Corruption Feeds Criminality, Fuels Public Distrust, Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Council, Declaring: ‘We Cannot Let It Persist’
Corruption Feeds Criminality, Fuels Public Distrust, Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Council, Declaring: ‘We Cannot Let It Persist’
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2012 Substantive Session
21st & 22nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Corruption Feeds Criminality, Fuels Public Distrust, Secretary-General Tells
Economic and Social Council, Declaring: ‘We Cannot Let It Persist’
Council Holds Panel Discussions on Transparency, Accountability;
President Suspends High-level Segment, Allowing More Time for Talks on Outcome
Corruption impaired economies, weakened democracy and fuelled public distrust — particularly where the rule of law was fragile and institutions were weak — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki–moon told the Economic and Social Council today, as he urged Governments to forge strong links with all stakeholders to build “cultures of integrity”.
Addressing a high-level panel on “Accountability, transparency and sustainable development: turning challenges into opportunity”, Mr. Ban said the impact of corruption on development was direct and devastating. In the last year alone, it prevented 30 per cent of all development assistance from reaching its final destination. That translated into bridges, hospitals and schools that were never built, and people living without the benefit of these services — a failure of accountability. “We cannot let it persist,” he declared.
The United Nations Convention against Corruption, with its Peer Review Mechanism, embodied a strong global consensus to eradicate this “disease”, he said. By reviewing each other, nations were working towards mutual responsibility. Further, accountability and transparency were featured throughout the outcome document adopted at last month’s Rio+20 Conference — between donors and recipients, and between the United Nations and Member States. Against that backdrop, all partners must take the next steps. “We must all be transparent and accountable for our commitments,” he said. In doing so, “we can build a better world for all.”
Today’s programme included two interactive dialogues. The first — on “Creating inclusive and cohesive societies: a multidisciplinary approach to combating corruption for development” — focused on short- and long-term strategies to promote integrity. The second dialogue — on “Shared roles and responsibilities: developing innovative partnerships for comprehensive action against corruption” — examined how national, regional and international stakeholders involved in the fight against corruption could promote innovative public-private partnerships to foster accountability.
Quantifying the “devastating” effects of corruption, Yuri Fedotov, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said in opening remarks that an estimated $40 billion was stolen from developing countries annually, meaning that each country was losing up to $258 million per year, or $700,000 per day. The high cost of that abuse was being paid by ordinary citizens who could not access basic services. Governments could not win the fight alone; combating corruption was a shared responsibility of every sector of society.
He said 157 Member States were involved in the Mechanism for the Review of Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption — either as countries under review or reviewing countries. It was a global process that was showing signs of real success, but full implementation posed challenges, as many developing countries required technical assistance. “Working together, we must help developing countries defeat corruption”, he said, and in doing so, meet agreed goals for reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development.
Dovetailing those efforts, said Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Governments should take advantage of measures under the Convention to prevent the transfer abroad of stolen assets and assist in their recovery and return to the countries of origin. Companies must play their part, too, through initiatives like the Global Compact, in rooting out corruption that distorted markets, increased costs and punished consumers.
Also today, the Council held a thematic round table on “Implementing effective macroeconomic policies for employment creation”, in which panellists drove home the point that jobs were at the centre of development, through their impacts on living standards, productivity and social cohesion. Rethinking development policies through the jobs lens would help poor nations increase growth prospects and address income inequities.
The Council was just shy of formally concluding its high-level segment with the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration. President Miloš Koterec ( Slovakia) said that while the negotiating atmosphere had been very positive, there were some differences that could not be resolved. He had put together the “best consensus document he could offer” for delegations to consider. “We do not have unlimited time,” he said, stressing that the Council must send a clear message it was ready to assume its new responsibility as a strengthened body. He recommended the document to the Council for consideration, suspending the meeting until tomorrow.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 10 July, to conclude the high-level segment of its 2012 substantive session and begin its coordination segment.
The Economic and Social Council met today to conclude its high-level segment, with two interactive dialogues under the overall theme of “Accountability, transparency and sustainable development: turning challenges into opportunities”. The first panel was to focus on “Creating inclusive and cohesive societies: a multidisciplinary approach to combating corruption for development”. The second was to focus on “Shared roles and responsibilities: developing innovative partnerships for comprehensive action against corruption”. In the afternoon, a thematic round table would be held on “Implementing effective macroeconomic policies for employment creation”.
The Council also was expected to adopt a ministerial declaration as the outcome of its high-level segment.
Setting the backdrop for the meeting, Economic and Social Council President MILOŠ KOTEREC said the challenges being addressed today — the lack of accountability, transparency and corruption — undercut Government credibility and the rule of law. Such behaviour occurred in all countries, regardless of social and economic development, and disproportionately impacted the poor by diverting resources away from investment in basic services. It also endangered the proper and fair functioning of market economies, seriously threatening poverty reduction efforts.
He said today’s discussion also could help identify ways to build a values-based culture that enabled sustainable development. In such work, the Council and its subsidiary bodies — of which the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice was one — the Regional Commissions, and funds, programmes and specialized agencies must partner with Governments, the private sector and civil society at local, national, regional, and international levels. The United Nations Convention against Corruption also provided a foundation on which to promote such a culture.
“We need to educate and build awareness among both young and old that ethics and integrity are of value,” he said, pointing to civil society and the business sector as lead actors. But the true measure of success would be the willingness to implement the Convention, and he called on every country to do so. Working with the private sector, media and civil society, “we can do our share to promote accountability and transparency and support sustainable development,” he concluded.
Deputy Secretary-General JAN ELIASSON said last month’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) renewed the global commitment to building a future based on greater prosperity and equitable growth for all on a healthy planet. “We must listen to this call for change,” he said. Declarations must be followed by action. Today’s world was marked by fiscal and economic conditions that threatened to reverse advances toward the Millennium Development Goals, and the global partnership for development was under strain. In 2011, official development assistance (ODA) declined for the first time in years, and for Rio+20 pledges to be credible, States must deliver on previous commitments.
Promises to meet the Goals must be kept, he said, and both accountability and transparency were needed. With that in mind, the Integrated Implementation Framework was launched in early June, providing an online resource to monitor commitments by donors and recipients alike to help meet the Goals in the spirit of mutual accountability.
“No society — no social contract — can function without honesty, without trust,” he said, demanding accountability from donors, recipients and partners. Indeed, corruption threatened the moral fibre of societies. Illegal logging, for example, or wanton pollution, could not be stopped while corruption persisted. Corruption was a crime and provided the lubricant for other abuses. The primary victims were the poor. It might rest at the top of a society, but it rapidly trickled down, undermining societies and leaving the message that nothing could be done without a bribe. Fighting it must be an international priority.
In such work, the United Nations Convention against Corruption was among the most important tools, he said, encouraging all States to ratify and accede to it. Those efforts were even more important in weak and fragile countries — some just emerging from conflict — where rule of law institutions were still vulnerable. When desperately needed development funds were stolen or squandered, people were robbed of education, health care and essential services, making it vital for Governments to include anti-corruption measures in national development plans.
He also recommended that Governments take advantage of measures under the Convention to prevent the transfer abroad of stolen assets and assist in the recovery and return of such assets to their countries of origin. Appealing to the private sector, he said that, through initiatives like the Global Compact, companies could help eliminate corruption that distorted markets, increased costs and punished consumers. Companies were a key partner in fighting poverty and creating a more transparent global economy. Civil society was also pivotal.
“If we are to deliver solutions, we need political commitment at the highest levels, as well as a culture of honesty and trust,” he declared. With the Secretary-General, he would work to ensure the fight against corruption — and the promotion of transparency and accountability — would be fully addressed in creating the post-2015 development agenda.
Quantifying the “devastating” effects of corruption on sustainable development, YURI FEDOTOV, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said an estimated $40 billion was stolen from developing countries annually, meaning that each country was losing up to $258 million per year or $700,000 per day. The high cost of corruption was being paid by ordinary citizens who could not access basic services — a visible sign that it was impeding economic and social development, as well as democracy and good governance.
Against that backdrop, UNODC was the guardian of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, he said, noting that there were 160 States parties and a great potential for universality in the not-so-distant future. Calls for all countries to accede to it had been made in all major forums, including the Group of Twenty (G20). But ratification was only the first step. Full implementation was crucial to its success at the grassroots level. UNODC was encouraging States to ratify the Convention, working to ensure its implementation, and delivering technical assistance in such efforts.
Detailing some of the UNODC initiatives, he said 157 Member States were involved in the Mechanism for the Review of Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption — either as countries under review or reviewing countries. It was a global process that was showing signs of real success, but full implementation posed significant challenges, as many developing countries required technical assistance. Governments could not win the fight against corruption alone; combating it was a shared responsibility of every sector of society.
Other UNODC efforts would foster engagement among all stakeholders, he said, citing one aimed at developing an anti-corruption curriculum for universities and other educational institutions. With the private sector, UNODC was working to fight extortion and bribery, and developing a handbook for anti-corruption compliance. It also had launched a strategic partnership that would help respond in a more meaningful way to the need for technical assistance.
From the $40 billion stolen annually, he said that about $5 billion had been recovered over the last 15 to 17 years. If citizens were to benefit, there must be a focus on prevention and asset recovery. In that context, UNODC was working with the World Bank to prevent money laundering, bringing together Governments, regulatory authorities, civil society and others to assist. “Working together, we must help developing countries defeat corruption,” he said, and in doing so, meet the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development objectives.
Interactive Dialogue I
The Council held two interactive dialogues this morning, the first of which was on the theme “Creating inclusive and cohesive societies: A multidisciplinary approach to combating corruption for development”. It was moderated by Dimitri Vlassis, Secretary of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption and Chief of the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The dialogue featured four panelists: Abdeladim el Guerrouj, Minister of the Public Service and Modernization of Administration of Morocco and President of the Conference of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption; Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Abdul Tejan-Cole, Regional Director for Africa of the Open Society Foundation and former Commissioner of Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission; and Martin Kreutner, Chair of the International Anti-Corruption Academy International Transition Team and Executive Secretary to the Provisional Commission of Austria.
In a brief opening statement, Mr. VLASSIS said the panel would explore ways to enhance integrity, professionalism and accountability and to prevent corruption. The attention placed on the topic came as a necessary complement to the Council’s work, he said. It was also another milestone in the road towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, as well as the elaboration of a post-2015 development agenda.
Mr. EL GUERROUJ said that there had been escalating interest in recent years in fighting corruption, largely due to its devastating effects on development. Corruption had acquired global dimensions and was interlinked with other crimes and issues. The values of transparency and morality in public affairs had therefore become “part and parcel” of the policies of many States, who were called up on to undertake major reforms as prerequisites for development and good governance. The United Nations anti-corruption Convention, which had been signed by 140 States, constituted a framework for such efforts. For its part, UNODC was charged, among other things, with supporting technical cooperation in support of developing States, and with supporting international cooperation in education.
Transparency and accountability were two basic components of good governance which worked together to fight corruption. Describing Morocco’s “new vision” for creating good governance, he said that the programme derived strength from a political will towards change and reform. It established a central mechanism to fight corruption, as well as a unit for processing financial data in an effort to fight money laundering. It protected whistleblowers and worked to reform the system of transactions. It further expanded collective and individual freedom, as well as the exercise of human rights in all dimensions of public policy, and it supported the role of political parties in the spirit of “true pluralism”. Furthermore, Morocco supported the decentralization and the development of human capital and resources at the decentralized level.
Ms. CLARK said that the present discussion was an acknowledgement of the importance of fighting corruption to the achievement of the Millennium Goals. States were establishing dedicated units to fight corruption, they were learning about the effects of tax havens and more and more were ratifying the United Nations Convention. As UNDP worked to support countries to build capacity for “honest and effective” governance, she said, it saw that the worst consequences of corruption were suffered by the most vulnerable. For example, corruption could raise the average price that a household paid for water by as much as 30 per cent. UNDP therefore worked in a number of countries to prevent such abuses in the health, education and related sectors. As women were often the hardest-hit, UNDP worked particularly closely with women to help them avoid the negative effects of corruption.
UNDP had learned that integrated approaches such as governance reforms, targeted measures, more transparency and openness and greater civic participation worked well together as a package. However, anti-corruption measures needed to be integrated into development programmes. There was no “one-size-fits-all” solution. The Convention had been important in raising the profile of anti-corruption efforts and in creating a framework to fight such illegal activities, she added, noting that UNDP was working to build the capacity of national anti-corruption institutions. It also worked to facilitate experience exchanges and dialogue in the global South — including in the least developed countries — in order to improve their national anti-corruption initiatives.
Mr. KREUTNER said that corruption undermined the key principles and values enshrined in the Millennium Goals. A staggering 8-10 per cent of countries’ gross domestic products (GDP) could be lost to it each year, he stressed, adding, “we are called here to turn challenges into opportunities”. The International Anti-Corruption Academy was one response to that call. It had 60 member countries and worked to provide research, training and other support to stakeholders. The Academy also offered a master’s programme in anti-corruption studies, to be launched in a few weeks. He invited those States that had not acceded to the agreement designating the academy as an international organization to do so. “Let’s not only turn challenges into opportunities, let’s turn opportunities into solutions,” he stressed, calling on States to join forces under the Convention.
Taking the floor to share several lessons he had learned in Sierra Leone, Mr. TEJAN-COLE said that the most important challenge in his country’s context had once been a very weak anti-corruption commission. Set up in response to donor pressure, anti-corruption laws, when first established, had only nine punishable offenses. In 2008, a new anti-corruption act was put in place, instituting several new provisions; moreover, it handed over prosecutorial powers to an anti-corruption commissioner. Until 2008, only about 30 cases had been prosecuted, but between 2008 and 2010, the number had doubled and the quality of those prosecutions improved. Also important in the new law were steeper legal penalties and whistleblower provisions.
Anti-corruption institutions must be strong and independent in and of themselves, he said. Many had been “set up to fail”, he said; however, they could succeed if they were given the right mandate and the right powers. In many cases those elements were lacking. Additionally, national anti-corruption commissions were often set up but adequate resources were not made available. Sierra Leone’s commission was given priority in the case of budget shortfalls; independent, qualified staff was hired. Civil society had also become integral in helping to monitor and fight corruption, he stressed.
Emphasizing that no country was immune from the destructive effects of corruption, a number of State representatives, speaking during the ensuing dialogue, described their national efforts to confront that “scourge”. Others called on all nations to take action against those effects, including by acceding to the United Nations Convention.
The international community had come a long way since adopting that document a decade ago, some speakers said. The representative of Bangladesh, raising a number of specific questions, asked whether it was more important to concentrate on catching “big” or “small fish” when working to prosecute crimes related to corruption. Directing a question to Ms. Clark specifically, he asked for the most important lessons learned by UNDP, in view of its long involvement in the anti-corruption field.
Responding, Ms. CLARK said the most critical lesson had been the importance of a comprehensive approach. “Tackling corruption is not the responsibility of any one part of government acting alone,” she said. It required commitment across many sectors, including the police, customs, prosecutors, media and the whole of society. “People must know that this is wrong, and feel empowered to speak out against it,” she stressed.
Mr. KREUTNER agreed that a comprehensive approach was needed, calling, in particular, for a four-branched approach based on criminalization, education, prevention and cooperation. There were no silver bullets, magic solutions or “one-size-fits-all” approaches; instead, it was important to ensure sustainable solutions and not “flash in the pan” measures. Countries should also be hesitant to ask “either-or” questions, he said; going after both big and small fish was important.
Mr. EL-GUERROUJ said that simple, transparent procedures were the key to enabling the holistic approach some of the other panelists had mentioned. In addition, he said, efforts must be “close to the citizens”, and not exist at a lofty political level alone.
Interactive Dialogue II
The second interactive dialogue, on “Shared roles and responsibilities: developing innovative partnerships for comprehensive action against corruption”, featured panellists: Sergey Dubik, Head, Personnel and State Service Directorate of the President of the Russian Federation; Abigail Benzadon Cohen, Executive Secretary, National Council for Transparency and Anti-Corruption, Republic of Panama; Janamitra Devan, Vice-President, Financial and Private Sector Development, World Bank; and Elaine Dezenski, Director, Centre for Business Engagement, World Economic Forum.
Moderator Rico Hizon, Anchor, BBC Newsday and Asia Business Report, said the discussion would focus on how all national, regional and international stakeholders involved in the fight against corruption could together promote innovative public-private partnerships aimed at fostering integrity and accountability while promoting sustainable development.
Taking the floor first, Mr. DUBIK said corruption was a global challenge, which undermined sustainable development and efforts to achieve agreed development goals. Tackling it required timely and coordinated countermeasures. The Russian Federation was working to counter corruption at the national and global levels by complying with international obligations, enacting an anti-corruption law and improving criminal law, among others. New — and more stringent — punishments and fines had been introduced, and among others, there was now a set of new requirements for civil servants. For example, they must abide by a code of conduct and ethics as well as verify their incomes. Under that system, their assets, including those owned by their family members, were monitored, including land, vehicles and stocks.
As for the Russian Federation’s global and regional initiatives on that front, he said his Government welcomed any efforts to reinvigorate the fight against corruption and was cooperating with the United Nations to implement its anti-corruption Convention. It was also working to increase the treaty’s signatories. The Russian Federation would host the 2015 Conference of the States Parties to the Convention and had already begun preparing for it. One key element to successful anti-corruption efforts was involvement of the business community. Russia was taking measures, such as making bidding processes transparent, he added by example.
Ms. COHEN described the Convention as a point of departure in the fight against corruption and stressed the importance of involving civil society. The convention had helped multiply anti-corruption efforts in many ways, including prevention through harsher penalties. She acknowledged the work of UNODC and the Convention’s Review Mechanism. Panama had submitted its relevant report, which would be reviewed by evaluators. She expressed hope that Panama would provide a good example in anti-corruption efforts.
She said that in the battle against corruption, all actors, including civil society, were important and it was vital to create synergy, improve cooperation and enhance transparency. To implement objectives, programmes and projects were necessary. Institutions representing civil society had an essential role to play to ensure transparency. The Government and civil society must move in same direction, she said, adding that private companies should also be aware about their responsibilities. Towards achieving Millennium Goals, Panama had been working closely with UNDP regarding public policy. Panama was interested in improving public participation through information and communications technology so that best practices could be disseminated widely.
Speaking next, Mr. DEVAN described how the World Bank was intensifying efforts to tackle corruption. “Good governance and transparency are priorities in our organization,” he said. The Bank put in place an internal system “to deter, detect and punish corruption”. A Vice President had been put in charge of monitoring the system. The World Bank also created a programme called Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, or StAR. With the Convention as its cornerstone, that initiative sought an array of measures, including building partnerships with civil society to foster collective responsibility and disclosing assets of “politically exposed persons”. Externally, the Bank had organized two conferences to share best practices and “make life difficult” for perpetrators. Asset recovery required complex legal processes and the timeline must be realistic.
Ms. DEZENSKI spoke about a global private-sector-driven programme called the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI). It had been launched in 2004 in Davos by chief executives from leading World Economic Forum members in an effort to create a common language valid for all industries, provide a public platform for top-level corporate commitment, and support companies in implementing their commitment. More than 180 companies — from the chemical, energy, engineering and construction and many other sectors — had signed up. To become a signatory, a company must commit to a “zero tolerance” policy toward bribery and corruption and put in place an internal anti-corruption program that reflected the PACI principles.
She went on to say that PACI was governed by a board, which included civil society representation. “How do we get the private sector to really care?” One strategy would be to link anti-corruption efforts to competiveness, she said. PACI’s three strategic pillars were: defining the international anti-corruption architecture through influencing public policy; enabling collective action through public-private partnerships; and shaping the evolving corporate best practice in implementing effective anti-corruption programmes. Pilot programmes began in Viet Nam and Mongolia, with a view to replicating these programs in other Southeast Asian nations. In Mongolia, 160 companies had already signed up, not including the 180 mentioned above.
In the ensuing dialogue, non-governmental organizations made a number of recommendations, including the establishment of an expert group inclusive of victims of corruption. Some also suggested shifting focus from problems to small successes. Other recommendations included: increasing the involvement of civil society; reinforcing implementation of the United Nations anti-corruption treaty; reducing secrecy and enhancing transparency; improving cross-border exchange of information to support investigation and prosecution; and improving whistleblower protection.
Responding to a question about eliminating legal barriers in asset recovery, Mr. DEVAN said the World Bank had issued a paper on that topic, which had identified 29 barriers to such recovery. He added that he would provide a web link so that concerned delegations could study the issue more closely.
Taking the floor again, Ms. COHEN pointed out that civil society organizations were not often united, stressing the importance of “all parties pulling in the same direction”. For his par, Mr. DEVAN emphasized the importance of preventative measures. In many cases, millions of dollars in embezzled funds were revealed after politically exposed persons were removed from office, he said.
Thematic Round Table
Following remarks by the Secretary-General and other officials on accountability and transparency, the Council held a thematic round table on “Implementing effective macroeconomic policies for employment creation”, which was also moderated by Mr. Hizon. The session’s four panellists were: Syed A. Samad, State Minister and Chair of the Privatization Commission of Bangladesh; Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; Martin Rama, Lead Economist of the Development Research Group of the World Bank; and Stephen Pursey, Director of the Department of Policy Integration of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Opening the free-form discussion, Mr. HIZON first directed a question to Mr. Samad: how would he characterize Bangladesh’s approach to employment creation?
Mr. SAMAD responded that the growth of the labour force had historically outpaced the number of jobs available in his country. Four countries, including India and Bangladesh, made up 80 per cent of the labour surplus throughout the world. While labour was plentiful, capital and land were scarce; meanwhile, the garment sector, which employed 3.5 million people, was extremely labour-intensive. Open unemployment was very rare, he said, but most people were underemployed. In that vein, work-sharing and wage-sharing were traditional ways of sustaining the economy. In that respect, one regulation in place was that an employer must hire five Bengali labourers for every foreign labourer.
Mr. HIZON then asked Mr. Rama to speak about unemployment in the context of least developed countries.
Responding, Mr. RAMA said that the 2012 edition of the World Bank’s World Development Report, to be launched in September, would focus on jobs. The report’s framework started from the premise that jobs were multidimensional; in other words, they were “more than what we make”. Employment had three elements: living standards, a productivity dimension, and a social dimension. When is a growth strategy enough for a country? he asked, answering, “when all three dimensions are incorporated”. However, in many development strategies, the three dimensions did not go together; he cited, by example, the case of resource-rich countries. When there were tensions between the dimensions, moreover, there might be a case for a “jobs strategy”, instead of just a growth strategy. The quality, and not just quantity, of jobs was another important consideration. “Not all jobs have the same impact,” he stressed.
Mr. PURSEY agreed, saying that people were working long and hard, “but not very productively”. There had not been a significant expansion in the productive sector of developing countries, but an expansion of agricultural work and low-productivity urban employment. Asking whether there was something policy could do to bridge that gap, he said ILO would recommend a social protection floor, employment guarantee schemes, infrastructure investment, support for smaller enterprises and skills building. It would be necessary to broaden the tax base in order to transfer resources towards the productive sector, he added.
Mr. ŠIMONOVIĆ said that a rights-based approach to unemployment was the right one. “We live in odd times,” he said of the World Bank’s unusual involvement in employment. There was too much orientation towards classical economic indicators, as unemployment was a major social risk and carried social costs. There had been a recent movement, coming from many different countries, protesting economic injustices and the lack of employment opportunities. He believed that people should be placed more centrally in development than they were at the moment; youth unemployment, in that context, was particularly disturbing. It was necessary to strike a balance between “classical economic rationality” and social consequences, he concluded. Similarly, Mr. PURSEY agreed that extremes of social deprivation and wealth made it very difficult to walk up the “high wire” of economic development.
Mr. SAMAD said that the right to work was enshrined in Bangladesh’s Constitution. Over the past three years, 5.8 million new jobs had been created. However, the urban informal employment sector — which included such non-productive jobs as rickshaw pullers and shoe shine boys — still accounted for a significant portion of that employment.
“Jobs get better with development,” said Mr. RAMA in that respect. However, development also happened through jobs. There might, therefore, be an extra payoff by focusing on jobs, not only on development. “We should not forget that almost half of those who work in developing countries are not wage earners,” he added, but instead they were self-employed, such as in the case of subsistence farmers. It was necessary to make compliance on rights go beyond wage-earning employment.
Asked about the “suppression” of rights in the creation of employment, Mr. SIMONOVICH said that the human rights on each level of development were a set of guidelines on how the obligations of the State to the people should be met. There was no simple equation between economic and social development — a country could have a high level of economic development while its people lived miserably. Coming out of the Rio+20 summit, he said, there had emerged the message that a better balance between the three pillars of sustainable development was needed.
Mr. RAMA recalled the case of Singapore, whose first development strategy had successfully put jobs at its centre. Meanwhile, the Republic of Korea’s job strategy was still “the most important document in Korea”. In Asia overall, job policies had successfully been at the centre of urban development. However, one should not “caricature” the jobs policies of East Asia, as they were not the same for all countries and had not always been totally successful. Mr. SAMAD agreed that, though many South Asian countries aspired to replicate that model, they really needed an “eclectic” model in which rights, growth, employment and improved quality of life were all weighted equally.
As the floor was opened for a wider discussion, speakers directed questions and comments at the panellists, focusing largely on non-traditional conceptions of employment and growth. For example, among other questions, the representative of Bangladesh asked whether the panellists felt that the traditional goal of high growth rates was “questionable” in light of the recent Arab Spring movement. Was jobless growth related to greed? he asked.
Mr. PURSEY responded that the concept of decent work had forced policymakers to seriously consider whether they were making progress. One needed to consider, in that vein, whether rights were being observed, which was difficult to put into indicators. ILO was therefore working to create a “decent work profile” for several countries in order to help them assess the employment situation more broadly.
Responding to a related question, Mr. RAMA said employment policies must have a strong focus on agriculture, and not simply take the traditional track of attempting to move people out of agricultural areas. Meanwhile, Mr. SAMAD addressed the question of entrepreneurship, saying that some innovative policies of his country’s central bank encouraged people to set up their own businesses in a number of sectors.
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