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99th Session of the International Labour Conference

arton2477From 2-18 June, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is holding the 99th session of its International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva. This year’s conference aims to identify the new threats the world economy is facing and discuss policy strategies –such as a job-rich recovery; a more sustainable and balanced growth; and addressing the structural imbalances of the global economy that existed before the crisis.

The agenda of the ILC includes:

  1. Decent work for domestic workers
  2. The elaboration of a standard HIV/AIDS in the world of work (second and final year of a standard-setting committee)
  3. A general discussion on the strategic objective of employment
  4. The application of ILO Conventions and Recommendations
  5. A review of the follow-up to the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

In his opening speech, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia raised concern about the recent debt crisis and deficit reduction measures directly affecting jobs and salaries, especially since the economic recovery is weak and unemployment high. He noted that “the risk of a new phase of the financial crisis around sovereign debt has appeared, jeopardizing prospects of growth for some countries, potentially affecting the global economy and again raising doubts about the stability of the international financial and monetary system.” He highlighted the need to put in place “a coordinated, orderly, balanced and credible long-term process to deal with the public debt and deficits ... according to each country’s situation and within a convergent international pattern.”

This year’s conference will identify the new threats the world economy is facing and discuss policy strategies such as a job-rich recovery, a more sustainable and balanced growth and addressing the structural imbalances of the global economy that existed before the crisis.

During the Conference, Global Reports will be considered, namely:

  • freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  • the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour;
  • the effective abolition of child labour;
  • the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

On 14 June, two high-level panels were held. The first panel, “The Global Jobs Pact and Macroeconomic Policy,” discussed ways of forging a job-rich recovery and fostering more sustainable and balanced growth through making employment a macroeconomic objective of the same order as low inflation and deficits. The second panel, “The Role of Productive Employment and Social Protection in Realizing the Millennium Development Goals,” discussed the contribution of productive employment and social protection to realizing faster progress to achieve internationally agreed development goals.

During the panel discussions, many speakers voiced strong support for the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact and Decent Work Agenda as providing a foundation for a sustainable way out of the crisis.

“The ILO has helped lead the way with the Global Jobs Pact which is moving job creation up the priority list,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement prepared for the discussion. “Now is the time to go even further. A recovery is not meaningful if people learn about it in the newspaper. Working women and men need to see it in their own lives and livelihoods. Simply put, a real recovery must reach the real economy.”

A number of speakers cited examples of balanced economic and social policies in response to the crisis. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said a strategy of strengthening the real economy while prioritizing social justice had helped mitigate the impact of the global economic crisis in Brazil, adding “peace, cooperation and fair trade will be the new name of development.”

US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, speaking in a video message, presented the conclusions of the G-20 Labour and Employment Ministers’ meeting last April in Washington, noting that the meeting had highlighted the role of the ILO Jobs Pact and Decent Work Agenda as “valuable resources for governments as they design further measures to address employment and social protection systems.”

Other speakers also stressed the role of social protection as an essential part of the response to the crisis. Gilles de Robien of France, President of the Conference, said the succession of crises had shown that “social protection is both a social stabilizer and a stabilizer for the economy, at least in countries where such protection exists.”

Sandra Polaski, Deputy Under Secretary, US Department of Labor, said, “No one would claim that it was workers who caused the crisis.... No one would claim that it was the poor that caused the crisis. And yet working households, workers and the poor have borne a terrible burden because of the crisis already.”

Panellists also warned that the accelerating sovereign debt crisis, coupled with government policies designed to squeeze public expenditures at the expense of job creation, also threatened to stall or reverse progress in achieving the MDGs of reducing poverty and promoting development by 2015.

Observers to this conference include governmental as well as non-governmental organizations.

For the full ILC agenda, click here.

Click here for the Director-General’s report.

For live webcasts, click here.

For video coverage, click here.

For a list of the reports submitted to the Conference, click here.

World Day Against Child Labour

On 11 June, as part of the celebration of the World Day Against Child Labour, the Conference will discuss a Global Report on Child Labour.

As the football World Cup in South Africa kicks off, the ILO is marking the World Day Against Child Labour with an urgent appeal to “go for the goal – end child labour,” calling particular attention to the target of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016.

“While billions are caught up in the excitement of the football World Cup, some 215 million children are labouring for survival. Education and play are luxuries for them. Progress towards ending child labour is slowing down and we are not on course to end its worst forms by 2016. We have to get the momentum going again. Let us draw inspiration from the World Cup and rise to the challenge with the energy, the right strategy and the commitment it takes to get to the goal”, Mr. Somavia urged.

World Day events are being held in more than 60 countries involving governments, employers, workers, and UN, non-governmental and civil society organizations. Events range from high level policy debates, to football matches and other sporting activities, public debates, media events, awareness-raising campaigns, cultural performances and other public activities. Many activities will also focus new attention on the “Red Card campaign against child labour” initiative led by the ILO, including publication of a resource kit produced in collaboration with FIFA and aimed at using football to support work in child labour elimination projects.

The report is available here.


This article is available in Spanish.

The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to develop constructive relations between the UN and civil society organizations.

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