|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2012 Substantive Session
15th & 16th Meetings (AM & PM)
Supportive, Inclusive Economic Policies Needed to Generate Jobs, Ward Off
Effects of Sluggish Global Growth, Economic and Social Council Told
Council Holds Dialogue with International Finance, Trade Organizations,
Also Concludes Ministerial Review; In Parallel meeting, Begins General Debate
Amid concern over predictions for yet another year of tepid global growth, the Economic and Social Council held a high-level policy dialogue today with marquee financial and trade organizations on the state of the world economy, as it also wrapped up its annual ministerial review on ways to generate decent jobs and end poverty.
Moderated by Sha Zukang, Under-secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the high-level dialogue featured four panellists: Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Min Zhu, Deputy Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF); Valentine Rugwabiza, Deputy Director-General, World Trade Organization; and Hans Timmer, Director of the Development Prospects Group, World Bank.
“The world’s economic prospects remain sombre and challenging,” said Mr. Sha in opening remarks. The economy was projected to grow by 2.5 per cent in 2012 and 3.1 percent in 2013, but weaknesses in developed economies continued to feed into each other and unemployment remained high. Some 45-50 million new jobs were needed annually just to return to pre-crisis employment levels. “We are not getting even close to this target,” he warned. To do so, far more supportive economic policies were needed. Moreover, the cooperative response following the outbreak of the crisis risked fading quickly, and “the world cannot afford this”.
“Are you really satisfied with the way global economic governance is being practiced at the moment?” asked Mr. Supachai, who warned the Council in his presentation that “we are inching towards […] a real danger of a repeat of that calamity of 2008-2009.” That was largely because there was currently no leadership, no coordination, no inclusion or sharing of authority in determining the agenda of the future. States must be mindful that “we are just floating, drifting with no clear global agenda”. He wondered whether the world could rely solely on G20 deliberations taking place twice a year for a day or two as a way to steer the future.
Giving a brief snapshot of some of the more troubling dimensions of the jobs crisis, he said that presently, many long-term unemployed people had become disenchanted and had left the labour force, there was an alarming level of youth unemployment and wage levels were declining. Another worrying trend was the resurgence of harmful practices — such as excessive bonuses and the manipulation of interest rates — in the world’s major banks. It was therefore of paramount importance to address the “grave deficiencies” in global economic governance. “We must bite the bullet and be really strong in dealing with the issues of financial reform,” he stressed in that regard.
Painting a similarly dire picture, Mr. Zhu agreed that the global economy was in “a synchronized slowdown”. There was even cause for concern in developing countries — many of which enjoyed strong rates of growth — including volatile capital flows, commodity prices, escalated risk and little viable space for policy options. Issuing a number of prescriptions in that regard, he stressed that structural reform was particularly important, as was the creation and maintenance of social protection initiatives for the world’s most vulnerable. It was also vital for donor countries to keep their commitment and continue supporting low-income countries.
Ms. Rugwabiza said that, in difficult times, the world must resist the temptation to resort to protectionist trade measures, which often harmed developing countries. “Hard-won developmental achievements of the past decade are in danger of unravelling,” she warned in that regard. The rules and norms of the World Trade Organization were the strongest insurance against protectionist measures; it was essential to not only safeguard those rules, but also to redouble efforts in trade-opening measures. In that vein, she said, an agreement on trade facilitation was a possible outcome of the currently ongoing “Doha Round” of World Trade Organization negotiations.
Other panellists also struck a note of optimism, emphasizing a number of key areas in which States might use their available policy space to strengthen the world’s long-term economic prospects. In that regard, Mr. Timmer agreed that a shift towards structural adjustments — changes in the basic framework of an economy through policy reform — was vital to averting another global crisis. In that respect, developing countries, whose policies were already forward-looking and focused on structural policies, were in “much better shape” than developed countries, which were currently focused on short-term fixes.
Some of those ideas were reflected when the Council began in the afternoon its general debate, in which more than 30 speakers took the floor to describe the ways in which they were being affected by the current global economic conditions, as well as to outline what they saw as priority action steps for the future. In that regard, the representative of India said that the theme of the present ministerial review — “Promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the Millennium Development Goals” — shined a spotlight on urgent economic and social concerns that had particular resonance in today’s turbulent economic climate.
From the perspective of developing countries, he said, the generation of productive and gainful employment on a scale that was sufficient to absorb the growing labour force was a critical element of the strategy for poverty eradication and sustainable development. “Labour is the sole asset of poor people,” he said in that context; perversely, however, in most developing countries, that vital resource was under-utilized and under-remunerated. A significant scale-up of public investment was needed in infrastructure, technology, education and skills development, as well as social spending. “It is abundantly clear that we cannot afford the luxury of a business as usual approach,” he stressed.
Many delegations also recalled that the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”) — adopted just weeks ago in Brazil — would pave the way for the elaboration of post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. In the context of the current global economic climate, they said, it was critical that commitments made at the summit be swiftly turned into action, particularly when it came to the implementation of a “green economy” and other efforts aimed at growing jobs and improving sustainability.
Moreover, said the representative of the Republic of Korea, the Conference was not the end of the international community’s endeavours, but instead, it set the stage for the continued implementation of sustainable development. “In order to turn our achievements into a historic milestone, we must implement the outcomes” of that conference, known collectively as “The Future We Want”. Meanwhile, as unemployment was one of the most urgent issues facing the world today, the issue should be considered as one of the most significant elements of the post-2015 United Nations development agenda.
Concurrent with the general debate, the Council wrapped up its annual ministerial review, hearing national voluntary presentations from Kenya, Mauritius and Qatar on their efforts to generate jobs and build productive capacity towards poverty eradication. That session was moderated by Edward Carr, Associate Professor, Department of Geography of the University of South Carolina.
John Munyes Kiyong’a, Minister of Labour of Kenya, presented his nation’s report; K.S. Sukon, Human Resources Development Council of Mauritius, presented the report of his Government’s efforts; and the final presenter was Saleh bin Mohammed Al Nabit, Secretary-General, General Secretariat for Development Planning of Qatar.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Sha introduced two reports of the Secretary-General, the first of which was on the theme of the annual ministerial review (document E/2012/63). The second report focused on “Macroeconomic policies for productive capacity, employment creation, sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, in the context of sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth in pursuit of poverty eradication” (document E/2012/74).
Following those introductions, Ms. Frances Stewart, Chair of the Committee for Development Policy, introduced via videolink highlights from the Committee’s report on its fourteenth session (document E/2012/33).
Participating in the general debate were the Ministers and other senior Government officials of Namibia, Morocco, Australia, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Norway, Ethiopia, United Republic of Tanzania, Belarus, Japan, Egypt, Bulgaria, Mongolia and the Russian Federation.
Also speaking were the representatives of Algeria (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Nepal (on behalf of the least developed countries), Chile (on behalf of the Community of Latin American States), Cameroon, China, Cuba, Switzerland, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Libya, Nigeria and Lesotho.
The representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also participated: Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan; American Association of Retired Persons (AARP); Global Foundation for Democracy and Development; IFENDU for Women’s Development; Salesian Missions; and Catholic Medical Missionaries,
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, 5 July, to begin its two-day consideration of the Development Cooperation Forum.
Continuing the high-level segment of its 2012 substantive session, the Economic and Social Council convened today its high-level policy dialogue with the international financial and trade institutions on current developments in the world economy. It was also set to hear national voluntary presentations by Kenya, Mauritius and Qatar, and begin its general debate.
High-level Policy Dialogue
On the busy second day of its 2012 substantive session, the Council began its work with a high-level policy dialogue on the world economy with the international financial and trade institutions. The dialogue featured four panellists, namely, Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Min Zhu, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Valentine Rugwabiza, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization; and Hans Timmer, Director of the Development Prospects Group of the World Bank. It was moderated by Sha Zukang, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
“The world’s economic prospects remain sombre and challenging,” said Mr. SHA as he opened the session. The world’s economy was projected to grow by 2.5 per cent in 2012 and 3.1 per cent in 2013, but weaknesses in developed economies continued to feed into each other and ran counter to economic development. Unemployment — both a cause and effect of economic recovery — continued to be high. Fiscal austerity measures were further hampering growth, while financial sector fragility continued. Faced with weakening external demand and increasing uncertainty, developing countries and transition economies were expected to see a slowdown in 2012. More concerted efforts in policy making would therefore be needed to break the cycle of those challenges.
“Recovery of global employment remains the most important challenge,” he said. Some 200 million people were out of work globally, and 45-50 million new jobs annually were needed just to return to pre-crisis employment levels. “We are not getting even close to this target,” he warned, stressing that, to do so, the world needed far more supportive economic policies. Ensuring sustainable economic growth over the next decade meant that tackling inequality and addressing sustainability, among other key issues, must be part of the post-2015 development agenda.
Indeed, he said, “future growth patterns must be socially inclusive and environmentally sound”. Such sustainable development — for which there was “no option” — would require massive amounts of both public and private investments. Finding those resources, however, would be challenging, as aid levels were still far below global commitments. In the midst of difficult financial times, many donors had cut back on development assistance; in 2011, aid flows had declined in real terms for the first time in many years. New and innovative sources of financing were therefore urgently needed.
Moreover, he warned, the cooperative response that had emerged in the wake of the 2008-2009 crisis might fade quickly, and “the world cannot afford this”. He therefore suggested four policy options: a just fiscal policy to provide a stronger stimulus in a coordinated manner; a redesign of national and international fiscal policies to be more environmentally sound; efforts to tackle the root causes of financial instability; and an increase in financial flows to developing countries. Everyone stood to gain from such actions, “but only if we do it together”, he stressed.
Taking the floor, Mr. SUPACHAI warned that there was presently a secular decline in the growth rates of the world economy, and that “we are inching towards […] a real danger of a repeat of the calamity” of 2008-2009. There had been an uncoordinated exit from the global crisis, with no settled indices on measuring progress; meanwhile, fiscal discipline measures were not working. In various economies that had prematurely adopted austerity measures, the crisis had deepened. “In many countries, retrenchment is needed.” he stressed in that regard. Similarly, the “unwinding” period resulting from the crisis was taking much longer than expected, with high levels of unemployment around the world. The dual track of economic recovery, in which developing economies grew faster than developed countries, was also not working.
Despite all those challenges, he said, “the European debt deflation process represents the paramount global threat.” There was an alarming trend of trade restrictive measures, and new trade disputes had arisen. The Chinese economy was currently perceived to be “losing steam”, he added; since the recession, its growth rate had fallen below 10 per cent and could slip even further. Despite the decline, he stressed that there was more overall balance in China’s economy, with a reduction in its current account surplus, a slowdown of its manufacturing sector and more dependence on consumption.
Regarding the jobs crisis, many long-term unemployed people had become disenchanted and left the labour force; nonetheless, it was an “unhealthy signal” that the level of unemployment had not fallen. There was an alarming level of youth unemployment, with nearly half of young people suffering from joblessness in several parts of the world. Wage levels were declining. Another worrying trend was the resurgence of harmful practices — such as excessive bonuses and the manipulation of interest rates — in the world’s major banks. “One would have hoped that the shadow banking system, which created the problem in the first place, would be shrinking,” he said in that regard; unfortunately, it was growing instead.
Turning to the future, he stressed that it was of paramount importance to address the “grave deficiencies” in economic global governance and that multilateral commitments to the Millennium Development Goals must be met. In that vein, he warned against a scenario in which there might not be enough support available from the IMF to avert a major crisis if some developing countries might require a “bailout”. The world also needed to deal with the unemployment issue and to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, which were “just as bad as agricultural subsidies”. Finally, the shadow finance system must be addressed; “we must bite the bullet and be really strong in dealing with the issues of financial reform,” he said.
Mr. ZHU focused on the global economic situation, the impact of the downturn on low-income countries and policy options to address the issue. The global economy was in “a synchronized slowdown”, he said, explaining that the European Union was in recession and the United States’ economy was dragging. Further, economies in emerging countries, such as China, India and Brazil, were slowing as well. Those trends were continuing despite a host of stimulus packages injected and monetary easing in many parts of the world.
The fundamental problem was “deleveraging”. Debt levels were very high. Some Governments had a debt ratio of 300 per cent or even 500 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP). “This has to change,” he said, but acknowledged that it would not be so easy to do. To reduce debt levels, households must save more and spend less, which was bad for economic growth. Deleveraging was a long process. Despite the past three years of austerity measures, debt ratios were on “the upside, not downside”, he said, cautioning about the negative impact of deleveraging on growth.
He said some low-income countries enjoyed strong economic growth, including in Africa’s sub-Sahara region. Despite that, many factors combined to create serious concern for low-income countries, such as low demand, volatile capital flow, commodity prices, escalated risk, and little space for policy options. “Putting these together,” he said, there was a real concern.
There were, nevertheless, some recommended measures that could help address those issues. He said that some countries still had room for policy options. Structural reform was particularly important, and the European Union, for example, had a lot of room for structural reform. Social protection for the most vulnerable people was also important. And growth must be accompanied with job creation. Many studies showed that Governments could do both, along with providing social protection.
It was also vital for donor countries to keep their commitments and continue supporting low-income countries. Lastly, he said that it was important to carefully monitor situations through various available instruments. Preventive measures were also vital. Low-income countries should have access to credit lines before the onset of crises. He solicited Member States’ support for a poverty reduction facility with zero interest rate. “If you have not done so, please do vote yes,” he said.
“We are meeting in difficult economic times,” said Ms. RUGWABIZA. The world economy had not recovered from the 2008 global economic crisis and growth remained tepid — well below potential in most regions — with severe downside risks emanating from the euro-zone. “Hard-won developmental achievements of the past decade are in danger of unravelling.” National economic concerns inevitably gained visibility in times of recession and economic uncertainty, and the political will to open markets to foreign goods and services waned amid rising fears about job losses and the livelihood of domestic industries. In such times, the temptation to resort to protectionist measures often grew stronger.
The rules and norms of the World Trade Organization were the strongest insurance against protectionist measures, he said. It was essential to not only safeguard those rules but also to redouble efforts in trade-opening measures. Three per cent of world merchandise trade had been lost to trade-restricting measures, introduced since 2008 — equivalent to the trade of the entire African continent. It meant that, despite repeated pledges to hold back from protectionism, some Group of Twenty (G20) nations had been slow to remove such measures. “For the first time, we believe there is serious cause for alarm,” he said, citing World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy in equating protectionism to “bad cholesterol” that builds up slowly, only to one day clog the arteries.
Amid a serious economic situation in which trade was often a target for abuse, it was imperative to strengthen multilateral cooperation and find global solutions. “We must be realistic,” he said. “These unpropitious conditions are not going to change very soon.” To stimulate growth, States must continue to open trade through small steps where possible. An agreement on trade facilitation was a possible outcome of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations. Reduced transit and transaction costs also would benefit small- and medium-sized enterprises in landlocked countries, particularly in Africa. As 60 per cent of global trade was in intermediate goods, trade facilitation procedures were essential to the competitiveness of all small, medium and large companies trading across borders. Other deliverables would be to support least developed countries’ integration into the global economy, by providing them with duty-free, quota-free market access and easing their accession to the World Trade Organization.
Turning to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), he said it had made clear that a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system was an indispensable part of the sustainable development framework. There had been concern during Rio+20 preparations that the green economy could be used to undermine the export competitiveness of developing countries. But the Rio+20 outcome document rejected such behaviour by affirming that policies must not be used to discriminate or restrict trade. World Trade Organization rules sought to balance support for Members’ right to take measures that advanced goals — like environmental protection — and also ensure that such measures were not arbitrarily applied.
Rio+20 had also identified two areas where progress would be important, he said: trade distorting subsidies and trade in environmental goods and services. Both had been part of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Agenda since 2001. In sum, substantive development results could be delivered by taking realistic steps, he said, pressing the Council to use its mandate and legitimacy to ensure that G20 members resisted protectionism, and to galvanize the necessary energy to “keep opening trade”.
Mr. TIMMER said that it was surprising how much consensus there was about the “gloomy” current economic situation. And while he agreed with that assessment, he outlined two possible future scenarios in Europe, one of which raised much more hope than the other. Those were: first, the “baseline view”, meaning another few years of very low growth; or, second, a slide into another major global financial crisis and dismantling of the Euro Zone. The first scenario was much more likely, he said, because the countries of Europe were too small to be successful in the global economy on their own. “There’s no alternative to strengthening the European economy as a whole,” he stressed.
For developing countries, that more positive scenario meant that structural growth would continue. Developing countries had emerged from the 2008-2009 crisis with a 7 per cent growth rate on average, he recalled, and those high rates would continue. Recalling the recent crisis, he said that the most important transition mechanisms had been contagion, uncertainty and a “confidence crisis”. A similar process, in which trouble in developed countries spread to developing countries, would be likely were another global crisis to strike. Developing countries would have to prepare for fundamental changes over the next two decades, he said, adding that even the policies of successful developing countries were likely not adapted for the “very different” coming period.
“It is possible to overemphasize the importance of short-term policies at the moment,” he said, disagreeing with some of the other panellists. If the only response was austerity, more problems were created; at the same time, if the only response was stimulus, more problems would also emerge. It was important that the focus now shift to structural policies, with bold new measures needed. Developing countries, whose policies were already forward-looking and focused on structural policies, were in “much better shape” than developed countries, which were currently focused on short-term fixes.
Following the panellists’ presentations, speakers took the floor in an interactive discussion, issuing a number of questions for the panellists. Those focused largely on issues of unemployment and sustainability, with delegates calling for global economic governance measures to ensure people were healthy, educated and employed. Others asked whether it was best to emphasize austerity measures or stimulus packages, both options which had been discussed in the panellists’ statements.
Meanwhile, still others, agreeing that the global economic situation was indeed “gloomy”, wondered how the panellists felt the world could best confront insufficiencies in its economy, while asking which particular structural policies would best bring about a stronger and faster global recovery. A representative of a least developed country wondered whether the panellists saw ways to ensure delivery on the commitments agreed by development partners. For his country and others, there was no option for implementing an economic stimulus package, leaving them completely vulnerable to the cascading impact of present and future global economic crises.
Also raised were concerns about the proposed Green Climate Fund — which one representative called a “fund without funds” — and about the feasibility of the proposed carbon tax. Similarly, one representative pointed to the Rio+20 outcome recalling that in that document, international financial institutions were invited to play a role in implementing a “green economy”. How was that outcome received by those financial institutions, he wondered, and how did the panellists expect that those bodies would respond to the challenge?
Responding to the question on successful policies and global governance, Mr. TIMMER said developing countries should have a larger say in the international policy debate, and one could argue that G20 initiatives were one step in that direction. For their part, developing countries should devise global solutions. High-income countries should follow-up on global commitments.
As for whether the World Bank had the same kind of influence on poor countries, he said the answer was “no”. There was a serious problem with that fact. After the crisis, the Bank had tripled its lending and helped many countries absorb the shocks. That lending was mainly for middle-income countries. “We borrow from international markets to finance that,” he added.
But that was not a solution for the poorest countries, he said, which received aid flows coordinated by the World Bank. Those flows could not be tripled because they depended on donor money. “We were not as successful for the poorest countries as we were for the middle-income countries,” he conceded, which was why it was important for donors to follow up on their commitments. The fact that that funding had not increased, as promised, was a serious problem.
Ms. RUGWABIZA, responding to a question about implementing the Rio+20 call, said that last December, big changes had taken place in terms of market access for developing countries. China had decided to offer 97 per cent duty-free, quota-free access for all least developed country exports. India had done the same for 90 per cent of those exports. Also last December, a decision had been made to facilitate least developed country World Trade Organization accession. World Trade Organization members had since been working intensively, and last Friday, reached a deal regarding access, which was not yet public. As for what organizations could do, she said it was important to make progress on the Doha Development negotiations.
Mr. ZHU said some issues were not yet understood, such as how technology impacted labour market conditions. There was room in the macroeconomic framework to promote job creation. The Fund worked with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on job and labour market issues, as well as with programme countries including Zambia, Bulgaria and the Dominican Republic on creating a social protection floor.
As for whether green growth could be incorporated into macroeconomic policy, he said that it could and added that there also was much room to carry out subsidy reforms without causing poor people to suffer. Many subsidies went to rich people, who consumed more energy, for example, and thus, received more subsidies on a per capita basis. Fiscal policies could also be used to create change. “We’re looking for more cooperation,” he said.
To a question about balancing austerity and growth, he said both were needed. “We need a credible fiscal policy in the medium-term, and must promote growth in short term. Smart social expenditure was needed as well
Mr. SUPACHAI took a birds-eye perspective on today’s dialogue, saying that most questions circled around one central theme. “Are you really satisfied with the way global economic governance is being practiced at the moment,” he asked? “This is the big elephant in the room.” There was no leadership, no coordination, no inclusion or sharing of authority in determining the agenda of the future. States must be mindful that “we are just floating, drifting with no clear global agenda”. He asked whether the world could rely solely on G20 deliberations taking place twice a year for a day or two, as a way to steer the future.
“This is just not sufficient,” he insisted. The answer to all questions about special drawing rights, commitments, supplementary funds for the International Monetary Fund, and support for least developed country graduation was that commitment was lacking. There was no mechanism to enforce commitments. They were just pledges that could take decades to be realized. “We need short-term action now,” he said. “We do not have leadership. We do not have global governance. Yet we are talking as if we have them.”
Rounding out the dialogue, Mr. SHA said the outcome from Rio+20 was the best that could be achieved. “Please read it carefully,” he said.
Annual Ministerial Review
Moderating this afternoon’s Review session was EDWARD CARR, Associate Professor, Department of Geography at the University of South Carolina, who explained that each country would take stock of its situation and identify lessons learned and challenges faced. He urged candour in both the presentations and the questions posed to panellists.
National Voluntary Presentation — Kenya
JOHN MUNYES KIYONG’A, Minister of Labour of Kenya, presented his country’s report (document E/2012/57), saying Kenya’s “Vision 2030” policy aimed at creating a globally competitive country with a high quality of life. It was anchored on the existence of a skilled, productive and adaptive human resource base able to meet the challenges of a rapidly industrializing economy. A number of gains had been made, including the development of micro and small enterprises, which provided opportunities for 74 per cent of employed people. Some 1,984 such enterprises had been helped to participate in local trade fairs, while 698 had participated in regional exhibitions.
In terms of productivity, he said the draft national policy on productivity had been created this year, while the National Productivity Centre, created in 2002, supported productivity in public and private sectors. Such efforts had led to increased profitability of firms by an average of 10 per cent, reduced waste by up to 20 per cent, and increased employment by up to 50 per cent. Meanwhile, the 2012 draft employment policy and strategy aimed to create more than 500,000 jobs annually, and increase access to affordable credit mainly from banks, enterprise funds and microfinance institutions. Key labour market institutions had been created, such as the National Labour Board and Occupational Safety, Health and Injury Benefits Authority.
As for strengthening the links among education, training and industry, he said Kenya had developed the National Training and Attachment Policy (2012) and an online portal to promote industrial training and attachment systems. Some 36,106 trainees had been placed on industrial attachment. Social protections included Kenya’s incorporation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into its Constitution in 2010. Kenya also had implemented interventions such as cash transfers to orphans and food subsidies for the urban poor.
Turning to policy challenges, he said Kenya was slow in attaining some of the Millennium Goals, notably Goal 1 (extreme poverty and hunger), which had been hampered by high unemployment and the slow adoption of appropriate technology, among other factors. Goal 3 (gender equality and women’s empowerment) had been slowed by gender gaps in the access to and control of resources, and discriminative cultural and traditional practices. To speed the achievement of the Millennium Goals, Kenya was implementing an agriculture strategy 2010-2020 to create a competitive, modern industry. It also was creating enterprise funds for women and youth, as well as devolved funds, to promote equity and community participation in development. Kenya also had set up a Joint Assistance Strategy in 2007 to harmonize external funding with its long-term development strategy.
He saw other emerging challenges in coping with the impacts of climate change, the effects of continued economic and financial slowdown, high population growth and piracy along the Kenyan coastline. Actions Kenya would take to deal with those issues included a national climate change action plan to mainstream those considerations into its budgeting, and partnership development among the Government, private sector, civil society and regional organizations, such as the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD).
MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India), the first reviewer, said Kenya had laid down a solid policy framework for accelerated economic development. He commended the broad array of initiatives to create jobs and enhance productive capacity. Poverty and high unemployment were among Kenya’s most persistent problems, and India shared commonalities in trying to overcome them. India shared the need for investment in education skills training, and women’s empowerment. He looked forward to hearing about plans to improve agricultural productivity and strategies that had strengthened productive capacity.
In response, Mr. KIYONG’A said Kenya was trying to envision itself as an industrialized country, but it needed resources, especially to support youth job creation, and micro and small enterprise development. Kenya wanted to build information and communications technology parks for people to understand and use various technologies. On agriculture, he said the Government had devolved control over agriculture to the county level, which it hoped would benefit Kenyans. Infrastructure was poor and resources from friends were needed.
Kenya also was working to improve its cash transfer system, so someone in Nairobi, for example, could more easily send funds to a relative in any village.
ARTHUR S. KAFEERO, Minister Counsellor of Uganda, the second reviewer, said Kenya faced poverty and unemployment challenges. Lessons learned could be carried out to improve policymaking and achieve the Millennium Goals. The East African Community (EAC) countries of Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda were deepening cooperation through the creation of the common market. A key challenge in combating poverty was that unemployment continued to rise; a problem that should be reversed through national and international efforts.
In response, Mr. KIYONG’A reiterated that the new Kenyan Constitution would help the country emerge from extreme poverty. A Bill of Rights had been enshrined in the constitution for the first time. Challenges such as piracy or terrorism required international support.
JOSÉ M. SALAZAR-XIRINACHS, Executive Director, Employment Sector, International Labour Organization, the third reviewer, said the new Constitution was a step forward, as was the “2030 Vision”, which had been translated into concrete strategies and actions. He wondered where jobs were going to be created and how growth could be made “more rich”. Fundamental issues included competitiveness and productivity promotion. He also asked what performance criteria had made the strengthening of labour market institutions and introduction of performance-based management in the public sector best practices. He also asked what Kenya was doing to tap the full potential of the East African Community.
In response, Mr. KIYONG’A emphasized that trade and employment were growing in the East African Community, as seen in the East African Protocol, which allowed for the free movement of persons and labour. That was a good start. Strong bilateral agreements had supported various regional activities. EAC support for infrastructure had led to further investment in the region, which in turn, had created jobs. In the past, Kenya had operated without a strategy in areas such as occupational safety and health. That had changed.
National Voluntary Presentation — Mauritius
V.K. BUNWAREE, Minister of Education and Human Resources of Mauritius, presented his country’s report (document E/2012/54), saying he was often asked about the key ingredients of his country’s success. The absence of such resources as oil and gold had always kept it “on its toes”. Today, Mauritius had a per capita GDP of $7,500, versus $260 in 1968, at the time of its independence. The key ingredient of its success was the historic 1977 decision to make education at the primary and secondary levels free. The goal was to have a large pool of highly skilled labourers, as well as a high-productivity, high wage economy. To increase access to — and improve — pre-primary education, schools had been built in deprived areas. Special needs education, multilingualism and alternative learning methods also had been a focus.
In terms of social welfare, Mauritius provided free health care and assistance to vulnerable groups, he continued. Orphans, widows and people with special needs also received a non-contributory monthly pension. Government spending on social security and welfare had risen from $323 million in 2004/2005 to $587 million in 2010, an 82 per cent jump. To support job creation and employability, Mauritius continued to invest in training, with a regulatory framework that promoted decent work. Since 2006, Mauritius had created an average of 9,400 jobs annually, and supported people through training, “re-skilling” and “multi-skilling”. But there was a skills mismatch that undermined efforts to create high quality decent jobs for all. Mauritius was accelerating the placement of students aged 15 years and older in companies, and introducing entrepreneurship education as a subject in secondary schools.
Turning to productivity, he said the labour productivity index had improved from 103.1 in 2001 to 137.9 in 2011, showing a 3 per cent annual average growth. To address climate change, the “Maurice Ile Durable” programme aimed to reduce dependence on fossil fuels through efficient energy use and increased use of renewable energy. As for the future, Mauritius had diversified its economy and “we are not stopping here”, he said, noting that it was consolidating manufacturing, tourism and agri-industries and promoting financial services and real estate. It would make the most of untapped marine resources and develop a “blue economy”. Future challenges included slow population and workforce growth, and an ageing population. External economic, social and demographic forces were more likely to shape the challenges and opportunities for job creation.
In sum, he said Mauritius would continuously prepare its workforce for a changing labour market, develop creative methods for education and training, balance social and economic development, fight poverty, and develop high quality, decent jobs for all.
THOMAS SELBY PILLAY, Minister Counsellor, Seychelles, a reviewer of the report, said Mauritius, a small island developing State like his country, had done a “remarkable” job of managing youth unemployment in the wake of the global financial crisis. He asked for more detail on how that had been accomplished.
Mr. BUNWAREE said Mauritius had carried out socioeconomic and labour law reforms, whereby measures now protected laid-off workers. When the crisis started, employees and employers were supported. The “work fair” programme provided subsidy or allowances during a one year transition period. Monetary policy also had taken account of such considerations to help the private sector move “fairly easily” through the many challenges it faced. Job creation was maintained in several sectors, including information and communications technologies.
Mr. CARR then asked both delegations about gender issues.
Mr. BUNWAREE said the latest legislation before the National Assembly outlined that one third of candidates must be women. There was also a quota system in place that favoured women in small enterprises. From an education point of view, there was absolute gender equality. Girls performed significantly better in primary, secondary and tertiary education. One difficulty Mauritius was working to correct was in the area of equal pay for equal work.
Mr. KIYONG’A said Kenya had institutionalized support for women, especially in control of resources and in education. He then turned the floor over to NAOMI SHABAN, Kenya’s Minister of Gender, Children and Social Development, who was seated in the audience. In Kenya, she said, her Ministry had been created 10 years ago. The Constitution was particular in that not more than two thirds of either gender should occupy any elected body. In the area of economic empowerment, the Women Enterprise Fund and the Youth Enterprise Fund were established to ensure that women were prioritized, a deliberate effort by the Government as women had not been able to access commercialized loans.
STEPHANIE KAGE ( Germany) wondered how foreign direct investment played a positive or negative role for employment in both countries.
Responding, Mr. BUNWAREE said foreign direct investment had progressed well through the years, including through the financial crisis. All policies were geared towards attracting foreign investment. There was a dynamic programme for road, airport and port infrastructure, as well as strong regulatory institutions.
For his part, Mr. KIYONG’A said foreign direct investment was creating employment, promoting trade, and supporting information and communications technologies. There were no negatives.
Mr. CARR then asked both delegations about climate change adaptation, and how the countries were diversifying their economies.
In response, Mr. BUNWAREE said Mauritius was promoting climate change adaptation in all primary and secondary schools. Children today were teaching their parents new lessons, including about “rain harvesting” and composting. There was also an ambitious project to install photovoltaic fuel cells on school rooftops.
On economic diversification, he said Mauritius had started with import substitution and then moved to creating new pillars of the economy. When the shock started, Mauritius transformed the sugar industry into the cane industry, as sugar could no longer be produced in the same way. A new focus on the information and communications technology economy also took shape. The most important challenge was addressing a labour mismatch.
For Kenya, Mr. KIYONG’A said, the challenge was in moving away from agriculture to a more industrialized economy. A key question centred on how to exploit oil resources.
National Voluntary Presentation — Qatar
SALEH BIN MOHAMMED AL NABIT, Secretary General, General Secretariat for Development Planning of Qatar, presented his country’s report (document E/2012/55), saying that Qatar had seen rapid growth averaging 16.2 per cent in real terms between 2004 and 2010. It had the highest per capita GDP globally, propelled by the strength of its hydrocarbon industry. Qatar’s “Vision 2030” was based on the four pillars of human, social, economic and environmental development, which were considered in an integrated fashion.
He focused his presentation on human development, saying that economic success would be based on Qataris’ ability to compete globally. Modern health-care and education systems would be created. Ensuring high quality education would require the creation of networks of formal and non-formal programmes that prepared children with skills to contribute to society. Scientific research efforts also were under way. Qatar’s national development strategy 2011-2016 was comprised of sector strategies, as well as ministry and agency strategies. It focused on education, training and labour reforms as vehicles for social and economic transformation.
The challenges to developing human capital included underachievement in maths, science and English, he said, an under-awareness of the value of education, and capacity constraints in teaching and research. Vocational training courses had been launched to “fill in the gaps”. But Qataris still often lacked skills to take advantage of employment and people under 25 years old were most affected by unemployment. Qataris also left the workforce early on, possibly due to a pension system that was beneficial. Another challenge was in attracting a qualified labour force. Qatar sought to improve the living and working conditions to keep qualified workers in their jobs, notably by guaranteeing residence to migrant workers meeting criteria, among other things. Qatar also sought to create an environment conducive to women’s participation in the labour market.
As for Vision “2030”, which sought a phased change to a competitive economy, he said education and training were essential to meeting that aspiration. Various initiatives had been adopted as part of the national development strategy 2011-2016. A focus must be placed on improving education and training outcomes for Qataris and their effective labour force participation. Qatar also encouraged partnerships to achieve its human capital goals.
KHANDKER MOSHARRAF HOSSAIN, Minister of Labour and Employment and Minister of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment of Bangladesh, the first reviewer, noted with appreciation that Vision 2030 was based on four pillars and defined broad future trends. He asked how Qatar was addressing the needs of a rapidly growing school-age population. He also asked about the main obstacles to supporting productive participation in the labour force, while attracting qualified expatriate workers in all fields. How was the Government removing those obstacles?
NEJMEDDINE LAKHAL ( Tunisia), the second reviewer, said that, while recognizing the key importance of the energy sector, Vision 2030 had foreseen the transition to a knowledge-based, diversified economy, with an emphasis on education, transportation, financial services and manufacturing. He asked about matching the skills of young people with the labour market, which was a critical concern for many Arab countries, wondering how Qatar was overcoming those challenges. How would Qatar ensure that new investments would be productive?
ENRIQUILLO DEL ROSARIO CEBALLOS ( Dominican Republic) said the national development strategy 2011-2016 focused on human development. A focus on education and health-care initiatives, while respecting Qatari culture and traditions, was a correct one. How would Qatar ensure that economic investment would lead to a more educated, healthy and “more developed” person? He also asked about women’s inclusion in the national productive sector and about how Qatar was establishing modern and strong institutions.
In response to the question on education challenges, Mr. AL NABIT said the education system faced a number of obstacles, including a lack of awareness about education or the need to choose specializations. Another challenge concerned a lack of teaching capacity to ensure follow-up throughout the educational path. Qatar had studied those shortcomings and subsequently developed solutions. Under the national development strategy, one project targeted schools in small communities, and worked to encourage students to continue with their studies. “We need to motivate these students,” he said. Once people were trained or educated, they aspired to participate to a greater extent in the economy. As such, diverse education and vocational options had been created.
Regarding women’s participation in the labour market, he described a programme to increase women’s participation — at 36 per cent in 2010 — to 40 per cent by 2016. Qatar’s legislation met international norms and standards, but must be modified to address a number of shortcomings. Women’s participation in the private sector was low and reforms were aimed at mitigating that problem. Entrepreneurship was less than 2 per cent so an institute was created last year to help small- and medium-sized enterprises. Those enterprises also received support from the central bank.
As for the health-care situation, he said the balance between supply and demand must be strong. Qatar had emphasized infrastructure and ensuring prevention, providing primary health care and raising awareness about the dangers linked to certain types of conduct.
As a final note on education, he said that a positive vision of education was needed to change perceptions.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, noted with concern that the financial and economic crisis had exacerbated the jobs crisis. Global unemployment was estimated to have increased from 170 million in 2007 to an unprecedented high of 197 million in 2011. To foster accelerated employment and inclusive, sustainable growth, the international community must reaffirm its resolve to make the goals of full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people, a central objective of relevant national and international policies, as well as of national development strategies, including eradication strategies, towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
He urged relevant entities of the United Nations system and international and regional organizations, within their respective mandates, as well as civil society, the private sector, employers organizations, trade unions, media, and other relevant actors to continue to develop and strengthen policies, strategies and programmes to enhance the employability of women and ensure their access to full and productive employment and decent work through improved access to formal and non-formal education and vocational training, lifelong learning and retraining, long-distance education, including in information and communications technology, and entrepreneurial skills, particularly in developing countries.
GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, stressed the importance of international support for those nations to build their productive capacity, create decent jobs and make productive investments. The recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report documented an 8.9 per cent reduction in real official development assistance (ODA) flows to the least developed countries. As aid delivery to those countries was still short of the targeted 0.15 per cent to 0.2 per cent of GDP, fulfilment of the ODA commitments to the least developed countries must be honoured in line with their needs and priorities. Balanced ODA allocation between productive and social sectors as well as increased policy coherence and coordination was necessary.
Debt sustainability in the least developed countries remained critical in enhancing their productive capacity, he said. Likewise, foreign direct investment was an important source of support for their development efforts, and trade was an engine of growth. Specifically, trade could contribute to strengthening their productive capacities. He went on to express his delegation’s serious concern that the least developed countries’ share of global trade was still no more than 1 per cent. He called for full duty-free quota-free market access, simplified rules of origin and removal of non-tariff barriers for expanding their exports.
Continuing, he said that the least developed countries deserved an “early harvest” in the context of stalled progress in Doha Development Round. There was the need for a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system that was equally supportive of all countries. He called on development partners to provide robust trade-related technical assistance and capacity-building to the least developed countries through “aid for trade” initiatives and the enhanced integrated framework with the aim of removing their supply-side, trade-related infrastructure and productive capacity constraints.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile) speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin-American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the financial and economic crisis had had ongoing adverse effects on economic and social development. In the social area, the world was witnessing a general deterioration of the main indicators. Those included increased unemployment and poverty, reduced economic growth, less international trade and foreign investment, excessive volatility of prices for food and other raw materials, reduction of fiscal revenue from tourism and less social spending. The number of persons suffering from hunger increased to more than one billion in 2009, undercutting national and United Nations efforts towards the Millennium Goals. It was necessary to generate actions aimed at securing the equal opportunities for all even in crisis times.
He also expressed concern over a 2.7 per cent decrease in ODA in 2011 while thanking the countries that had already met the ODA target, namely Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. On South-South and triangular cooperation, he said there was the need take measures to enhance the importance of this issue within the United Nations system. He shared CELAC’s common position on other issues, such as initiatives on development cooperation, and the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of United Nations operational activities for development, which would take place this year.
IMMANUEL NGATJIZEKO, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare of Namibia, aligning himself with the Group of 77 Developing Countries and China, said that, with an unemployment rate of over 50 per cent, Namibia had not been spared fallout from the jobs crisis. It had introduced its Labour Amendment Act of 2012 in an effort to combat unemployment, whose main purposes were to regulate the status of individuals placed by private employment agencies to work for enterprises and to provide protection for individuals placed by private employment agencies, among other goals.
Namibia had also inaugurated its first Wages Commission for domestic workers in 2012, aiming to investigate terms and conditions of employment, including remuneration, and to report and make recommendations to the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare. Additionally, he said, the Global Jobs Pact recognized the need for respect for fundamental principles and rights at work that were critical for human dignity, economic recovery, and development. The positive impact of the provision and gradual extension of social welfare benefits to reduce income inequality and to cushion the impact of the global financial crisis was recognized globally. As such, Namibia had supported the adoption of the Recommendation Concerning National Floors of Social Protection during the International Labour Organization conference in June.
That recommendation supported countries in covering the unprotected, the poor and the most vulnerable, including workers in the informal economy and their families, in an effort to ensure that all members of society enjoyed at least a basic level of social security throughout their lives. He said that although Namibia had a number of safety net arrangements in place, it had nevertheless approached the ILO to assist in an audit review of the current labour and social welfare function and structures. The Government had also introduced strategies to address youth unemployment, and a three-year Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth, which it hoped would have a significant impact on the high unemployment rate.
ABDELOUAHED SOUHAIL, Minister of Employment and Vocational Training of Morocco, stressed the impact of the ongoing dire economic situation, such as the unprecedented loss of jobs worldwide, which in turn had adverse impacts on the peace and stability of the region. Unemployment had political and legal implications, he said, noting that Morocco, for its part, had adopted policy programs in the field of agriculture and tourism to boost employment.
He said that Morocco had also created vocational training programmes, which were monitored by an institution. Countries must keep deficit at a reasonable level, given that austerity would have negative impacts on jobs. He called for a comprehensive system that involved equality, solidarity and rational use of clean energy resources. He expressed appreciation for the United Nations, the Economic and Social Council and ILO for mitigating employment problems in the region.
BOB CARR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, said that the main path to addressing the urgent challenges of employment was sustained, inclusive and equitable growth, with strong and open trade critical for that purpose. Protectionism must be resisted, tariffs reduced and industries must respond to countries’ competitive strengths. Trade reform in agriculture was particularly important for people living at the poverty line. He urged all Governments to join Australia in providing duty-free, quota-free market access for all exports from least developed countries.
On sustainability, he welcomed the Rio+20 commitments to protect biodiversity, manage oceans, enhance agricultural productivity and achieve food security. He noted that his country was doubling its support the World Bank’s programmes for the latter, in addition to other initiatives in food security. It was also supporting micro-entrepreneur groups in Nepal and helping provide jobs in Timor-Leste. He said that despite the immense economic challenges faced by the world, optimism was provided by the high economic growth rates of many developing countries as well as the establishment of social protection programmes by such countries as Brazil, India and Indonesia.
The international community, he commented, should support such reforms, with a central role played by the Economic and Social Council, particularly given its mandate from Rio+20 to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development. He supported, as well, a new high-level political forum on sustainable development as proposed in Rio. The G20 had an important role as well, as witnessed by its goal to reduce the average cost of sending remittances, which would mean a lot more money in the hands of those who needed it most. Poverty could only be fought through such inclusive development approaches and partnerships that expanded employment opportunities and improved livelihoods, he concluded.
KHANDKER MOSHARRAF HOSSAIN, Minister of Labour and Employment and Minister of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment of Bangladesh, said that many developing countries faced stagnancy and contraction in growth. Nonetheless, Bangladesh had maintained a stable rate of growth at about 6 per cent per year, and it was making progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Challenges remained, in particular in the area of employment, he said, briefly describing the employment landscape in Bangladesh. The ready-made garment industry was a major sector for employment in the country, employing some 3.5 million workers, including about 80 per cent being women and from rural areas.
Additionally, approximately 8 million expatriates from his country worked in countries around the world, delivering home some $12.17 billion as remittances in 2011. The Government had initiated the National Skill Development Policy, and it had created an Expatriates Welfare Bank to provide collateral-free soft loans, banking services and hassle-free remittance transfer at low cost for migrant workers. The country also had a green jobs initiative in collaboration with ILO’s tripartite constituents and partners, he said.
The Government had also taken various initiatives to address the issues and challenges relating to productive employment and social safety nets. In that respect, he made special reference to the Employment Guarantee Programme, which was introduced in 2008-2009. That scheme was designed to provide employment to the poor and combat seasonal food shortages for distressed people in the country’s economically depressed areas. With the support of its partners, and with the involvement of the private sector, including women entrepreneurs, Bangladesh was creating self-employment opportunities for women and providing training on various issues of life, skill management, and the creation and maintenance of public assets.
PAUL OQUIST, Minister for National Policies of Nicaragua, stressed that the Council, the United Nations and multilateralism as a whole must be strengthened. After optimism in Rio in 1992, in Johannesburg in 2002 and even after the legally-binding climate agreement in Kyoto, there had been a “major standstill” in Copenhagen, and a collapse in Durban. Notwithstanding all the warnings from the International Energy Agency — which had warned that this decade was fundamentally important to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions — little had been done. In contrast to the lack of initiative on the global level, there was a set of regional and national initiatives in the global South, he said. In Latin America, groupings of States were taking innovative steps such as oil agreements, which had turned negative impacts into funding for development. Nicaragua had reduced extreme poverty by over half, and it had become the Central American country with the highest growth, estimated at over 5 per cent for 2012.
The country was engaged in a number of major programmes, including the “Grand Inter-Ocean Canal” and a logistical corridor, representing $30 billion in investments in the near future. It had the best citizen security in the region and the third lowest cost of living in the world. All that had been accomplished in the midst of the worst global financial and economic crisis in recent years, he emphasized. First and foremost, Nicaragua had employed a model based on practical values and solidarity, which was centred on the person, the family and the community. Over 10 per cent of the total population took part in adult education, and many took part in social programmes as volunteers. It was unacceptable for developed countries to say that they could not fund sustainable development, as they were still engaged in the speculative activities that had caused that crisis in the first place. “Countries in the South cannot wait,” he stressed in that respect.
HEIKKI HOLMÅS, Minister of International Development of Norway, stressed the importance of balancing social growth with the environment and expressed concern over high jobless rates among young people in Europe and North Africa. When left unattended, those young people who had lost hope became “societal time bombs”. The job-related agendas must be integrated into national policies. Full employment should be the ultimate goal, and that could be achieved through revenue mobilization and taxations.
He went on to highlight other key points, including the role of strong civil society organizations, be it for small farmers or other enterprises. Creating good jobs must be the centre of economic strategy. Lowering wages should be avoided while boosting output and sharing profit should be promoted. Finally, he emphasized gender equality because women made up half of the population. Gender equality was vital in addressing the job crisis. This must be achieved in both legislation and applications. Women should be granted various entitlements, such as maternity and sick leave, so that they could remain in the work force. “This was not the time to pull back,” he said.
ATO AHMED SHIDE, State Minister for Finance and Economic Development of Ethiopia, noting his country’s ambition to reach middle income status by 2025, described its programmes to accelerate economic growth, increase employment and reduce poverty, including two medium-term development plans from the past decade based on the Millennium Development Goals. He said that the current plan, coming to term in 2015, envisaged a major transformation of economic structures, seeking to double agricultural production and build significant industry. As a result, economic growth was registered at an average 11 per cent of GDP for the last eight years, with significant poverty reduction in rural areas.
Youth employment was a top priority of all development plans, since almost two-thirds of the country was under the age of 25, he said. Strategies to face the challenge, and also for the benefit of women, included market-oriented reforms, improving agricultural productivity, and focused programmes for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. Increased credit, training and counselling, provision of production and market facilities, technology support and information services made up some of the assistance provided. As a result, smaller enterprises absorbed over 1.5 million workers during the second mid-term plan period. Further strengthening of the regulatory and policy environment for entrepreneurship is planned, along with other measures. In addition, a vocational training programme had been launched and technology transfer requested.
GAUDENTIA MUGOSI KABAKA, Minister for Labour and Employment of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that the choice of theme for this year’s substantive session provided an opportunity for the Council to address youth unemployment and other vital topics. Closely related were the issues of rural-urban migration, income poverty and other challenges. Youth, for their part, were currently engaged in democratic movements demanding more attention to their future, she said in that regard. African youth constituted 70 per cent of the working-age population, but a full 60 per cent of the continent’s unemployed. “This is a time bomb … which if left unattended, will become a major source of instability in all of our countries,” she stressed. Under-employment — which was caused by a lack of opportunities and irregular employment — was also a major concern.
Tanzania had effectively implemented a number of policies in that regard, she said, including its “Vision 2025,” among others. Efforts had been made to ensure the effective implementation of such policies by involving the Government, youth, civil society and other partners. As education was fundamentally important in empowering youth, the country was making serious interventions in related areas such as health, HIV prevention and others. The country had also built common market facilities for traders as “one-stop centres”, and was facilitating the access of young people to finance for income-generating initiatives through credit and savings credit initiatives.
VALENTINE RYBAKOV, Assistant on Foreign Policy to the President of the Republic of Belarus, described the success of his State in addressing issues related to employment within the context of sustainable growth. “We have managed to generate stable income for the most vulnerable layers of the population,” he said, adding that Belarus had also been able to prevent a reduction in social guarantees for families, older persons and people with disabilities. But creating decent working conditions was not possible without international cooperation.
Measures such as imposing sanctions were not effective, he said, calling such measures “unnecessary”. International cooperation was most important. He went on to express support for the strengthening of the Council, especially to help States seek innovative ways of development. He supported the idea of creating a working group to consider ways to work in partnership with other actors in the field of development financing.
JOE NAKANO, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said that the aftermath of last year’s earthquake had given rise to several important questions, including: how could a more resilient society be built? How could sustainable economic growth be realized while social safety nets were provided? How could the most important elements of the global economic agenda be identified, in order to better allow all people to enjoy the fruits of development? Many people around the world had lost their jobs or their homes, he stressed. In today’s globally connected world, any kind of crisis in any country could easily spread to others. Japan had been the first country to make a recent commitment to the IMF, he said, which had led to a June agreement by the G20 to increase its funding to the IMF by over $465 billion. Japan would also provide $3 billion to developing countries over the next three years for disaster risk reduction, he said.
For over six decades, Japan had gradually increased its own social safety nets, and was helping to do so in other countries around the world in cooperation with the ILO and other stakeholders. All countries should find the best ways, within their own contexts, of setting clear statutes relating to employment. Transitioning to a green economy was a promising solution to the problems of growth and job creation. However, that required implementation, which could be achieved by technology transfer. Japan was therefore dispatching some 10,000 “green cooperation volunteers” and providing $3 billion over the next three years to help disseminate and operationalize its advanced renewable technologies around the world. Finally, he said, Japan was actively taking part in current discussions on how to organize a development agenda beyond 2015, in particular through the creation of the “Post-MDGs Contact Group”.
PIERRE MOUKOKO MBONJO ( Cameroon) said his Government undertook many projects, such as highway and dam construction, but these projects were implemented in the context of sustainable development. Environmental assessments were made prior to these projects. The country was expected to achieve a 6 per cent economic growth annually. He also highlighted his Government success at creating jobs, but noted that with 90 per cent of the active workforce in the agricultural informal sector, the issue of access to decent work was an issue, largely, migration from activities in the informal sector to the formal sector.
Continuing, he said the involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises was a key element in that problem and in that regard, he fully supported the outcome of the Preparatory Regional Meeting that held in Addis Ababa on 24 March, on the essential role of small- and medium enterprises in economic growth and job creation. Very concerned about the matter, the Government had set up a support strategy many years ago for those enterprises in the formal and informal sectors through programmes such as the Integrated Support project for the Informal Sector, known as PIASI.
SOMAYA SAAD, Assistant Foreign Minister for Economic Multilateral Relations and International Cooperation of Egypt, said that the world was facing the “hidden crisis” of unemployment, and that in Egypt, a “glorious revolution” had taken place calling for the expansion of growth and the creation of jobs for young people. The Government and all actors in Egypt were working hard to ensure economic growth in the future, she said. There was a new draft budget for 2012-2013, which geared development towards sustainable growth that would benefit all, and which responded to the challenges of employment, equal growth and better living conditions.
She underscored, in that regard, the importance of the international community’s active support, and therefore called on development partners to meet their commitments to developing countries and to support them in working towards the achievement of the Millennium Goals. Technology transfer and expertise transfer also needed to be a priority in all relevant debates and policies, she stressed. Calling for a stronger focus on rural and urban development, she said that South-South and triangular cooperation could be important in that respect. It was essential to focus on creating quality jobs and ensuring sources of incomes, she stressed; Government, civil society and private sector partners should work hand in hand in improving job opportunities. No effort should be spared in that respect, she said, adding that full employment and decent work should also remain a priority on the United Nations agenda in the coming years.
EMIL YALNAZOV, Director General for Global Affairs and Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bulgaria, said his Government was a constructive and responsible partner in the global endeavour to promote productive capacity, employment and decent work in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth. A new economic model of sustainable growth that combined a green economy with greater employment and social security could only be created through a concerted effort by all relevant actors. He welcomed ILO’s significant work in that area, as well as the G20’s recent adoption of a Growth and Jobs Action Plan. He also welcomed the Rio+20 conference outcome document, which outlined a comprehensive agenda for further work on the three dimensions of sustainable development. He looked forward to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals within the context of the 2015 review of the Millennium Development Goals.
In the context of Europe 2020 framework, Bulgaria had developed a 2012-2020 national strategy for poverty eradication and social inclusion, which simultaneously addressed challenges concerning the labour market, salaries, education and training, public health and housing, and integration of vulnerable groups, he said. Addressing youth unemployment was critically important not only from a structural, economic or demographic perspective, but also as a moral duty to future generations. In Bulgaria, youth unemployment reached 26.6 per cent in 2010 and 2011, while the European Union average during the same two years was 21.4 per cent. As a matter of national priority and with the help of global partners, the Bulgarian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy recently adopted innovative policies and programmes designed to financially and logistically support and facilitate young people’s transition from education to employment. He cited programmes such as “A Career Start”, “First Job” and others, which had benefited thousands of young people already.
URGAMAL BYAMBASUREN, State Secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare and Labour of Mongolia, said his Government was strongly committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Its economy had grown by some 17.4 per cent in 2011, while the poverty rate declined to 29.8 per cent; decreasing by one quarter compared to the level of 2010. The World Bank had placed Mongolia, with GDP per capita estimated at $1,630, among the countries with lower-middle-income economies.
However, he stressed that the country’s growth had not yet been translated into equal distribution of income. In order to provide basic social protection floor for all, his Government was taking measures aimed at targeting social welfare support and assistance to vulnerable groups. Considerable importance was being given to household development. Mongolia declared 2012 as the Year of the Promotion of Household Development and approved a national programme for it.
IVAN DUBOV, Director of the Department for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation, said that it was necessary to strengthen close coordination to create jobs and fight unemployment among all international stakeholders including the United Nations system, the G20, specialized international organizations and regional integration structures. He called on national Governments to pursue structural reforms of their macroeconomic policies to create highly efficient jobs and raise living standards. He relayed his country’s commitment to playing an active part in intergovernmental cooperation in the field of labour and social relations, attaching particular importance to collaboration with the ILO. In that context, he signalled Russia’s intention to continue implementing key elements of ILO’s Decent Work Agenda, which implied intensification of public dialogue and development of a new economic growth model.
The Russian Federation, he said, had ratified worker-protection conventions and intended to accede to others and had recently decided to provide substantial financial support to the ILO programme on strengthening vocational education systems and developing labour markets in the CIS, Asia and the Middle East. The country also intended to create 25 million highly-productive jobs and to allocate 500 billion rubles for possible direct financing of the crisis-response measures in 2013, including support for vulnerable population groups and systemically important enterprises. For the 100th anniversary of the ILO, in addition, the Russian President had proposed to host an international conference on decent work, planned for 11 and 12 December 2012 in Moscow. He invited all interested parties to participate.
LI BAODONG (China) supported the call in the Secretary-General’s report to strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination, improve financial and monetary policy and promote full employment. He also supported the Secretary-General’s policy recommendations for developing a real economy, stabilizing the financial sector and enhancing vocational training. He expressed hope that the Economic and Social Council session would help build consensus and promote inclusive growth and economic recovery. Macroeconomic policy should strive to promote the steady growth of productive capacity. Countries should implement more flexible macroeconomic control policies, judiciously balance monetary stability and economic growth, promote sustained economic growth and expand productive employment.
He stressed the importance of supporting the manufacturing industry, technologically upgrading traditional industries, and increasing input in public facilities construction. Macroeconomic policy should focus on employment expansion, advancing sustainable development and strengthening coordination among all countries. He stressed the importance of developing the green economy, with an emphasis on creating jobs and sustainable patterns of production and consumption.
China had actively advocated and put into practice the concept of inclusive growth, he said. The Government had implemented an active financial policy and a stable monetary policy. It had struck a proper balance between maintaining economic development and managing inflation, while maintaining macroeconomic prudence, flexibility and appropriateness. By the end of 2011, new jobs had been created for 12.21 million residents. During China’s twelfth Five-Year Plan, the labour force would reach 1 billion. China would continue to focus on scientific development, steady and relatively fast economic development, stable economic growth and improving the livelihood of its people.
Pedro Núñez Mosquera ( Cuba) aligned himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China. With barely three years left before the Millennium Goals deadline, he said, progress made towards meeting those objectives in most developing countries stood at a “bare minimum”. Additionally, various global crises, climate change, and an unfair economic world order had had a negative impact on efforts to achieve decent work around the world. In the context of financial instability, developing countries were the worst hit and the most vulnerable were the most affected. Were all ODA commitments to be met – a situation which was by far not the case – some $100 billion dollars would be infused into the global economy, he stressed.
In Cuba, despite the economic blockade imposed by the United States, social spending continued to rise and no one was left to suffer their fate alone. Education was free on every level. Graduates received job training and placement. Cuba provided universal social security, he added, and, as part of the modernization of its economic model, Cuba was considering expanding job opportunities in the non-State sector. The Government respected and ensured compliance with the principles of the fundamental right to work, which was constitutionally protected in Cuba, and labour codes and regulations implemented those rights and duties. The country assigned the highest priority to international cooperation, he said, providing assistance to sister countries in areas such as human resource development.
PAUL SEGER (Switzerland) said that the private sector had the key role to play in ensuring jobs were created for all segments of the population, and Governments must collaborate with both business and civil society to create an enabling framework. Such framework conditions must promote productivity and integration in the labour market, as well as support new solutions oriented towards a green economy. Supporting the Decent Work Agenda, he said that conditions of employment were linked not only to rights but also to productivity and economic growth. Education for decent employment must not only be suited to the current labour market but must also develop abilities to adapt to the future, he added, offering the example of Switzerland’s dual system of vocational training both on the job and in a school environment, from which the country’s development cooperation efforts had benefited. A basic level of social protection was also critical to reduce inequalities and promote the rapid reintegration of the unemployed into the labour market.
The combined implementation of all those measures called for a coherent and coordinated approach at the national level, under the central priority of full, productive and decent employment. Social dialogue including all stakeholders contributed greatly to such coherence, as shown by the Swiss experience, and allowing policymakers to “feel the pulse of the economy”. At the international level, coherence must come about through cooperation between various international organizations and the commitments of their Member States. The key role of coordination in that effort was one that the Economic and Social Council could and should assume, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization. He hoped a strong, relevant Ministerial Declaration would take into account the multidimensional nature of the employment problem and help direct the coordinated efforts of Member States and the United Nations system.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) said integration of the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development — the main priority for the Rio+20 summit — provided a firm basis for addressing the challenges to decent work and employment issues. National and international social, economic, financial and environmental coherence should be promoted as a way to create quality employment. Careful thought must be centred on youth unemployment. In developing countries, where youth constituted the largest growing segment of the population, prolonged employment was a risk to inclusive sustainable and equitable growth. It was important to identify ways to harness youth’s tremendous potential in development, expand growth in sectors that could generate greater employment and invest more intensively in health and education. He also called for governance reforms to create an enabling environment for poverty reduction. The Economic and Social Council should express its support for growth in the formal sector and create quality jobs that provide a living wage and social protection.
Indonesia was fully committed to achieving the Millennium Goals and helping other developing countries to do the same, he said. Indonesia had met its target for several of the Millennium objectives and was redoubling efforts to meet other goals, including by cooperating with regional organizations and commissions as well as with donors through South-South cooperation. New goals and strategies must be set for the post-2015 period. While each country must take the lead in determining its own development strategy, national development strategies could be more effectively implemented through genuine partnerships. The Economic and Social Council should be actively involved in the hammering out a post-2015 development agenda, which required a comprehensive approach to development.
KIM SOOK (Republic of Korea) said that the ongoing adverse impacts of the global economic crisis were causing uncertainties and adding difficulties in the effort to address global challenges such as poverty eradication, climate change and food security. “Now that Rio+20 is over, it is time we translate our commitments into action,” he said, adding that that summit had been a success. However, it was not the end of the international community’s endeavours, but instead it set the stage for the continued implementation of sustainable development. “In order to turn our achievements into a historic milestone, we must implement the outcomes, such as the establishment of the intergovernmental process for sustainable development goals, the transition toward a green economy … and the strengthening of the architecture to support international actions for sustainable development,” he said in that regard.
Moreover, the Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda must be built upon the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals while avoiding their shortfalls, he said. In that regard, the Republic of Korea believed that the expansion of global development partnerships was essential, and welcomed the launch of the Busan Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation last week. As unemployment was one of the most urgent global issues, requiring strong global cooperation, he stressed that the issue should be considered as one of the most significant elements of the post-2015 United Nations development agenda. During Rio+20, the significance of integrating and mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment in sustainable development had been emphasized. Lastly, as a follow-up to the summit, the present meeting of the Economic and Social Council must focus on how it could be strengthened and reformed. “It is important to make the Economic and Social Council more inclusive and transparent,” he stressed in that respect.
DER KOGDA ( Burkina Faso) said the Council’s high level segment was occurring three years before the Millennium Development Goals deadline and shortly after the Rio+20 conference. That provided an opportunity to review what had been achieved and to discuss “the future we want”, he said, echoing the title of the Rio outcome document. Eliminating poverty should be based on economic growth. Burkina Faso was able to make progress in this area, including improved access to basic services.
By liberalizing the market, foreign direct investment had increased. But the economy was still fragile and vulnerable to external shocks. He said the Government was undertaking more public-private partnerships for development and job creation. For instance, an irrigation project had created many jobs. He also said that young people and women should be empowered. The Council’s meeting was very relevant and its outcome was expected to enrich future discussions at the Rio+20 follow-up meeting and debate on post-2015.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said the theme of the present Ministerial Review shined a spotlight on urgent economic and social concerns that had particular resonance in today’s turbulent economic climate. “Current indicators paint a dismal picture,” he said in that respect, noting that some 600 million new jobs would be needed over the next decade in order to stave off a renewed crisis — “a formidable task under any circumstance”. From the perspective of developing countries, the generation of productive and gainful employment on a scale that was sufficient to absorb the growing labour force was a critical element of the strategy for poverty eradication and sustainable development. “Labour is the sole asset of poor people,” he said in that context; perversely, however, in most developing countries, that vital resource was under-utilized and under-remunerated.
A significant scale-up of public investment was needed in infrastructure, technology, education and skills development, as well as social spending, in order to enhance productive capacity and generate employment, particularly in the least developed countries and the land-locked developing countries. Multilateral development banks, particularly the World Bank, had a role to play in expanding lending for infrastructure development in such countries. Laying out a number of national policies that India had put in place — including one of the largest social security measures in history — he said that Member States individually and the international community collectively would have to show determined and bold action to pursue the ambitious agenda on poverty eradication and sustainable development set out by their leaders in Rio. “It is abundantly clear that we cannot afford the luxury of a business as usual approach,” he stressed.
JOAQUIN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI ( El Salvador) aligned his statement with those made respectively on behalf CELAC and the Group of 77 and China, and said his Government was taking a wide array of measures to address issues in line with the theme of this Economic and Social Council session. It had formulated a five-year development plan. Creating a credible financial system was important to building productive capacity.
He said that El Salvador joined other developing countries in expressing concern about a decrease in ODA. Donor countries should comply with their commitment of earmarking 0.7 of their GDP as official development assistance. But other resources must be considered as well to complement ODA. The United Nations was the best body for governance. His country was a self starter of the United Nations “Delivering as One” initiative.
ABDURRAHMAN SHALGHAM (Libya) said poverty eradication required efforts by all actors within the framework of global partnership. Libya’s legacy had led to many social problems, including the fact that livelihoods were associated with pensions distributed by the public sector or companies that failed to carry out well-known economic criteria. Libya also depended on its oil sector, which accounted for 60 per cent of Government revenue. It was important to achieve development by supplying the country with electricity, and establishing basic infrastructure, including schools, universities, hospitals and residential areas.
He said water networks were also needed, which would particularly help rural communities. Free trade was another key area, coupled with support for local products. Calling education the bedrock for achieving development in a way that would benefit society, he said it was the “cardinal element” for fighting poverty. Restructuring Libya along democratic lines was crucial. It was “high time” to elaborate a vision for youth and women, who constituted 67 per cent of the Arab region’s population. They also had led Libya’s revolution.
EMMANUEL OGUNTUYI (Nigeria) discussed the precarious employment scenario, saying that girls’ education was needed to change the situation. Resource constraints were among the main impediments to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The African continent had the highest unemployment level in the world. He called for international support for developing countries to build capacity. “Nigeria is determined to lift its people out of poverty,” he said, noting that a policy framework outlined programmes for developing human and social capital.
He went on to say that Nigeria would transform itself into a diversified economy, and focus on the Government’s ability to achieve results by making evidence-based decisions. That should help increase per capita income, he said, and ultimately improve life for Nigerians. Another positive factor was that Gross Domestic Product had been steadily rising. The Government also was promoting public-private partnerships in economic development, notably in job opportunities.
MAFIROANE MOTANYANE (Lesotho) said that like most developing countries, his nation was adversely affected by the increasing rate of unemployment across all sectors of its population. The current jobless rate was estimated to be about 22 per cent. Statistics showed that subsistence agriculture was the largest employment sector, with about 41 per cent of all employed persons. The remaining 55 per cent was spread across the public sector, migrant labour and private households. That was undoubtedly a disturbing situation. However, the Government was making advances towards poverty eradication and job creation. Business advisory services and micro-financing for small and medium enterprises and support for small farmers were some of the measures undertaken by Lesotho to support job creation.
NURGUL DZHANAEVA, Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan, said that, during the post-socialist crisis period, it was the women who had turned Kyrgyzstan into a trade hub in Central Asia, with thousands of jobs for marginalized people. They also had developed the sewing industry. Yet today, women were most vulnerable to the “exclusive growth paradigm”. Women without financial resources were the first to be victims of poverty, and to have their rights violated. Moreover, women’s economic initiatives faced structural barriers. To ensure women contributed at an adequate level, State support and social protection measures were needed. States must ensure decent employment for women with full protection for their rights. Women also must be recognized as effective generators of employment and included with full rights in economic and financial decision-making.
ED RYAN, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), said older populations had suffered significantly during the current economic recessions. A 2010 AARP study showed the number of unemployed in the 55+ age group in the United States had risen 331 per cent from just 2000 to 2009. The link between employment and poverty eradication could not be discussed without bringing older persons into the conversation. Due to improved longevity, global life expectancy had increased by more than 20 years since 1950, to reach the current 68 years, per United Nations statistics. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of adults aged 65 and over would outnumber children under the age of five within the next five years. By 2050, older adults would outnumber children under the age of 14. Viewing employment, innovative models should be explored to accommodate a multigenerational workforce, such as a mentorship programmes in which older people can provide their experience.
KERRY STEFANCYK, Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, argued that internships, when used as a development tool, could help bridge social and demographic divides, providing young people the ability to obtain quality work experience. She supported innovative actions taken by the Ministry of Labour in the Dominican Republic to improve youth employability and labour force capacity. She also strongly advocated in favour of the integration of internship experiences within national and international youth employment strategies. She looked forward to sharing her organization’s experience and developing new multisectoral synergies aimed at enhancing employability, labour force capacity and social equity.
ZAINAB ZINDANI, IFENDU for Women’s Development, said that despite progress in increasing access to education, gender inequality, HIV/AIDS and environmental degradation impinged on peoples’ well-being. All stakeholders must take advantage of improved technologies to create change, and she urged exchanging ideas in that regard. Envisioning a world that had achieved all agreed development goals would provide the motivation to continue focusing on human rights issues. The question hinged on how to stop discrimination in employment. Governments must be incentivized to showcase that macroeconomic policies like expanded access to improved technologies were ultimately in their interests.
THOMAS BRENNAN, Salesian Missions, said youth unemployment was at three times that of adult unemployment. ILO had stressed that that trend risked creating a “lost generation”. Finding decent work was growing more difficult. To address youth unemployment, he urged that youth be provided with the skills needed to engage in a green economy. Governments, employers, trade unions and technical training institutions should increase their collaboration. Moreover, youth should be trained in entrepreneurship, while legislation providing for a living wage, health care and rights protection should be enacted and enforced.
FATIMA RODRIGO, Catholic Medical Missionaries, said it was imperative to eradicate poverty and reduce the gap between the rich and poor, stressing the need for “economic morality” in building sustainable communities where everyone had a right to lead a decent and humane life. Governments and the private sector needed to encourage and invest in cooperatives and small and medium entrepreneurs as the best solutions to growing unemployment and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Strengthening the public-private partnerships was seen as inevitable. All Governments should reallocate a portion of their military expenditures towards better causes such as the creation of social protection floors. “The existence of extreme poverty was not only a matter [requiring] urgent attention, but a matter of shame for our generation,” she said.
* *** *For information media • not an official record