions, which reflect the priorities of governments and employers' and workers' organizations.

13. We have taken note of the objectives endorsed by the Heads of State as regards processes of integration in our region, and we state our conviction that the creation of decent work should be one of the central objectives of these processes. We therefore hope that the ILO will support the work of the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour and will participate actively, in collaboration with the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Development Bank, in developing and applying mechanisms which promote the incorporation of the labour and social dimension in processes of integration.

14. Appropriate educational and training systems are needed to improve the successful integration of the labour force. We must ensure that skill levels continue to improve so that workers and enterprises can adapt to the new challenges of economic globalization. The ILO should provide technical support for the modernization and expanded coverage of systems of education and occupational training, and extend the activities of the ILO's Turin Centre and CINTERFOR.

15. Harmonious labour relations contribute to the success of enterprises; collective bargaining and the observance of the ensuing agreements further contribute to such success, leading to increased productivity, the equitable distribution of its benefits and improved working conditions. The ILO should continue to provide assistance in this area. It should also publicize good practices and experiences and provide information about successful enterprises.

16. Employment policies and programmes should be developed, which give priority to targeting the most vulnerable social groups, namely young people, women, the disabled and the unemployed. ILO support in this sphere should assist in the provision of information about past experiences and in the design, execution and promotion of such programmes.

17. Bringing the activities of informal sector workers into the formal sector should be a priority for the ILO.

18. Decent work does not just mean jobs which have adequate productivity and wage levels, but also that workers are protected against the risk of accidents. Such prevention is a social investment and has a sound economic basis. The ILO should continue providing support in this area.

19. In order to improve the current climate of insecurity it is indispensable to safeguard social security systems, to increase efficiency and transparency in the management of their resources, and to expand their coverage. There should be a tripartite monitoring of the results of existing systems, and of their medium- and long-term prospects. The ILO should make this a priority.

20. It is a desirable objective to design social safety nets that include special measures for unemployed workers. It is necessary to look for the means to make such systems economically viable and to include training activities to facilitate integration into the labour force. The ILO should promote the introduction of suitable systems and provide information about their potential cost and administrative feasibility.

21. There is a need to improve the ability of our countries to respond rapidly to crisis and emergency situations. The ILO should provide timely assistance as regards the design and implementation of a range of measures and programmes to alleviate the social repercussions of crisis and emergency situations.

22. It is important for the ILO to enhance its ability to generate information, labour market analyses and forecasts of the labour implications of the economic policies applied.

23. The representatives of governments, workers and employers attending this Meeting undertake to meet again in the coming months, within the prevailing institutional framework in each country, to review jointly the implementation of the conclusions of the Fourteenth American Regional Meeting. This will make it possible to report on the effect given to these conclusions at the next meeting of ministers of labour of the hemisphere, to be held early in the year 2000 in the Dominican Republic.

Technical cooperation

1. We wish to emphasize the need for the ILO perspective to be permanently present in international organizations. This perspective will facilitate the inclusion of the often overlooked social and labour consequences of the adjustment programmes and policies advocated by these organizations. We are encouraged by the reference in the Director-General's report to the ILO's incorporation in permanent bodies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. This achievement is praiseworthy and should be supported, broadened and extended to other financial institutions and their various bodies, with a view to ensuring greater coordination between them and the ILO.

2. The ILO should make its presence felt in these institutions on the basis of country reports on the social and labour impact of these adjustment programmes, and on the more lasting social indicators. The Office's participation in the preparation of these reports is indispensable. The resources needed for this complex but highly relevant activity, should figure in the ILO's technical cooperation budget for the region. These reports should be used and complemented by other actors concerned with the social and labour consequences on the processes of integration in which most of the member States in the region are involved.

3. Regarding the InFocus programmes described in the Director-General's Report, priority should be given to, and sufficient funds provided for, those relating to the promotion of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, to the development of small and micro-enterprises and their institutional and economic environment, and the strengthening of the social partners. Assistance and advice to workers and employers through ACTRAV and ACT/EMP is especially needed.

4. The above notwithstanding, it must be pointed out that many of the objectives set out in the Director-General's Report concern the traditional responsibilities of labour ministries: adequate compliance with international labour standards, the incorporation of the informal sector in the modern sector of the economy, the problem of precarious employment, the promotion of a new culture of monitoring compliance with labour legislation, the need to assess the consequences of labour and social security reforms. The modernization of labour ministries appears as an objective in the final sections of Parts I and III of the Director-General's Report. Nevertheless, none of the InFocus programmes relates to this objective. To remedy this deficiency, the Government, Employers' and Workers' groups agree on the need to develop an additional programme to strengthen and modernize labour ministries, as an essential means of assisting governments in the three abovementioned strategic, priority and permanent activities.

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