Sunday 29. November 2020
#181 - April 2015


Decent Work – The Path to Dignity for all


A few months ahead of the expected adoption of the post-2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development at UN level, the importance of decent work for sustainable development was highlighted at a high-level debate at the European Parliament.

The year 2015 will not only be the European Year for Development, but more generally it will be the year in which major international decisions in this area are due to be taken.


Political context

In December 2015 the United Nations Climate Conference (COP 21) will be held in Paris. The UN climate conferences bring together the signatory states to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. At the meeting this year in Paris, the conclusion of a legally binding global climate agreement is expected. The Bishops of COMECE are dedicated to the protection of creation and are therefore closely following the EU’s activities in the fields of climate and environment policies. In order to show their solidarity with the international community in the context of these important negotiations, the Bishops decided to hold their next Plenary Assembly in autumn in Paris.


Earlier on in this year, two high-level international meetings provide the opportunity to agree on a new agenda in the area of development, including a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and on the new global partnership to underpin it: the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in July and the United Nations (UN) summit for the adoption of the post-2015 agenda for sustainable development in New York in September. Now, only a few months ahead, these two important Conferences, the intergovernmental negotiations and the debates among the stakeholders are in full swing. The basis for the discussions are the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have been suggested by the Open Working Group of the UN and that are the result of a lengthy period of reflection on lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals.


In the light of the above, the COMECE Secretariat, together with the Catholic-Inspired Organisations* jointly organised - under the kind patronage of two Members of the European Parliament, Ms Patrizia Toia (S&D) and Mr Davor Ivo Stier (EPP, Rapporteur of the EP-Resolution of 25 November 2014 on the EU and the global development framework after 2015) - the Debate “Decent Work – the Path to Dignity for All” on 17 March 2015 at the European Parliament.


Decent Work: a key element in the post-2015 Agenda

Among the seventeen suggested SDGs, Goal Number 8 is entitled “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable, economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. The ambition is – among the other eleven objectives – [to] achieve [by 2030] full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value”.


At the event in the European Parliament, the Vice-President of COMECE, Mgr. Gianni Ambrosio, emphasised in his speech the importance of ‘decent work for sustainable development’ by recalling the importance of work for the integral development of the human being. This is also the starting point of the Statement of the Catholic-Inspired Organisations on decent work in the post-2015 development agenda, in which they highlight the importance of social protection, poverty eradication and solidarity as well as the link between solidarity and social harmony.


Particular emphasis is laid on the situation of the most vulnerable groups among workers (especially in the informal economy) – the migrant workers and youth. With particular reference to the latter, Mgr. Ambrosio said “We cannot abandon the young generation”. He went on to stress that we could not talk about sustainable development without putting at the centre the grave situation of youth unemployment in Europe and worldwide. Ms Toia added to this perspective the situation of women in global labour markets and raised the issue of child labour.


Human rights based approach

The Catholic-Inspired Organisations, represented by Dr. Hildegard Hagemann (Kolping International / German Commission of Justice and Peace), welcomed the participatory and transparent process which had led to the proposed seventeen SDGs and supported maintaining these seventeen SDGs together with their targets. However, they identified the following three points as being of the highest importance for the success of implementation: 1) to anchor the SDG agenda on a substantial and coherent foundation, namely human rights; 2) to revitalise and institutionalise social dialogue; 3) to determine suitable indicators to monitor the balance of all targets in Goal 8.


Reversing current trends in global labour markets

Mr Steven Pursey, Director of the Multilateral Cooperation Department at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) took up the idea of the UN Secretary General, and suggested “that the new framework should become a global social contract which connects the peoples of the United Nations to the governments of the United Nations”. In such a global social contract decent work plays an important role. “The open world economy is not producing the quantity and quality of jobs that people need. The repercussions of this are politically worrying, economically and socially damaging, and are hampering progress on the environment. Reversing current trends in global labour markets and setting course for achieving the SDGs by 2030 is an essential foundation for the political momentum and cooperation needed to fulfil the promise of the whole agenda. So we need to make sure that implementation of the new agenda is also framed to assemble, expand and maintain a broad political consensus for sustained action, nationally and internationally”, said Mr Pursey. In the context of a broad political consensus in order to mobilize key actors, the inclusion of the social partners as well as academics and faith-based organisations would be essential. This was also considered as important by both of the hosting MEPs, Ms Toia and Mr Stier.

Furthermore, the new agenda would demand that policy-makers get much better at integrating cross-cutting actions across the SDGs, underlined Mr. Pursey.


A fruitful debate

One of the outcomes of the debate – besides the importance of decent work as a key element for sustainable development – was that development is a common and differentiated responsibility of both economically weaker and stronger countries, such as the EU Member States. It is common because it should bind all the parties equally; but it is also differentiated in the sense of demanding of each country what it is able to achieve in accordance with its capacities.


Nevertheless, as Mr Pursey reminded us, the post-2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a universal agenda which means that the EU is also committing itself to looking after decent work and working conditions “at home” and not just in its cooperation aid policies towards third countries.


Considering all the elements above, the EU institutions are in this regards called to express their best effort and ambition to make sure this become a reality.


Anna Echterhoff



* The Catholic-Inspired Organisations engaged in this project are Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities), International Union of Christian Business Executives (UNIAPAC), International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), International Coordination of Young Christian Workers (CIJOC-ICYCW), International Young Christian Workers (IYCW-JOCI), Kolping International/ German Commission for Justice and Peace, Pax Romana and its affiliated members (SIIAEC, ICMICA), Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and World Movement of Christian Workers (MMTC-WMCW-WBCA).

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