Mr. Juan Somavia
Director-General of the International Labour Organisation,

at the 
World Summit on Sustainable Development

Johannesburg,  South Africa
29 August 2002

         Mr President, Ministers, distinguished delegates,  dear friends,

         This Summit has one simple question to answer: how can we make the next ten years more successful in terms of sustainable development; job creation; the fight against poverty and environmental degradation, than the ten years since Rio?

         First, let's acknowledge that changing unsustainable production and consumption patterns, through environmentally friendly technologies, means a revolution in the way we work and in the things we make. The current generations will have to retool our whole economic system, particularly its fiscal policies. A daunting challenge, yes, but also a massive opportunity for technological breakthroughs, investment, skills development, gender equality and decent work. In short, sustainable growth. And developing, especially African, countries will need access to the necessary resources. Water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity; we should start by concentrating on these priority areas proposed by Secretary General Kofi Annan.

        Second, let's root such a strategy in the workplace. That's where many initiatives will ultimately succeed or fail. Managing change by close collaboration between governments and the real actors of the economy is vital. It is organized workers and employers, women and men, who will play the primary role in making the technological transition to sustainability. Through our Decent Work Agenda, the ILO is committed to using its long standing experience in social dialogue and consensus building to facilitate these changes. That's why our three top officers from the Government, Employer's and Worker's Groups are at this Summit.

        Third, let's remember that it is through work, - and work that is accomplished in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity, - that people can rise out of poverty, earn a decent living and relate to society and the environment in a truly sustainable way. I welcome the recognition of this in the draft -plan of action. Active labour policies and a commitment to full employment are key instruments of poverty eradication, as we all agreed in the Social Summit.

        Fourth, let's address the fact that the present form of globalisation is exacerbating rather than bridging social divisions within and between countries. Many throughout the world are deeply disturbed, and downright angry, at the failure to reverse these trends. To humanise globalisation, we need to build a strong synergy between social, environmental and economic perspectives. We need to develop our capacity for integrated thinking. We must inject fairness and accountability into the international trading and financial systems.

        The ILO has established the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation to examine and report on these issues. The co-chairs, President Mkapa of Tanzania and President Halonen of Finland, are holding a consultation meeting here with representatives of civil society.

        Fifth, let's recognise that, if we are here today, it is because over the past thirty years committed and concerned environmental activists have shaken up the establishment. They have moved sustainability from the margins to the mainstream of world politics. Within enterprises, trade unions, community organizations and all the major groups there are now significant environmental initiatives, with at least some convergent ambitions. I hope the Johannesburg Summit will help these forces drive forward Agenda 21 and maintain the pressure for essential, but sometimes uncomfortable, change. But we will need strong leadership in government to fully assume their own responsibilities.

        Sixth, let's agree, "Business as Usual" is not an option. We have to be prepared to review, rethink and reorient the policies of the past.
South Africa is showing us the way. President Mbeki described the social divisions of the world today as a Global Apartheid. He went further, and compared the global mobilisation needed for sustainable development with the response that drew the people of the world into the freedom struggle of the people of South Africa. They succeeded and so must we. When we leave Johannesburg, let's all take with us some of their courage, conviction and confidence. It is a precious energy that should inspire us all.