LISBON (ILO News) – An International Labour Organization (ILO) Forum opened a three-day session in Lisbon to provide a broad social platform for discussing the forging of a new movement for promoting decent work and a fair globalization.
“What I see emerging is a very practical movement,” ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said at the meeting, adding that “people today are not looking for rhetoric, they are looking for results.”
Mr. José Socrates, Prime Minister of Portugal—which currently holds the Presidency of the European Union (EU)—said in his opening address that “Decent Work is the best, the most powerful and the most sustainable guarantee of economic development and social cohesion on a global scale. That’s why I can see in the decent work agenda the mobilizing and integrating potential for Europe”.
The Forum has gathered some 300 representatives of the ILO tripartite social partners—governments, workers and employers—as well as representatives of parliaments, civil society and government and opinion leaders to discuss the current economic situation and the promotion of decent work as a key to a fairer globalization.
Mr. Somavia also called for a new merging of international development agendas, saying “we must connect the agendas of sustainable development in all its dimensions to the shaping of a fair globalization.”
“Whether or not the financial crisis sparked by the sub-prime crash sets off a cumulative global slowdown, it serves to highlight the urgency of acting together to build a fair globalization centred on decent work,“ he said.
The ILO Director-General highlighted two approaches helping to achieving a fair globalization, recognizing that development is about more than reducing poverty and developing a global social floor.
“Such a floor is more than a safety net. It is a firm foundation for a ladder of opportunity to help women and men climb up,” he said. “You can’t stabilize a ladder on a safety net. It takes a floor—a solid social floor—a floor that integrates social investments with market opportunities to expand social mobility based on increasingly better jobs.”
"Eradicating extreme poverty does not necessarily reduce the inequalities within and between nations that fuel resentment about the unfair distribution of the benefits and costs of globalization and of lingering discrimination (…) In that sense, the MDGs as seen by people are obviously welcomed but are really only Minimum Development Goals, a point of departure, not a point of arrival for development", he added. "As we advance, we must connect the agenda of sustainable development in all its dimensions to the shaping of a fair globalization".
Mr Somavia also said that it was “ becoming increasingly clear that to be sustainable, enterprises have to be socially competitive. Consumers themselves are demanding to know not only the price of a product, but the cost—the social cost. How was this item produced. Out of a sweatshop? Away from child labour? Rights at work and good labour relations are more and more recognized as key to competing and winning in today’s market”.
“Enterprises survive by making a profit in a conducive environment for investment but cannot do that sustainably unless they operate in an environment where the rule of law is respected, social equity is promoted and natural resources conserved“, he added.
Following the Director-General and Prime Minister Socrates, keynote speeches were delivered by the Secretary-General designate of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Mr. Surin Pitsuwan, the Chairperson of the ILO’s Governing Body, Dr. D. Jayatilleka; the Employer Vice-Chairperson of the ILO’s Governing Body, Mr. Daniel Funes de Rioja; the Worker Vice-Chairperson of the ILO’s Governing Body, Sir Roy Trotman, and the Minister for Labour and Social Solidarity of Portugal, Mr. Jose Antonio Vieira Da Silva.
Underlining that the Forum had gathered representatives of parliaments, civil society, non-governmental organizations, local authorities and political and opinion leaders from around the globe, Mr. Somavia said that the open style of the Forum “was intended to help to break out of compartmentalized thinking and identify new opportunities and ways of working together intelligently, efficiently and constructively.”