Sommaire: 9 July 2007, Geneva - Statement by H.E. Ambassador Xavier Esteves, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations Office in Geneva on behalf of European Union, ECOSOC Coordination Segment General debate on: "The role of the United Nations system in promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all" and on the "Integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields"
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Montenegro and Serbia, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.
Achieving the MDG's is not only a moral obligation it is also a political imperative in ensuring a more secure future for all mankind. Therefore, the European Union incessantly renews its pledge to these major objectives and its commitment to an effective multilateral system, essential to achieving them.
The World Summit Outcome Document, in its paragraph 47, places "the goals of full and productive employment and decent work for all, including for women and young people" at the center of all relevant policies, both at national and international level, oriented towards meeting the needs of the poorer and more vulnerable and accomplishing the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the goal to reduce poverty.
Hence, in the context of the maximization of the advantages of globalization and the necessary mitigation of its adverse effects, productive employment and decent work can make a significant contribution towards reaching the internationally-agreed development goals and to the attainment of both social and economic progress and full inclusive and equitable globalization. Yet, the world still faces decent work deficits which are characterized by high and increasing unemployment and underemployment, poor quality and unproductive jobs, unsafe work and insecure income, lack of rights, and gender inequality.
Convinced of the urgent need to create an environment at the national and international levels that was conducive to the attainment of full and productive employment and decent work for all as a foundation for sustainable development, Ministers and Heads of Delegation to the ECOSOC High-level Segment last year, through the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration, provided a platform for concrete action to promote full employment and decent work. At the same time, they recognised that full and productive employment and decent work for all, which encompasses social protection, fundamental principles and rights at work and social dialogue, are key elements of sustainable development, and therefore a priority objective of social cooperation.
In this context, the importance of the decent work agenda of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) cannot be overemphasized. The ILO has, since 1999, worked on the characterization the concept of decent work with the objective to "promoting opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity". Due to its broader scope, this concept is an adequate instrument and probably the more effective tool that international community has produced so far for the rising of political options that might be able to gain effective answers regarding the globalization effects.
The ILO has been and will be a key player in implementing the decent work agenda but it cannot work alone. Conversely, no State can on its own put in place and/or implement the vast array of policies leading to generating full and productive employment and decent work for all, gives each and every country an increased responsibility, proportional to the pace at which the adverse effects of globalization become visible.
The ILO Decent Work Agenda is based on an integrated approach covering productive and freely chosen employment and full respect for rights at work, and encompass core labour standards, social dialogue, and social protection - including health and safety at work - as well as gender equality. These four key pillars of the ILO Decent Work Agenda are all equally important and, in this context, the EU would like to underline the importance of thoroughly implementing the core conventions of the ILO and the close links existing between decent work and economic growth.
Good jobs and economic growth are intrinsically related and a necessary combination to create justice and prosperity for all. That is why efforts to maximise the positive effects on development of managed migration, including labour migration, have to be increased, and it is a collective duty to improve the rights of individual workers and unions.
In the same spirit, combating gender discrimination and all other forms of discrimination as well as promoting the social integration of vulnerable groups must be integral parts of the efforts towards productive employment and decent work for all. Fair treatment, decent work, non-discrimination and gender equality are basic conditions for workers to commit themselves to their work and be productive. Likewise, committed and positive action is needed to prevent the labour exploitation of the most vulnerable groups: children, young people, ethnic minorities, migrant workers and posted workers.
Because employment includes both the "economic" dimension of people's lives and the "social", decent work is central not only as a source of income, but also as a condition for people to live economically independent lives, and to participate fully as citizens in their communities. This is all the more true since the promotion of productive employment and decent work is a means of accomplishing dignity, inclusion and sustainable development. It is also a means towards achieving reinforced security because a community at work is a community at peace. Besides facilitating social integration and cohesion, decent work is essential an additional element to consider in the recovery of countries emerging from conflict.
If poverty eradication is unquestionably one of the most fundamental challenges we face in today's world, it is not less true that work is often the only valuable asset of poor people. Paradoxically, nearly half of all the workers in the world are either underemployed or do not earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the poverty line. Moreover, many people can't even dream of formal jobs and are compelled to work under highly unpredictable circumstances, with risks that are difficult to manage.
The EU deeply believes that decent work is a key factor in improving the living and working conditions of all people and that the promotion of decent work can help poor households move from low productivity and low profitability economic activities to higher-profit activities and thus improve their living conditions. Therefore, the EU is taking initiatives towards promoting decent work both within its borders and in its external relations at the same time has stanchly committed itself to supporting a stronger dialogue and cooperation between the relevant international organisations, including the UN and the ILO, the Bretton Woods Institutions and the World Trade Organisation in promoting decent work for all.
The Decent Work Agenda has made great headway and received strong support globally and at the European level. Within the EU, the endorsement of these good practices is promoted by the Lisbon Strategy, which consists of a set of integrated and mutually reinforcing economic, employment and social policies aiming at fostering economic performance, investment in human capital and social cohesion, the quality of work, a high level of social protection and the key role of social dialogue in policy making. Recently, the Lisbon Strategy has been refocused on three strategic areas: investing in knowledge and innovation; making Europe a more attractive place to work and invest; and creating more and better jobs.
Decent Work can only be achieved when a range of economic, social and environmental policies point coherently towards the same compatible goal. That is why the EU, building on the significant progress in implementing the aims of the renewed Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs to date, has proposed and set up, last year, a series of guidelines for more effectively mobilizing its internal and external policies, particularly in what regards development, trade, migration, at bilateral and multilateral levels. While intended to strengthen partnerships and dialogue with relevant bodies, regional and international organizations, social partners, the business community and other parts of the civil society, these guidelines concurrently confirm the importance of a stronger sense of ownership by civil society, social partners, regions and local authorities, which are all key elements in the achievement of the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy.
The Ministers for Employment and Social Affairs of the EU meet last week in Guimarães (Braga / Portugal), yet another occasion to further efforts towards the promotion decent work and of full and productive employment for all through social, development, and trade policy measures. Conclusions from this informal sectorial meeting emphasize, inter allia, the importance of improving flexicurity pathways by Member States, which should be instrumental in finding the right mix of policies tailored to labour market needs including increased labour-market participation within the EU. In this framework, a reinforced lifecycle approach to work is also necessary to improve access to the labour market as well as to promote a longer working life and professional mobility over the lifecycle.
In the context of decent work, good practices can be very useful to contribute to its effective implementation. Accordingly, the EU considers that good practices should be identified and widespread, in order to bring them closer to regional and local communities, in an oriented and holistic way. Social cohesion, employment and globalisation are important aspects of the dialogue processes the EU currently undertakes with other regions and groups of countries.
Furthermore, the EU takes a stand in integrating the decent work objectives in its bilateral and interregional cooperation programmes with third countries and regions, and makes an effort to emphasize the need to promote decent work for all in all its outreach dialogues and, whenever applicable, in its formal and informal contacts. This encourages consistency between the internal and the external policies of the EU as a whole and of its Members States individually, and, in simple terms, guarantees that EU aid, development and trade policies are coherent with the European Social Model.
However, the EU is aware that, as far as work conditions are concerned, there are significant regional differences and needs. These should be reflected in concrete actions and initiatives while ensuring at the same time that the four pillars of decent work and gender mainstreaming are taken up in national and regional actions. The setting up of guidelines facilitates decision-making and further contributes to evaluating qualitative and quantitative objectives.
A particular attention should be devoted to the informal economy as most workers and employers operating in the informal economy are confronted with very important decent work deficits with poor productivity and income, poor career prospects and no or very limited social protection.
In today's globalised economy, international labor standards are an essential component in the international framework for ensuring that the growth of the global economy provides social and economic benefits for all. On the other hand, and considering that work is an essential element of all three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) and that progress in this crucial issue requires action at the global level, the moment is decisive for keeping both productive employment and decent work at the centre of the international attention and efforts.
The willful and intense support of the UN to the goals of full and productive employment and decent work for all provides a platform for the mobilization of all actors involved. In fact, productive employment and decent work for all are not only central objectives of all relevant national and international policies, but are also pivotal to the UN' broad development vision and its operations. Nevertheless, increased efforts are needed, by the EU together with other partners, to ensure on the one hand effective policy coherence between the international institutions as well as, on the other hand, more effective coordination of work between the different UN agencies and other institutions at the country level in the context of the current UN reform process.
In this regard, the EU would like to thank the SG for his report on the role of the UN system in promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all, contained in document E/2007/49, which summarises the different initiatives promoted by the UN system to put into practice, both at the policy and operational levels, the guiding principles enshrined in the 2006 ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration. It is very fitting that the report combines the progress made in implementing the Ministerial Declaration with a review of the mechanisms in which the UN system can provide analysis and programme-oriented assistance in mainstreaming these goals.
The EU is strongly committed to improving employment and working conditions, following the ILO recommendations which consider that national ownership is essential in this process, and valuing tripartism and the importance of an active and appropriate involvement of social partners as an important element in setting priorities at the national level. In view of this, the EU believes that the Decent Work Country Programmes should be incorporated in national poverty reduction and growth strategies, as well as in development cooperation policies, and that now it is the time to implement these commitments, in all countries, especially in the poorest ones.
Furthermore, and in line with the recommendations of the SG's report on the theme of the current coordination segment, the EU reckons that the goal of full and productive employment and decent work for all should be a top priority within the UN system, and be judiciously mainstreamed beyond the ILO constituencies. In the process of internalizing these objectives in their respective work, where appropriate, UN system organizations - all funds, programmes and specialised agencies - should further use the ILO Toolkit as a framework to promoting and realizing the goals of full and productive employment and grant precedence to efficient actions/activities that embrace the decent work agenda, in the context reducing and eradicating poverty. At the same time, the process of monitoring and evaluation of the Toolkit should continue, in order to further refine it and develop its potential.
Also aspiring to contributing to these strategic objectives, Lisbon has offered to host, next November 1st and 2nd, the first ILO Forum on Decent Work for a Fair Globalization where, in the context of the follow-up of the 2005 UN World Summit, will be discussed the link between growth, investment and employment.
In what regards the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields, we would like to thank the SG for his report submitted under items 4, 6, 7(f), 8, 13 and 14 of the Council's agenda. The integration of the report on these items permits us to have a global view on the progress made by the UN system in the follow-up to conferences.
The reforms adopted by our Heads of State and Government in the 2005 Summit Outcome for the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council ensure that the Council will remain the central mechanism for the follow-up of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other internationally agreed development goals (IADGs).
In this context, we participated, just a few days ago, in the first Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) and the launching of the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF). It is the expectation of the European Union that these newly implemented modalities will reinforce the Council's coordinating role in the economic, social, environmental and related fields. The European Union looks forward to the discussions on the adaptation of the work of the ECOSOC and sees this as an important exercise to further strengthen the functioning of the Council.
We are particularly interested in the strengthening of the dialogue with the wider United Nations system, and in that regard we welcome the increasingly interactive nature of the meetings during the high level segment as well as the integration of all stakeholders, including the organizations of the United Nations, the international financial and trade institutions, the regional organizations, civil society and private sector representatives, into the work of the DCF. The EU is firmly of the view that the strengthening of the participation and involvement of these stakeholders in the work of the Council enhances the process of conference follow-up by bringing together the full range of development actors. In what regards the strengthened collaboration between the larger UN family, we look to the Chief Executives Board (CEB) as the foundation for this dialogue and invite them to further consider the integrated follow-up of conferences at their meetings.
The past years have seen significant progress in the implementation of resolution 57/270B, including through the annual consideration of the integrated of the annual report of the integrated and coordinated follow-up to conferences within the context of the coordination segment. As the AMR is now tasked with an overall mandate that includes the review of the progress made in the implementation of the outcomes of those conferences and summits and their follow-up processes and the assessment of their impact on the achievement of the goals and targets of those outcomes, it may be time to look forward and consider how to maximize the impact of the coordination segment. The European Union is considering the recommendation contained in the Secretary General's report to continue to link the coordination segment to the high level segment, and sees value in that link being based on the theme of the AMR.
In this context, the European Union looks forward to the adoption of the multi-year programme of work for the AMR, as called for in resolution 61/16. The Union gives great importance to a programme of work that is politically attractive to Ministers and relevant to the achievement of the MDGs. In this context we note with appreciation the discussions held within the context of the Chief Executives Board in which the MDGs were raised as an appropriate basis for the future themes.
Indeed, the role of the individual follow-up processes of the major conferences and summits is of particularly significance. Here, the work of the functional commissions of the Council has to be recognized. These commissions have undergone internal reform processes in response to resolution 57/270B, and should continue to keep their working methods under review as needed. The European Union is keen to have the work of these commissions be in line with that of the Council, but is concerned that possible requests for the commissions to consider new themes might overburden the already busy schedules of these bodies. Ways and means should be considered so to flexibly permit the functional commissions to contribute, within the context of their thematic specialization, to the high level segment of the Council.
The implementation of the outcomes of conferences and summits is not only considered at the international level, but also at the regional and national levels. In this context, the European Union wishes to recognize the work of the Regional Commissions in integrating conference follow-up into their work plans as well as their support of national development strategies. Further efforts are required to improve the contribution of the regional commissions to the coordination segment. In this regard the EU will consider how such a contribution can best be made, including by examining the timing of this dialogue.
At the national level, conference objectives should be integrated into comprehensive national development plans and United Nations country teams, as well as the international community at large, should continue to support national efforts in the achievement of these objectives. CCAs and UNDAFs should continue to become more strategically focused on helping countries progress towards the MDGs and in promoting comprehensive approaches to poverty eradication. The "One UN" pilot programmes and the larger exercise of system-wide coherence aims, inter alia, at a more cohesive UN response to the needs of developing countries.
We as member states and the international community at large have a great responsibility in ensuring the implementation and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits. Some such outcomes, such as that of Copenhagen, Beijing, Cairo and Johannesburg have their follow-up mechanisms assured by functional commissions. Others, such as Monterrey, have different modalities for discussion that give a strategic role for the Council. The ECOSOC itself is home to the follow up of the Implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, in the context of the general segment, and that of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) during the coordination segment.
We take this opportunity to raise a few issues related to the follow-up to WSIS. The system-wide follow-up of the Geneva and Tunis outcome of the WSIS is now firmly on track. Strengthened by the participation of all WSIS stakeholders, the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), as the focal point for the system-wide follow-up to WSIS, has transmitted a draft resolution for adoption by the Council which demonstrates that the CSTD, already now, has been able to effectively live up to the mandate given to it by the Council. The EU notes with satisfaction that CSTD's requests, invitations and recommendations adopted during its Tenth Session in May 2007 will contribute to strengthening system-wide coordination and coherence.
The EU would briefly highlight the Internet Governance Forum. Whilst not being part of the overall mandate of the CSTD, the IGF is an indispensable building block of the WSIS follow-up. The inaugural meeting in Athens demonstrated what this new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue can achieve. The EU would like to express its gratitude to the Secretary-General and his Special Advisor, the IGF Executive Secretary and to the Greek Government for having organized this event, fully respecting the terms and the spirit of the Tunis Agenda. We are now looking forward to continuing in the same spirit the open dialogue begun in Athens in Rio de Janeiro, where the Government of Brazil has graciously offered to host the next meeting of the IGF in November 2007.
Thank you, Mr. Vice-President
* Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process