Global Preparatory Meeting on the Post-2015 Framework for Development - Concluding remarks by José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs

José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director for Employment Sector of the ILO delivered his concuding remarks at the Global Preparatory Meeting on the Post-2015 Framework for Development at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Research Institute

Statement | Tokyo, Japan | 16 May 2012
The objective of this consultation on the post-2015 Framework for Development has been to stimulate discussion by experts on growth, structural change, productive capacities and employment. There is no doubt that discussion was both stimulated by this event and stimulating!
We have had an extremely frank and rich discussion. I would like to wrap up by highlighting seven key points.

First, the global context and trends. We Started in Session 1 with the key Employment trends and the Global Jobs Challenge. In terms of trends we looked at and discussed: demography, technology, the new economic and growth geography, the increasing levels of education and vocational training that is also creating a new geography of skills and a new kind of global labour market, the expansion and restructuring of global value chains, the imperative of energy efficient and low carbon growth, the trend towards growing inequality, the persistence of informal sectors, in particular in developing countries and the increase not only in unemployment but in discouragement, part time and temporary work in developed countries, etc.

And I think we all agreed that the world is going not only through a Great Recession but also through a Great Restructuring, accelerated by the Great Recession, and driven by deep, gamechanging trends. This sets the stage against which to better understand the policies for promoting growth, structural change and create jobs. This background presents many challenges but also presents opportunities.
Right there in the first session some of you commented how the employment and decent work goals were introduced in the MDG framework late, and in an incomplete, partial way, with some inappropriate indicators.

Second, I think all sessions were very rich and productive, but the session on country perspectives was particularly interesting because it dealt with very practical issues. We heard strong messages:
  • on the role of informal sectors of the economies,
  • on the importance of education and skills development and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET),
  • on labour rights, compliance with the law, labour inspection and the importance of focusing also on the quality of work and on working conditions,
  • on integrating women into labour markets and the importance of gender issues,
  • on the need for employment policies to target vulnerable groups such as young people, and migrant workers.
  • on the importance of support for entrepreneurship, and support to enterprises, in particular SMEs
  • on the challenges of youth unemployment
  • on the importance of social protection policies
  • and we also heard about the importance of labour-intensive investments in infrastructure and the need to see investments in the social sectors as part of employment policies.
This is really a very good summary of what we at the ILO see as the core issues in the agenda for employment promotion, to make growth more inclusive and job-rich.

My third point is on the very important issue of structural transformation and its relation with patterns of growth and employment. I pick this up because this is central to how to promote patterns of growth that generate more and better jobs.
This was in particular the focus of Session 2, where we heard presentations on industrial policy, structural transformation and also on policy reforms in China. The session emphasized and recognized that the issue of  industrial policy is back on the agenda, and not just in developing countries.
We had a good discussion but... I think the answer to several questions raised by the topic of industrial policy and the role of the state and trade policy in promoting structural transformation and accelerating learning were quite unclear. I do not mean the answer by the panelists, but the answer by all of us, we were a bit inconclusive in the session. Important questions were raised that remained un-answered:
  • Is some degree of import protection good or bad for growth in early stages of development?
  • Are Free Trade Agreements between large competitive advanced economies and small underdeveloped countries always a good idea? Can they be made to work for development?
  • Do countries have policy space, particularly in these bilateral free trade agreements, to use the necessary policy instruments?
  • Is the issue really only about industrial policy or industrialization? What about the role of services and agriculture?
  • How to support local enterprises to engage in Global Value Chains?

I think the general understanding is that it is important for the state to have a proactive role in promoting and accelerating structural change and productivity growth, and this applies to all sectors: industry, services and agriculture.
The key question is: Would a post MDG framework contain a goal or guideline on the importance of productive capacities and of a proactive developmental role for the state in accelerating productive transformation and being catalytic to private sector investment?

I think this session reminds us that there is still a lot of controversy around this point. But, quite clearly, for influencing the employment content of growth and accelerating structural transformation the role of the state and of public policies is central and the challenge includes but cannot stop just at creating an enabling environment for enterprises.

Fourth, the focus of our meeting was not to take stock with the strengths and weaknesses of the MDG framework or the lessons learned. But several comments touched on this laterally. My sense is that we all have a rather positive idea of the importance of having a global framework of goals that can focus, prioritize and guide international cooperation efforts, that can have transformational power, and that can help strengthen partnerships for development and mobilize human, technical and financial resources.

However, in this regard I would like to add a lesson, which for me is very important and has not so far been mentioned, and it is this:

We are now living through the impacts of the Great Recession, and we know that the financial and economic crisis in developed countries had major impacts on developing countries. Some of these impacts turned back the clock in the achievement of the MDGs, in particular MDG 1 on poverty reduction. This shows how the world economy is highly interdependent, and this interdependence means that the efforts of Developed Countries to help development should be seen as not just limited to aid, but to sound policies and strong growth in the Developed Countries themselves! If there is no dynamic growth in the developed world, achieving development goals in developing countries is made much more difficult.

In other words, after the crisis, Global Development Goals cannot ignore the obvious fact that their achievement also depends critically on sound macroeconomic, financial and growth and trade policies, including the reduction of unemployment in the developed countries themselves.

This point is quite central to the interaction between the global agenda on macroeconomic, trade and financial issues, as discussed, among other fora in the G20, and the development agenda. These cannot be separated in the new phase of globalization and have important implications to how we see global governance of economic, social and environmental issues.

The fifth point is on the nature of the post 2015 framework. This was strongly discussed in particular in our session on environmental sustainability and employment in which we talked about the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and the Rio plus 20 meeting.

From that part of our meeting I would like to rescue two points:
  • How to keep the exercise focused, prioritize subjects, and avoid the "437 goals syndrome" which Paula Caballero mentioned and which would be the kiss of death.
  • On the SDGs some of you expressed the view that SDGs should not have an environmental bias, but should be balanced between the 3 pillars of sustainability: economic, social and environmental, others said that they should also consider issues of governance and perhaps other subjects, but always mindful of avoiding a Christmas tree approach. And it goes without saying that this whole conference strongly suggests the need to integrate fully the growth, structural change and employment objective in the framework, but with a new vision of inclusive, job-rich growth.

My last two points were suggested by the discussion in the last session.

Sixth, the Millenium Development Goals were an international framework shaped in such a way that it was mostly about aid from the North to the South. As I hear some of the interventions there is still very much this kind of aid mindset. As of today, of course, we do not know what the post-2015 framework will look like, but it seems to me that it is not going to be only of even principally about aid, it is about policies, sustainable development  policies. This includes home grown solutions, policy experimentation, solutions that work, but not only for poverty reduction, important as that goal will be, also for other goals: job creation, energy efficient growth, climate change, the reduction of inequality, maybe even global wellbeing, as has been suggested, etc. So I think we should adjust our mindset a little bit about the nature of our new global framework for development.

For the Seventh point, I am grateful to Mr. Ahmed Mahmud in the last session for bringing this forward. Mr. Mahmud spoke passionately about what people care about and how to connect the international development  agenda to the concerns of people. This is extremely important. Many analysts have pointed out that a key reason why the multilateral trade agenda, the Doha round, is stalled is because people, voters in many countries do not relate to it, and politicians cannot advance international agendas in which their constituents do not believe, or worse, are opposed to.

This is a very simple but profound point. The MDGs should connect with the concerns of ordinary people, this is not only right but is a way of facilitating that political leaders can be champions of a new international agenda. And, as the ILO Director General, Juan Somavia often reminds us, what topic connects more to people's concerns that having a good decent job? This is a very fundamental reason why having a strong employment component in the post 2015 framework, including not just to reduce poverty but to improve the situation of the squeezed middle classes, of the millions of women aspiring to enter the labour market, of the millions of young people who cannot find good jobs, this is an agenda to which everyone can relate to. It speaks to the standards of living and concerns and opportunities of every person in the planet.

So I leave you with these seven points.

Let me finish by saying once again that the ILO is very pleased to having contributed to co-organize
this event, in partnership with UNDP.

Thank you all for being here and above all for your very valuable contributions.

Thank you to our hosts, the Government of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency
(JICA) Research Institute for your warm hospitality and also your leadership in this process.

Thank you.