Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6210
    12 July 2006

    ECOSOC Continues Debate on Creating Environment Impacting on Employment, Decent Work

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 4 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this afternoon continued its high-level debate on the creation of an environment at the national and international levels conducive to generating full and productive employment and decent work for all, and its impact on sustainable development.

    Athauda Seneviratne, Minister of Labour Relations and Foreign Employment of Sri Lanka, said decent work could pay for itself through improved productivity and resultant social and economic stability.  It was imperative to encourage economic initiatives compatible with sustainable development through promoting more sustainable consumption and production patterns. 

    Ivan Sahan, Minister of Labour and Social Policy of Ukraine, said that since Ukraine became independent, it had faced difficulties in matters of employment.  The transition to a market economy had been a painful one and the Government had to deploy more efforts to combat the negative effects due to the process.  Another problem Ukraine faced was that of illegal migration. 

    Norberto Ciavarino, Chef de Cabinet at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security of Argentina, said the major challenge facing the world at the moment was achieving sustainable development, based on economic, social and environmental issues, which should be coupled with poverty eradication, which latter was achieved by creating decent work.  It should be recognised as a goal that was shared by the entire international community, as well as by national Governments.

    Walter Fust, Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, said the quality of employment was linked to respect for framework conditions in the economic, social and environmental fields.  The main role of the State was not to create employment but to establish conditions, which promoted full productive employment and decent work for all. 

    Kazimierz Kuberski, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Poland, said Governments and the international community were able to shape the globalisation process, so that development proceeded in a sustainable manner, while economic and social objectives were harmoniously attained.  If the development challenge failed the social consensus, then social disorders would ensue. 

    Labeed M. Abbawi, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, said the positive will of nations could eradicate poverty in a very short span of time.  The implementation of the Millennium Development Goals would close the gap of development existing among nations. 

    Iraq used its oil resources to improve the main infrastructure and hoped to create an economy based on different financial resources.  Economic development could be sustained through the respect of the rule of law and prevalence of peace in the country. 

    Valdas Rupsys, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour of Lithuania, said in 2005, the European Commission had proposed to refocus the Lisbon agenda on actions that promoted growth and jobs in a manner that was fully consistent with the objective of sustainable development.  Many aspects of employment security, flexible work, quality of job places and others fell within the competence of social partners, and therefore Lithuania believed a common agenda and joint responsibility for change should be created.

    K. C. Singh, Additional Secretary at the International Organizations Division of the Ministry of External Affairs of India, said concerted action by the international community was vital for enabling all of mankind to meet their basic minimum requirements.  To make progress on that front, including achieving the Millennium Development Goals, a scaling-up of resource flows to developing countries was crucial.

    Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Hope for the Nations, World Family Organization, and Association droit a l'Energie SOS Futur.

    The next meeting of the Council will start at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 5 July, when the Council will continue its high-level segment on creating an environment at the national and international levels conducive to generating full and productive employment and decent work for all, and its impact on sustainable development.

    Statements

    ATHAUDA SENEVIRATNE, Minister of Labour Relations and Foreign Employment of Sri Lanka, said all were in agreement that the access to work was the surest way out of poverty.  At the same time, those countries that had pursued social policy goals underlined that this was a sound and sustainable investment for growth; supportive public policies in health, education and gender empowerment, together with an enabling environment for entrepreneurship could provide impetus to employment creation. 

    Sri Lanka was well on its way to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  As a developing country, Sri Lanka was faced with many challenges in creating a conducive environment for full and productive employment and decent work.  Many argued that there were trade-offs between the quality and quantity of employment, and between social expenditure and investment, and that protective regulation undermined enterprise flexibility and productivity.  But, on the contrary, decent work could pay for itself through improved productivity and resultant social and economic stability.  It was imperative to encourage economic initiatives compatible with sustainable development through promoting more sustainable consumption and production patterns.  Use of resources productively and economically was an important aspect of sustainable development.  It was also proposed to recommend integration of environmental best practices into employment and development programmes. 

    IVAN SAHAN, Minister of Labour and Social Policy of Ukraine, said that since Ukraine became independent, it had faced difficulties in matters of employment.  The transition to a market economy had been a painful one and the Government had to deploy more efforts to combat the negative effects due to the process.  The rate of unemployment had increased because of the privatization of State owned enterprises.  The privatized companies had laid off workers in relation to their restructuring efforts.  The living standards of thousands of people had gone down because of the slow economic reform and the lack of resources to pay unemployed workers.  The Government was fully aware of the economic and social problems that people were facing in the country.  A series of steps had been taken to remedy the situation and to promote economic growth, which would benefit all segments of the population. 

    Another problem Ukraine faced was that of illegal migration.  Since the borders were open, the number of migrants arriving and transiting was increasing. The United Nations should be able to take measures to help handle the large number of migrants who were now living in Ukraine. 

    NORBERTO CIAVARINO, Chef de Cabinet at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security of Argentina, said the importance of promoting decent work was vital if the Millennium Development Goals were to be achieved and sustainable development to be promoted in the developing world, in particular the poorest nations.  Economic growth was a good thing, but it was not enough to achieve these objectives.  Jobs needed to be created, jobs that could be described as decent work, a concept that had been developed and enshrined by the ILO, and defined by the Secretary-General in paragraph 2 of the report.  Achieving decent work could only be obtained through various criteria. 

    The major challenge facing the world at the moment was achieving sustainable development, based on economic, social and environmental issues, which should be coupled with poverty eradication, which latter was achieved by creating decent work.  It should be recognised as a goal that was shared by the entire international community, as well as by national Governments.  Although developing countries were striving hard to achieve decent work, they would not succeed on their own, they required help on an international level.  Major players in the international system needed to ensure that these values were included on their agendas.  International financial institutions needed to encourage employment strategies, with decent work at their heart.

    WALTER FUST, Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, said the situation of young people was a major concern.  The current figure of 86 million unemployed young people was unacceptable.  Young people accounted for one out of every two unemployed persons.  On the human level, that was a real tragedy, and it had a disastrous impact on the economy, on social cohesion, security and peace.  It was imperative to make the employment of young people a priority in political decision-making, not only in developing countries but also in industrialized nations.  Because it was convinced of the crucial part that young people played in the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, Switzerland was currently devising an institutional policy which was designed to integrate young people in its overall development activities.

    In absolute terms, the private sector was the main creator of employment. However, the business world should not be exclusively concerned with financial profit.  It also had obligations to society.  The quality of employment was linked to respect for framework conditions in the economic, social and environmental fields.  The main role of the State was not to create employment but to establish conditions, which promoted full productive employment and decent work for all.  In the framework of the ongoing discussion about the United Nations reform process, Switzerland would like to see a substantial improvement in the interaction between ECOSOC and civil society.  The interactive dialogue with civil society, which would take place on 5 July 2006, was a first step in the right direction. 

    KAZIMIERZ KUBERSKI, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Poland, said globalisation, although often associated with uncertainty and instability, offered a unique opportunity for economic development and modernisation.  Thus, it implied the possibility to attain greater social cohesion, on the national and the international scale.  Governments and the international community were able to shape the globalisation process, so that development proceeded in a sustainable manner, while economic and social objectives were harmoniously attained. 

    Employment was a key to maintaining social stability.  On the other hand, better quality and greater mobility of labour resources were a prerequisite for economic growth.  Decisions leading to reconcile economic development with social guarantees could sometimes be seen as depriving workers of traditionally guaranteed social rights, but searching for the right balance between activity and security did not entail moving away from the realisation of social rights.  Rather, it was an attempt to find solutions allowing sustained and durable development.  If the development challenge failed the social consensus, then social disorders would ensue.  The Council, with the experience of its members as well as specialised agencies and institutions, had the potential to offer support both to the developed and developing countries in implementing such values as decent Government, active society, and social solidarity. 

    LABEED M. ABBAWI, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, said a positive will of nations could eradicate poverty in a very short span of time.  The implementation of the Millennium Development Goals would close the gap of development existing among nations.  Despite the challenges of terrorism and other problems, Iraq had been making progress in economic and social areas.  National elections had been held with the view of achieving national reconciliation.  With the initiative of the Prime Minister and Arab friends, a programme of national reconciliation was underway.  To that end, a conference would be held in the near future.  The Government had also taken steps in agricultural areas, in particular concerning deforestation.  The programme put in place for economic development was also aimed at reducing poverty and enhancing employment of the youth, who were affected by the economic problems that the country faced.

    Iraq used its oil resources to improve the main infrastructure and hoped to create an economy based on different financial resources.  The economic development could be sustained through the respect for rule of law and prevalence of peace in the country.  In order to uphold the rights of women, a ministry had been created to empower Iraqi women.  The human rights situation had also improved, thanks to the new Iraqi administration that was committed to respecting and promoting the human rights of Iraqi citizens.  Sustainable human development could not be achieved without social justice and national cohesion. 

    VALDAS RUPSYS, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour of Lithuania, said in 2005, the European Commission had proposed to refocus the Lisbon agenda on actions that promoted growth and jobs in a manner that was fully consistent with the objective of sustainable development.  Lithuania's efforts to raise employment rates went hand in hand with improvement of job attractiveness, quality at work, and labour productivity growth.  In addition, reducing the number of working poor and bringing people from the margins of the labour market were essential.  All the reforms recently carried out in Lithuania's labour market offered employers wide opportunities to organise the working process in a flexible manner, and they were urged to take into account the needs of employees.

    Lithuania believed that the strong emphasis on knowledge, education and innovation would give people the opportunity to climb the productivity ladder and guarantee that productivity would grow quickly.  Lithuania especially stressed the urgent need of active social partners' participation in the employment-related processes.  Many aspects of employment security, flexible work, quality of job places and others fell within the competence of social partners, and therefore Lithuania believed a common agenda and joint responsibility for change should be created.

    K. C. SINGH, Additional Secretary at the International Organization Division of the Ministry of External Affairs of India, said concerted action by the international community was vital for enabling all of mankind to meet their basic minimum requirements.  For making progress on that front, including achieving the Millennium Development Goals, a scaling up of resource flows to developing countries, especially Official Development Assistance (ODA), was crucial.  While new aid commitments by donor countries were welcome, the decline in lending through the consessional and non-consessional windows of multilateral development banks was a concern.  Donor countries should be willing, as a whole, to raise their ODA levels to the target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income well beyond 2015, if the Millennium Development Goals were to be achieved, apart from mobilizing resources from innovative sources, which did not impact adversely on existing levels of resource flows.

    In India, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, enacted this year now legally guaranteed minimum employment for 100 days annually to every rural household, creating a social safely net protection for the rural poor from hunger and poverty.  Access to decent work and full employment needed to be seen not only in the context of job creation.  Work opportunities, especially through self-employment, had huge potential in developing countries.  In India, the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozagar Yojana, was one of the largest micro-credit schemes in the world for the self-employed.  Its success had promoted even commercial banks to enter into the field of micro-credit, which would substantially increase its reach.

    LOUISE ARKLE of Hope for the Nations said a broad range of Canadian non-governmental organizations had met in a forum, focusing on global citizenship and including active participation from representatives of Canadian youth.  Given the broad scope of the topic under discussion and the character of globalized labour, the group identified the necessity of preparing two general Statements of Conscience, and identified mechanisms for change.  These included: malevolent national, international and corporate labour practices that created immense human suffering and affected all workers, especially women and children (employed or not), which should be addressed.   Action should be taken against labour practices that were exploitative and exacerbated gender inequality and sexual exploitation of women and children.  Employment issues, in both private and public sectors should be reviewed. 

    AGREBI SAIDA, Vice-President of World Family Organization and President of Tunisian Mothers Association, said the Association appreciated the theme of the high-level segment and gave full attention to employment and decent work for all families.  The implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and Tunis's World Summit on the Information Society's commitments were a priority. The Association assessed strategies towards achieving the goal of full and productive employment and decent work for all families.  Productive employment was important to alleviate poverty and provide adequate family stability.

    MICHEL CLERC, of Association droit a l'Energie SOS Futur, said there were approximately two billion people who had no access to energy, and who would not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, as this was the impetus for jobs.  Energy could help populations stay in a place if they wished to have a better life, and its arrival in rural areas created suburban areas with an increase in living standards and incomes.   The point was two-fold.  Development of economic activities resulting from the arrival of power led to job creation, micro-businesses and local handicrafts.  With a basis of power, there was an increase in business, and therefore micro-credit providers should encourage the arrival of power, in particular where this was accompanied by a transfer of knowledge.  

    * *** *