Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6211
    12 July 2006

    ECOSOC Hears Addresses by Dignitaries in Debate on Employment, Decent Work

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 5 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this morning continued its high-level segment, debating 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.

    Addressing the Council, the Minister for Labour and Productivity of Nigeria, Hassan Lawal, said employment alone was not the panacea for poverty eradication; employment creation and supportive policies at the national and international levels to contribute to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals were necessary.

    Alpheus Naruseb, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare of Namibia, said that the developing countries had taken many initiatives to create national economic environments conducive to the twin goals of economic growth and full employment, yet their relative lack of success had caused many to question whether the goals were merely unrealizable dreams.

    Jean-Max Bellerive, Minister of Planning and External Cooperation of Haiti, said Haiti needed international solidarity ever more.  The Government of Haiti firmly believed that the Council could and should continue to support Haiti in the long-term defining of its development vision. 

    Richard T. Miller, Head of Delegation of the United States, said for billions of people around the world, including the poorest of the poor, the ability to work was about the right to life.  The United States had pledged to work for greater economic openness and liberalization in trade and investment flows so that all may share fully in growing global prosperity.

    As his country celebrated its 230th independence yesterday, citizens were enjoying their rights and freedoms to work, which was essential to life.  Political and economic independence were prerequisite to freedom of work, and they all went hand-in-hand.

    Adeline Mwau, Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Labour and Human Resource Development of Kenya, said Kenya had recorded impressive GDP growth in the last few years, but the poverty level had continued to grow, proving that although economic growth was essential, it was not sufficient to reduce poverty and decrease unemployment. 

    Gordon Markotic, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Croatia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Croatia had created and strengthened an institutional and legislative framework for the elimination of all forms of gender-based discrimination leading to the creation of opportunities for men and women to obtain productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity and human dignity.

    Hjalmar W. Hannesson, Ambassador of Iceland to the United Nations in New York and Vice-President of ECOSOC, said the major threats to security from terrorism and poverty to disease and environmental degradation required a broad range of solutions.  A decent job constituted a stake in society, and thus a strong incentive to work for stability; sustainability followed.

    Caroline Jane Millar, Head of Delegation of Australia, said Australia considered paid work to be the key to economic well being, and central to alleviating poverty, increasing equality and promoting social integration.  Vulnerable members of society needed to be protected, and individuals provided with the opportunity to engage in dignified work. 

    Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France, said France put particular importance on the setting up in an effective and swift way of innovative mechanisms for financing development.  It was essential to respond now to financial assistance to developing countries. 

    Ronaldo Sardenberg, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations in New York, said Brazil had one of the most universal and longest standing social security systems in Latin America.  Social initiatives to protect workers, like unemployment insurances and minimum income guarantees were in place.

    Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the United Nations, said poverty eradication and development policies, which were some of the most pressing problems facing developing countries, required continued action.  There was an imperative need to find new and creative ways to address the issue of unemployment and creating decent work.

    Vladimir Spidla, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunity, said that productive employment and decent work could largely contribute to the fight against poverty and social exclusion.  Productive employment and decent work constituted positive elements in development policies.

    The next meeting of the Council will take place at 3 p.m. during which it will hear more statements before concluding its high-level segment after adopting a ministerial declaration. 

    Statements

    HASSAN LAWAL, Minister for Labour and Productivity of Nigeria, said employment alone was not the panacea for poverty eradication.  Employment creation and supportive policies at the national and international levels to contribute to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals were necessary, as well as equity, security, and human dignity.  Sustained economic growth and sustainable development should not be at the expense of full employment and decent work, and globalisation should be fully inclusive, equitable to all and fair to developing countries.  Collective actions should aim at eliminating the worst forms of child labour and promote gender equality, women's rights and independence, including their access to full and productive employment and decent work. 

    Achieving full employment and decent work for all required good governance at the national and international levels.  It also required an enabling economic environment and appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks at all levels.  Developing countries should be given the policy space to formulate and implement domestic policies, especially in the areas of trade, investment and industrial development that were responsive to their needs, national priorities and circumstances.  Global development policies should be more coherent, consistent with and supportive of the goal of full employment and decent work for all.

    ALPHEUS NARUSEB, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare of Namibia, said it was indisputable that most countries were affected by rising levels of unemployment and poverty, especially among the youth, women and persons with disabilities.  The developing countries had taken many initiatives to create national economic environments conducive to the twin goals of economic growth and full employment, yet their relative lack of success had caused many to question whether the goals were merely unrealisable dreams.  Africa, as in other developing regions, was facing a daunting challenge of addressing worsening employment and social conditions.  Prior to its independence in 1990, Namibia experienced forced labour in various forms, through the apartheid system.  The vestiges of that system had resulted in high unemployment, an inadequate skills base and a large percentage of working poor.

    As Namibia built a system of education for all, few secondary school leavers could continue to the tertiary level, while even tertiary level students were often not prepared for the demands of the labour market.  The Namibian Government had undertaken several initiatives to address the challenge of unemployment, including preparing legislation, soon to be introduced, to establish a National Commission for Employment Creation.  Namibia participated as a lead country in the Youth Employment Network that was jointly established by the ILO, the UN Secretariat and the World Bank, to give young people everywhere a real chance to find decent and productive work.

    JEAN-MAX BELLERIVE, Minister of Planning and External Cooperation of Haiti, said unemployment affected the most fragile groups of society, women, the young, and those in rural areas.  These were the natural pool on whom sustainable development policies should be based.   The population had often seen no escape from misery, unemployment and often illegal immigration and giving them hope was one of the fundamental goals of Haiti.  This goal would be difficult to achieve without investment in alphabetisation, basic education, and professional training.  It would also be difficult to achieve these goals if the perceptions of both national and international investors did not change with regards to the global security conditions and administrative and judicial government.

    At this historic moment in its history, Haiti needed international solidarity ever more.  It was ever more necessary for this cooperation to be efficient and well coordinated.  The Government of Haiti firmly believed that the Council could and should continue to support Haiti in the long-term defining of its development vision.  Fruitful exchanges on employment, work or migratory questions had already been held during the session, and this reinforced that belief. 

    RICHARD T. MILLER, Head of Delegation of the United States, said 230 years ago yesterday, the founders of the United States had declared their independence and had created a new nation based on the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Each of the rights enunciated in the Declaration of Independence was inextricably linked to work and that was why he brought them up today as the Council discussed employment conditions, job creation and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  For billions of people around the world, including the poorest of the poor, the ability to work was about the right to life.  It was through work that they were able to get the very means of survival for themselves and their children.  For those living in rural areas as farmers, herders or ranchers, their livelihoods came directly from the fruit of their hands.  Today, in the United States, farmers and ranchers were iconic figures of freedom and independence.  For most human beings, it was through the money earned from jobs that they gained their independence, freedom from dependence on others.  Economic independence and freedom went hand in hand with political independence and freedom.  The United States had pledged to work for greater economic openness and liberalization in trade and investment flows so that all may share fully in growing global prosperity.  To help those most in need, the United States had almost tripled Official Development Assistance (ODA) since 2000 to $ 27.5 billion last year.

    For the poor and developing countries, the greatest need was not ODA but a job.  It was the experience of the United States that job creation could not be separated from economic growth and enhanced productivity.  The role of governments was to enhance and maintain an economic environment conducive to growth.  An environment that promoted entrepreneurship and provided legal protection and regulatory stability for the private sector was key everywhere.   Where there was less bureaucracy, there were more small and medium size private enterprises, the real engines for new jobs, and far less corruption. 

    ADELAINE MWAU, Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Labour and Human Resource Development of Kenya, said full and productive employment and decent work were fundamental to the fight against poverty and social exclusion.  Equally important and challenging were the promotion of decent work in micro- and small enterprises, where a large proportion of employees were women and young people.  Kenya had carried out a study on mainstreaming gender in agriculture, employment, and rural development, and had found the country could reduce poverty by 5 per cent if this was taken on board.  The inclusion in statistics of unpaid work by women and human capital information was essential. 

    Kenya had recorded impressive GDP growth in the last few years, but the poverty level had continued to grow, proving that although economic growth was essential, it was not sufficient to reduce poverty and decrease unemployment.  It was therefore important to tackle economic growth from a broad-based angle, with a policy framework making full employment central at both international and national levels.  Employment creation should not only be a residual outcome of any policy.  Including employment and decent work in social development policies was vital.

    GORDAN MARKOTIC, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Croatia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Croatia believed that its final goal was to create an environment that would enable full employment and decent work for all.  However, there was no one-size-fits-all model but by applying decent work, and flexibility principles, one was in a position to create an environment which would provide conditions for new, more productive jobs as well as conditions for social protection for everyone.  Croatia had founded the path of its development on initiatives in the field of the labour market, labour relations, social security and social protection even through facing a number of challenges in the field of employment, competitiveness of economy and "grey economy", social security and demography.

    Regarding the creation of opportunities for men and women to obtain productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity and human dignity, Croatia had created and strengthened an institutional and legislative framework for the elimination of all forms of gender-based discrimination.

    HJALMAR W. HANNESSON, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations in New York and Vice-President of ECOSOC, said the major threats to security from terrorism and poverty to disease and environmental degradation required a broad range of solutions.  One key tool was to harness the energy and motivation of individuals everywhere to participate fully and actively in their economies.  A decent job constituted a stake in society, and thus a strong incentive to work for stability - sustainability followed.  At present, this power was not being harnessed.  That some 1.2 billion people lived in extreme poverty with over 850 million undernourished indicated that employment by itself was not a solution to poverty.  Large scale underemployment or employment in low-grade, low-paid jobs constituted a major problem.  Jobs which paid so poorly that people remained below the poverty line did little to give people a stake or contribute to stability.

    Furthermore, populations living in such conditions were less likely to be able to take account of environmental concerns.  The impact of the exclusion of such a large number of people from effective participation in society was especially serious on social stability.  Strengthening access to infrastructure was another important prerequisite for private sector development and creation of jobs.  The opportunities which globalisation provided for increasing employment were considerable, however, a prerequisite for capitalising on these opportunities for sustainable and high quality employment was education.   There was no simple recipe for creating an employment-friendly environment; however, the recipe would need to include an improved investment climate for private sector development, fair trade, infrastructure development, access to energy and education, and a clear and secure legal environment.

    CAROLINE JANE MILLAR, Head of Delegation of Australia, said Australia considered paid work to be the key to economic well being, and central to alleviating poverty, increasing equality and promoting social integration.  Vulnerable members of society needed to be protected, and individuals provided with the opportunity to engage in dignified work.  Developed countries had an active role, on Australia's part, the recently released White Paper on the Australian aid programme focused on accelerating economic growth, fostering functioning and effective states, investing in people, and prompting regional stability and cooperation.  Those factors would help to create the preconditions for employment.

    Strong economic growth was a key driver of job creation.  In Australia, strong economic management, including a preparedness to engage in ongoing workplace reform, had delivered significant results.  Over the past decade, the Australian economy had performed strongly, and unemployment rates were currently at a twenty-eight year low.

    JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT, Permanent Representative of France, said the Ministerial Segment was in line with the follow-up of the Heads of State Summit of 2005 which had reaffirmed the central place of the Council in issues of economic and social development.  The Council should continue to be revitalised.  France put particular importance to the setting up in an effective and swift way of innovative mechanisms for financing development.  It was essential to respond now with financial assistance for developing countries.  International solidarity contributions were examples of this type of innovative mechanisms. 

    With regards to the United Nations reform process, in particular with regards to the reform of operational activities, France supported a global and inclusive approach.  The United Nations had a role to play in emerging countries such as the least developed countries and fragile States.  The reform should also cover the funds and programmes and specialised agencies, rethinking operational and normative functions, and protecting the rights of individuals.  Decent work as the central theme of this session was a good choice, as this concerned all countries and had a direct effect on people in the new context of globalisation.  This theme depended on the various situations in each country. 

    RONALDO SARDENBERG, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations in New York, said Brazil had one of the most universal and longest standing social security systems in Latin America.  Social initiatives to protect workers, like unemployment insurances and minimum income guarantees were in place. Government policies to prevent and eradicate child labour and forced labour were strictly enforced.  But the fact remained that, whatever efforts Brazil made at the national level, its development would be impaired, even prevented, if it was not accompanied by progress in establishment of a friendlier international economic environment, from the standpoint of developing countries.

    The creation of new quality jobs in developing countries and the improvement of the quality of existing ones could only be achieved through development.  That was one of the main reasons why development was a core issue on the international agenda.  It would remain on the international agenda demanding attention for as long as it would take to achieve durable progress.  A level playing field in the international trade system had clear implications for the creation of full and productive employment and decent work for all.

    GUSTI AGUNG WESAKA PUJA, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the United Nations, said the theme of full and productive and decent work was very timely in view of the commitment pledged by leaders at the 2005 World Summit: "to make the goals of full and productive employment and decent work for all a central objective relevant national and international policies".  Full and productive employment was one of the priorities in national development agendas, and had been playing a significant role in providing opportunities for people to alleviate themselves from poverty.  The Ministerial Declaration to be adopted at this meeting maintained the momentum created by the Leaders' commitment at the World Summit, and would contribute to the efforts to make full employment and decent work an integral part of development efforts of Member States, as well as further mainstreaming the issue into the United Nations system. 

    Poverty eradication and development policies, which were some of the most pressing problems faced by developing countries, required continued action.  There was an imperative need to find new and creative ways to address the issue of unemployment and creating decent work.  Unconventional ways should be devised to allocate the already-limited resources into job creation or employment-generating activities with the maximum possible economic gain.  An environment conducive to full and productive employment, as well as decent work, was required to achieve poverty eradication, and could also be achieved through market access for products from developing countries, technical assistance for productive capacity, as well as through investment.

    VLADIMIR SPIDLA, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunity, said that productive employment and decent work could largely contribute to the fight against poverty and social exclusion.  Productive employment and decent work could constitute positive elements in development policies.  Unfortunately, that potential had been neglected or underestimated in the development strategy, and it was largely absent in Millennium Development Goals.  However, the UN Summit of September 2005 had affirmed the necessity of promoting productive employment and decent work. 

    The challenges were considerable:  half of the workers in the world gained less than two dollars per day and half of the world population had no social protection.  All countries in the world might not bear the consequences of restructuring and readjustment of the globalization process.  Developing the social dimension of globalization needed solidarity at the international level and good governance at the national level.  The international community should put in place effective means to promote productive employment and decent work.

    BERTRAND DURUFLE, Executive Secretary of the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions, said the question of decent work was at the heart of the debate as the chronic deficit in the offer of employment could engender a lack of balance between offer and demand that was an incitement to over qualification at all levels, which was felt by workers as being a general disqualification.  The deficit in offered employment penalised the most vulnerable to the point of making them unable to work. In this situation, women were particularly affected, and required particular support.  To let the situation continue would cause a deterioration of the human ecosystem, which would probably be more dangerous than that of the natural ecosystem.

    Employment encouraged humanity on the personal level by calling on each to increase his or her abilities as well as increasing the contribution to the society of origin.  The issue of decent work was at the heart of the public debate.  All organizations which worked around the human being had made it a priority, sure that indecent work lowered the worker, whereas decent work contributed to material and intellectual edification.  Outside of the rhetoric, the issue of decent work was at the heart of humanity's concerns.  The dignity of the human being was indivisible.  The great diversity of conditions in which men and women worked could lead to human activity developing in different directions, but this could not justify an abrogation of decency, without which there could be no dignity.

    ANGELA MARIA LORETO, Ius Primi Viri, said to create 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, one should first of all create women and men capable of creating a sustainable development.  Today there were plenty of technology and cultural tools, but if humans were not able to integrate them, there would be crisis.  One spoke of equal dignities, but what did it really mean?  It meant to create consciences and that  could be done by providing education on human rights.  The first task was to create women and men aware of the meaning of life through education on human rights and for human dignity.

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