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Statement by H.E. Ms. Sarala Fernando,
Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN
in Geneva and Chairperson of the ILO’s Governing Body Committee on Employment and Social Policy (ESP)
at the ECOSOC High Level Segment Roundtable on
“Creating Decent Work Opportunities with Productivity Growth”
5 July, 2006
ECOSOC is welcome to Geneva. Here in this serene environment and the background culture of peace, there is a renaissance of multilateralism, which could be attributed to both wise and energetic leadership in the UN and international organizations in Geneva as well as the serious and constructive dialogue witnessed among all stakeholders. Our efforts are aimed to both build a vision for the future founded on a sound knowledge base with agreed political objectives, as well as practical work at the technical level to design appropriate projects and programmes to be implemented at national, regional and global levels.
The present global job crisis has both a quantitative and qualitative dimension. The global economy is faced with the challenge of creating over 400 million jobs over the next decade for new entrants alone into the labour force at a time when the employment intensity of growth has sharply declined and there are around 200 million workers openly unemployed. At the same time of the jobs that already exist a very large proportion suffer from low productivity, low incomes and very poor working conditions. Women and youth are in particular discriminated. The development paradigm has to shift to the creation of “good jobs”. This means that if employment is to be an effective tool to fight against poverty and reduce social exclusion then the need is to provide not just any work but decent work.
The real challenge is how can this be done? What I would like to share with you briefly is the practical work that have been undertaken by the ILO and more specifically the Employment and Social Policy Committee (ESP), one of the main Committees of the ILO’s Governing Body, which I have the honour to Chair, to place employment at the heart of economic and social policy making in order to create more and better jobs. Let me also underline the importance of the ILO tripartite mechanism in our Committee which enables lively debate on all subjects between the Workers, and the Employers Groups with the Governments offering their own different regional and national perspectives. Although this may sound unbelievable, the open free debate does in fact enable consensual recommendations and outcomes.
In response to the request of the Special Session of the General Assembly in 2000 the ILO’s Governing Body adopted after an intensive debate in the ESP Committee, the Global Employment Agenda, the employment pillar of decent work, in March 2003 with strong tripartite consensus and support.
After a rich discussion on the ten core elements of the Global Employment Agenda which encompassed the impact on employment amongst others of macro policies of trade, education and training, social protection and technological advancement we have been actively engaged in efforts to translate the Decent Work vision into more concrete national employment strategies drawing upon the framework of the Agenda. This has taken a number of important dimensions.
The first is the development of an operational user-friendly policy framework in one page outlining the main elements of an employment strategy for Decent Work Country Programmes based on the Global Employment Agenda. We are happy to share this one-pager with you and copies of it have been placed for you to take with you.
The second is the preparation of a checklist of key policy areas in making employment central in economic policy making so as to make the approach transparent, manageable, practical and operational. The key policy areas which are divided into sub-areas covers policies to increase the demand for labour, skills and employability, enterprise development, labour market institutions and policies, governance, empowerment and organizational capital and social protection. An outline of this checklist is contained in a “Vision” document on employment strategies for decent copies of which are again available for those who are interested.
The third is the development and continuing improvement of specific instruments and tools for policy advice and capacity building. These instruments and tools would help policy makers and practitioners to analyze and develop suitable policy responses on key employment related issues. The ILO has prepared an inventory of these tools and instruments that is available for wider dissemination.
The fourth has been the sharing of country experiences in prioritizing employment goals in their economic and development policies and hearing first hand at the ESP Committee from senior policy makers, and representatives of employers’ and workers’ organisations what works and does not work based on their recent country experiences. We have heard the country experiences of Argentina, Ghana and the Philippines and we plan to continue this process. The lessons of these experiences will also be disseminated.
And finally we are now in the process of developing a framework and tools for impact assessment and evaluation of policies, programmes and projects which lead to the creation of decent work so that we can share and build-upon this knowledge base. This could also lead to the upscaling of pilot projects and initiatives within and across countries.
To conclude Mr. Chairman we have now practical tools for the implementation of the Decent Work Agenda and we very much hope that the deliberations during the ECOSOC High Level Segment will result in mainstreaming the recommendation of the Decent Work Agenda throughout the UN system and particularly to the Regional Commissions, in keeping with the calls for system-wide coherence. If employment was the ‘missing’ element of the MDG’s, we have now an opportunity for ECOSOC to redress this omission.
I thank you.