19 November 2008
It is a pleasure to be with you today.
Allow me to offer congratulations to my good colleague and friend Juan Somavia on his election to a third term as Director-General. His tireless leadership has coincided with a period of great development at the ILO, and I look forward to even more progress in the future.
As you may know, I came to Geneva almost directly from Washington, D.C., where I attended the G-20 summit meeting. We were there to address the financial crisis, but as you well know, this is also a jobs crisis.
Here at the ILO Governing Body, employers, workers and governments are represented. This is where we can come together as equal partners to forge solutions.
Not only is this governance structure mixed and inclusive, it was way ahead of the times when it was created. We need more of that forward thinking now.
Indeed, in response to the crises we are facing, I have been calling for a stronger, more inclusive multilateralism. So I am very encouraged to know that we are on the same wavelength.
Projections for the global economy are bleak. Mature economies are taking steps to recover from the recent panic that froze the credit markets. But the situation is far from stable.
In Washington, I stressed that the stimulus packages that many countries are enacting or contemplating need to be coordinated internationally.
I also urged governments to meet their aid commitments. This is critical to avoiding a global economic slowdown that could threaten not only the wellbeing of poor people and poor countries, but also the very security and stability of fragile socieities.
I told the G-20 that we need make sure that all countries, including those that were not represented at the Summit, are part of efforts to shape international economic governance and decision-making. We need a multilateralism that is fair, flexible and responsive.
I also stressed that the crisis, devastating as it is, offers an excellent opportunity to promote green economic development. Renewable energy offers tremendous potential for growth. By investing in wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable resources, countries can improve their energy security and spur economic development at the same time. The emerging “green economy” should be an important part of any stimulus plan arising from the current situation.
Last but certainly not least, my talks with leaders in Washington focused on jobs. I emphasized that the way forward should include a focus on labour-intensive projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help communities adapt to global warming. The transition to a low-carbon economy can create millions of jobs.
In the Final Declaration adopted by the Summit, leaders committed to continued partnership, cooperation and multilateralism. They affirmed the importance of the Millennium Development Goals and development assistance commitments. And they pledged to address critical challenges such as energy and food security, the rule of law, and the fight against terrorism, poverty and disease.
When I look at this ambitious agenda, I am convinced that the ILO has a major role to play.
The world lost twenty million jobs last year. Another one hundred million people could join the ranks of the working poor. Countless others could lose their employment, their homes and their pensions.
Without new and better jobs, especially in developing countries, we are not likely to reach the Millennium Development Goals.
The ILO's Decent Work Agenda really touches the core of people's lives and aspirations. In your day-to-day work, you bring together employers, workers and government ministries to hammer out consensus and solve problems. We are going to need this kind of partnership, and this kind of practical approach, to get through this difficult time.
It is already clear that we need all players to join forces as effectively as possible. We have to coordinate our efforts in finance, trade and employment. From policy to our work on the ground, the United Nations needs to make good on its promise to “Deliver as One”.
Ultimately, we have to do more than just fix the current financial disorder. We have to improve governance so that globalization produces fairer results and promotes social justice. And we have to make sure that it is environmentally, economically, socially and politically sustainable.
I know this is a major concern of the ILO. Next February, we will mark the first World Day for Social Justice. And earlier this year, the landmark Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization was adopted.
The principles enshrined in that document reflect wide consensus. And it rightly asserts that “the fundamental values of freedom, human dignity, social justice, security and non-discrimination are essential for sustainable economic and social development and efficiency”.
This principle has particular relevance today. We must always bear in mind the needs of the peoples of the world in whose name the United Nations Charter was adopted. By securing their livelihoods now, we can pave the way for true social justice in the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It has been said that work is a search for “daily meaning as well as daily bread”.
The ILO Governing Body, with its diverse membership and global reach, is promoting the decent work that is essential if people are to weather the bad times we now face.
I will be counting on the ILO to expand its contribution to this great effort.
Thank you again for your commitment to our shared goals.
I look forward to hearing your views.