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99th International Labour Conference

Swiss President calls for coherent, inclusive and employment oriented approach to overcome the crisis

“The crisis will not be over as long as unemployment and underemployment prevail,” said the President of the Swiss Confederation, H.E. Ms. Doris Leuthard, at the opening ceremony of the 99th annual conference of the International Labour Organization.

Press release | 02 June 2010

“The crisis will not be over as long as unemployment and underemployment prevail,” said the President of the Swiss Confederation, H.E. Ms. Doris Leuthard, at the opening ceremony of the 99th annual conference of the International Labour Organization.

Speaking to some 4,000 delegates gathered for the International Labour Conference, Ms. Leuthard stressed the importance of “cooperation and consistency not only between governments, but also with the social partners to address development challenges and to meet economic, social and environmental needs.”

“As the global economy seems to recover from the crisis, let us not be blinded by encouraging signals and indicators. Let us not succumb to the temptation to return to business as usual.” Unemployment remains a major concern of governments, and we must strive to eliminate the damage caused by the crisis on the labour market,” Ms. Leuthard said.

“The crisis is not a temporary phenomenon. We must learn the lessons from it and act responsibly to avoid failure. Let us move away from immobility, fear and fear of innovation to seize the opportunities that any crisis offers,” said Ms. Leuthard. “What we need now is daring and courage, consistency and solidarity in order to reconcile justice and freedom.”

“Sustainable social development should promote stability and restore confidence,” the Swiss President told representatives of governments, employers and workers of the 183 ILO member States attending the Conference, adding that “as financial capitalism has reached serious limitations we need a new global governance system”.

“Given the growing interdependence of production and markets, globalization is neither an ideology nor a political agenda. It is the result of technological change followed by an economic trend that is as dynamic as inevitable. However, the financial crisis tells us once again that the economic system must be accompanied by an appropriate legal framework,” she said.

The President highlighted measures such as setting minimum standards for financial institutions capitalization and reserve funds during periods of growth to enhance the automatic stabilizers, including unemployment insurance and social protection nets to “avoid that citizens end up paying the bill”.

“The new global governance system should aim at providing a reliable framework for globalization to ensure that it does not serve the interests of a small number of already privileged people,” she added. “The law of the jungle cannot lead globalization, because freedom is inconceivable without a framework ensuring a balance of power and an equitable distribution of the benefits of a market economy.”

“It is not possible to progress in the interest of all without sharing efforts. Adjustment policies should also address this logic to ensure a balance between the efforts required of countries receiving aid and their capacity to adjust on the social level.”

Recalling the adoption of the Global Jobs Pact by the ILO in 2009 and the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization in 2008, the President of the Swiss Confederation underlined the important role of the ILO in the articulation of coherent and inclusive decent work policies.

“We turn to the ILO, as its priority is to meet the needs of social regulation of globalization in an ever changing world,” she said. “We must work tirelessly to further strengthen the international social standards, to promote their universality and consistency, and to ensure their effective implementation.”

“By its mandate and tripartite structure, the ILO has been a pioneer in contributing through social dialogue at the international level to the establishment of the framework conditions for fair economic and social relations.”

“The rationale and the action of the ILO are based on values that are important to Switzerland in the world of work: social partnership and the promotion of employment come first, to be followed by coherence and solidarity. Thus the Organization bears a special responsibility in international efforts to promote consistency in the objectives of social sustainability,” said Ms Leuthard.

Stressing the need to strengthen synergies between international institutions, the Swiss President also expressed the belief “that the ILO should have observer status at the WTO”.

“Indeed, the themes of trade, on the one hand, and social issues, on the other hand, must be treated consistently to avoid that social clauses become a pretext for promoting protectionism,” she said, which would “further aggravate the economic situation for all and reduce the prospects for strong global economic recovery and rapid growth of employment.”

Referring to the Decent Work Agenda of the ILO, promoting the creation of more and better jobs, the President said: “Switzerland will develop a national strategy with the social partners to ensure an integrated approach towards decent work in Switzerland, to promote decent work worldwide, and to support a strengthened ILO”.

“I am also announcing the willingness of my country to quickly ratify the Maritime Labour Convention adopted by this Conference in 2006,” she added.

“Switzerland will commit itself to promote via the international agencies seated in Geneva the idea that the economy and labour remain at the service of people, following the ideal that globalization links economic to social progress, contributing to the development of all, by promoting increased productivity, rising living standards and ultimately improving well-being”, the President of the Swiss Confederation concluded.