Let me join others in congratulating you and the Bureau on your elections. My delegation is pleased to see you on the podium, and we look forward to working constructively with you to achieve a meaningful result from this meeting of the Commission by the end of next week.
During yesterday’s debate, a number of delegations underscored the importance of the Ministerial Declaration from ECOSOC’s substantive session in 2006.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway was a keynote speaker at the opening of that meeting, representing a country whose policies – no, correction – a country whose very society, is built on the four pillars of the Decent Work Agenda.
Full employment as a priority policy objective, respect for and protection of workers’ rights, strong social partners in constructive dialogue, an ambitious framework of social protection – and the recognition of the mutually re-enforcing interdependence between these pillars – have been essential for the political, economic and social development of Norway over the past century.
Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s key message to ECOSOC in 2006 was the following: The Decent Work Agenda was not a luxury policy mix we could afford after having reached a certain level of development. On the contrary, speaking also as a trained economist, the Prime Minister underscored that all the fundamental measures for Decent Work were taken early in the past century, when Norway was still a very poor country – with a GDP per capita approximately half of today’s middle-income developing countries. Decent Work policies were not a result of, but a vital contributor to our prosperity.
The Prime Minister is also a trained economist, and his message to fellow leaders can be summarized as follows:
Decent Work is not only a key to social justice, it is a bridge to economic growth and sustainable development. In other words: Put fairness first and your economy will prosper.
Globalization – the combination of modern technologies and legally binding rules to promote international trade and investment – has tremendous advantages.
Never before in history has world economic output been greater. Never before in history have more people been brought out of poverty in such a short time. And never before in history have we been so interdependent of each other.
Increasingly, however, we are becoming aware that the increase in trade and investment – while generating growth and all-time-high profits – has not had the same positive effect on employment.
On the contrary, as pointed out by the Secretary General, in paragraph 6 of his report to this meeting: Despite robust economic growth in recent years, not least in developing countries, employment creation has been lagging, and changing labour markets have contributed to expansion of the informal economy. In addition, we know that standards and rights at work have come under pressure in a number of countries, rich and poor alike.
These developments are a cause for great concern to Norway. We therefore appreciate how the UN system, driven forward by the International Labour Organization, has recognized and addressed this challenge over the past few years – by putting Decent Work prominently on the agenda of international economic policy-making.
First in paragraph 47 of the UN Summit in 2005, then the Ministerial Declaration of ECOSOC 2006, and last but not least by developing the Toolkit for Mainstreaming Full Employment and Decent Work, first endorsed by the Chief Executive Board and then by ECOSOC last year.
As appropriately pointed out by the distinguished delegate from the ILO yesterday, this has created great, and legitimate, expectations.
It is now our challenge to meet these expectations, to build on the political momentum, to ensure implementation of the Decent Work Agenda and operational follow-up of the Toolkit.
For this purpose, we welcome the idea expressed by the draft resolution first presented to this meeting, to put Decent Work on the agenda at the highest political level of the United Nations, the General Assembly, requesting the Secretary General to report on its implementation.
Because of the importance, and the cross-cutting nature of this issue, and to ensure the necessary political attention to delivery on Decent Work, by all national governments, we believe this should be an item on the agenda of the General Assembly Plenary!
At the same time, a strengthened ECOSOC indeed has a role to play, to monitor and coordinate, making sure that the individual parts of the entire multilateral system work together in coherence – pulling in the same direction.
By establishing such a dynamic mechanism, combining inter-governmental and inter-agency efforts, we can use the full potential of the United Nations – to make Decent Work for All not only a global goal, but a reality.