11 December 2007
Deputy Secretary-General

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General stresses importance of coherent, inclusive approach,

in remarks to event on overcoming globalization’s ‘legitimacy gap’

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks, as delivered at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung event on overcoming the legitimacy gap of globalization by promoting social policies and decent work, in New York today, 11 December:

I thank the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung for bringing us together to discuss the vital and timely topic of decent employment opportunities in creating a fairer globalization.

Workplace issues have taken on new complexities in today’s world.  International and national labour markets have changed as a result of many factors, such as reduced trade barriers, migration flows and population ageing.  We see new challenges emerging for different groups in society.  It is critical that we give voice to all -- workers, unemployed, women, migrants and other marginalized groups -- to ensure that they are heard and provided with more and better opportunities.

“Fair globalization” holds the promise of increased opportunity and benefits in every corner of the earth.  Indeed, in the span of one generation, we have witnessed remarkable, rapid jumps in overall development in some countries.  The advent of foreign trade and new technologies has led to shifts in industry -- and often valuable shifts in opportunity.  Yet, we know all too well that globalization has bypassed some countries altogether and contributed to rises in inequality in many others.

How can we achieve fairer globalization?  For many, the answer would be simple:  “Give us a fair chance at decent work.”  They want Governments and the private sector to deliver productive, fulfilling jobs -- jobs that offer an adequate income, while enhancing a sense of self-worth and dignity.

But, at the same time, companies face demands to reduce labour costs and increase their international competitiveness.  Because of global supply chains, not only does the workday never end, but it is increasingly difficult to ensure that standards are applied uniformly, if at all.  Too often, these conflicting demands come at the expense of employees.  Labour regulations and protection of workers’ rights are often inadequate; employment is increasingly casual and informal.

The recent United Nations Report on the World Social Situation confirms an increasingly shared belief that much work remains to be done to achieve full and productive employment for all.  Job creation cannot be a mere by-product of economic growth.  Decent work must be put at the centre of economic and social policymaking -- and more integral in corporate strategy.

At the national level, it should be a central objective of policies, institutions, legislation and regulations.  At the international level, policies in trade, finance and labour standards must be assessed for their impact on employment.  Multilateral regional and international trade agreements need to protect decent work principles in all countries.

For its part, global enterprise needs to further embed labour standards and workers’ rights into management practices.  The good news is that a company’s ability to compete, gain trust and ensure long-term financial viability is today more clearly linked to issues of responsibility.  In fact, companies around the world are increasingly implementing policies that respect human rights and ensure safe and decent workplace conditions.

The results are win-win:  sustainable value and benefits for both business and workers.  And because these responsible practices often help businesses to attract and retain skilled workers, save costs, enhance productivity, build brands and create trust, there is good reason to believe that more companies will follow suit.

Certainly, no institution has all the answers; we all have a role to play.  A coherent approach -- one that includes the International Labour Organization (ILO), the wider UN family, civil society and the private sector -- is our best hope for advancing the decent work agenda globally.  Let us join forces to work for fairer globalization.

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For information media • not an official record