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ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL HOLDS PANEL DISCUSSION ON PARTNERSHIPS FOR PRODUCTIVE CAPACITY AND DECENT WORK

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL HOLDS PANEL DISCUSSION ON PARTNERSHIPS FOR PRODUCTIVE CAPACITY AND DECENT WORK
5 July 2013

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this afternoon held a panel discussion on partnerships for productive capacity and decent work, looking at ways in which United Nations inter-agency partnerships and partnerships between the United Nations system and the private sector could increase productive capacity and promote the creation of decent jobs.

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States, presenting the report of the Secretary-General on the role of the United Nations system in promoting productive capacity and decent work, said that the report highlighted United Nations inter-agency collaboration in promoting employment.  Developing countries faced many challenges to moving up value chains towards the export of processed goods.

Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that partnerships among United Nations agencies and between those agencies and other stakeholders had become an integral part of the work of the United Nations in the past two decades.  A number of inter-agency actions and programmes had led to effective interventions in this field and the United Nations had aimed at promoting effective partnerships with the private sector and other stakeholders.  The Council should make concrete proposals and recommendations on how to promote productive capacity and employment.

Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnership, International Labour Organization, said that, concerning the issue of decent job creation, partnerships should be considered first at the national level, particularly in relation to Government engagement in efforts made.  Partnerships should actively consider how employment creation was being dealt with in practical terms, and it was also essential to take into account the productivity and equity dimension of the issue.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said that there had been a number of areas of collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Labour Organization, such as in areas of child labour and social protection, particularly in the countryside.  Decent work should offer more to persons than just the capacity to feed themselves, and should work towards the goal of eradicating poverty.  Social protection should be seen as a means of increasing productive capacity. 

Sigrid Kaag, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Development Programme, said that a significant volume of financing had been made available to the Millennium Development Goal Achievement Fund thanks to a Spanish initiative.  The fund was innovative in that it encouraged collaboration within the United Nations system centred around a variety of specific themes; its focus was on youth migration and development.  One of its successes was that almost all of its initiatives were about productive engagement, whilst also looking at employment opportunities.  

Antonio Prado, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that the Commission cooperated with a number of agencies in the region, such as an annual bulleting with the International Labour Organization, specifically on the Millennium Development Goals.  The Commission placed an emphasis on good quality statistics, which would enable it to provide accurate information to decision makers.

Maria Paz Anzorreguy, Senior Policy Adviser, International Organization of Employers, said that more and sounder partnerships were needed, not only between United Nations agencies but also between the United Nations system and the private sector.  Effective partnerships required that the parties involved knew each other, spoke the same language, and understood each other’s objectives and various commitments, needs and pursuits.  The private sector should also understand the language and modus operandi of the United Nations system.

Anita Bhatia, Director, Partnerships and Advisory Services Operations, International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group, said that by 2017, 210 million jobs would have to be created, while there were now fewer jobs than in 2007, and urged the Council to consider specific roles of the public and private sector and consider what really worked.  Concerning the private sector, today was beyond the state of corporate social responsibility and the question was about how the value and supply chains they managed could generate win-win conditions for business and societies.

Nestor Osorio, President of the Economic and Social Council, updated delegations on ongoing consultations about the draft Ministerial Declaration, saying that he hoped to reconvene the High-level Segment on Monday morning at 10 a.m. in order to adopt the Ministerial Declaration.

Participating in the interactive discussion were Benin, Nepal, Sudan and the European Union. 

The Economic and Social Council will resume its Coordination Segment at 10 a.m. on Monday, 8 July, when it will hold a panel discussion on “Using human rights instruments and International Labour Organization standards and recommendations to achieve decent work for all”.   

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on the role of the United Nations system in promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (E/2013/56), which highlights inter-agency collaboration that promotes productive capacity, employment and decent work; reflections on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda; and considerations for enhanced partnerships and targeted interventions.

Presentation of the Secretary-General’s Report

WU HONGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States, presented the report of the Secretary-General on the role of the United Nations system in promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Mr. Hongbo said that the report, which was the result of an extensive consultation process with the International Labour Office and other United Nations system agencies, funds and programmes, highlighted inter-agency collaboration which promoted productivity capacity, employment and decent work.  Over the last decades, the growth in wages had been slower than the labour productivity growth in most countries.  Concerns remained over the lack of decent jobs and the increase of unemployment.  Developing countries faced many challenges to moving up value chains towards the export of processed goods.  An evaluation of mainstreaming decent work in the United Nations system could help to better identify comparative advantages and existing work.     

Opening Remarks

DAFFA-ALLA ELHAG ALI OSMAN, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that, over the last two decades, partnerships among United Nations agencies and between these agencies and other stakeholders had increasingly become an integral part of the work of the United Nations.  Increasingly complex and interdependent global challenges combined with the reach of non-state actors called for the establishment of new partnerships.  One of these most pressing challenges concerned the areas of productive capacity and decent work, an area where effective partnerships were needed.  Decent work had a multiplying effect on peoples and families.  The world today faced the monumental challenge of creating better jobs.  A number of inter-agency actions and programmes had led to effective interventions in this field and the United Nations had aimed at promoting effective partnerships with the private sector and other stakeholders.  Mr. Osman looked forward to concrete proposals and recommendations coming out of the discussion on how to promote productive capacity, employment and decent work.

Panel Discussion on Partnerships for Productive Capacity and Decent Work

MARCIA POOLE, Director of the Department of Communications, International Labour Organization, and discussion Moderator, said that the United Nations system had been pursuing partnerships with civil society, the private sector and other actors for at least two decades.  The Ministerial Declaration on promoting productive capacity to eradicate poverty, which was adopted by the Council in 2012, had given a further boost to United Nations efforts to promote job creation and productive capacity.   

GILBERT FOSSOUN HOUNGBO, Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnership, International Labour Organization, said that partnerships were not new to the United Nations system.  When discussing the issue of decent job creation, partnerships should be considered first at the national level, particularly in relation to Government engagement in efforts made.  It was important not to stay at the theoretical level, but partnerships should actively consider how employment creation was being dealt with in practical terms.  When looking at job creation, it was also essential to take into account the productivity and equity dimension of the issue.  They should think of the type of jobs that they were looking to create in order to lift persons out of poverty, and should also explore ways in which various partnerships could contribute to effective job creation.

MARCIA POOLE, Director of the Department of Communications, International Labour Organization, and discussion Moderator, asked about the collaboration between the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.  

JOMO KWAME SUNDARAM, Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said that there had been a number of areas of collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Labour Organization, such as in areas of child labour and other sectors, and on issues on social protection, particularly in the countryside.  On questions about what kind of social protection was more appropriate and sustainable, in this regard, in the transition from protection to production, the Food and Agriculture Organization perhaps had an interesting approach to contribute.  The idea was really to enable people to fish, rather than giving fish to them.  Poverty and hunger would not be reduced without enabling these people to increase their income or have the capacity to feed themselves.  It was necessary to understand poverty in terms of income generation.  Decent work should offer more than the capacity to feed themselves, the entire international community was united behind the effort to eradicate poverty.  At the highest level governments in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean and other regions had expressed their commitment to eradicating hunger by 2025.  Social protection was not a new means of developing a welfare state which might be unsustainable, but a means to increase productive capacity and demand for food. 

MARCIA POOLE, Director of the Department of Communications, International Labour Organization, and Moderator of the discussion panel, turning to Ms. Kaag, recalled that youth was another of the priorities and asked about the experience of these programmes under the Millennium Development Goal Achievement Fund.

SIGRID KAAG, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Development Programme, said that a significant volume of financing had been made available to the Millennium Development Goal Achievement Fund thanks to a Spanish initiative.  The first innovative element of the fund was that it encouraged collaboration within the United Nations system centred around a variety of specific themes.  The second area where the fund was innovative was its focus on youth migration and development, which was responding to an analytical need.  The fund accumulated considerable experience in highlighting important emerging themes.  One of its successes was that almost all of its initiatives were about productive engagement, whilst also looking at employment opportunities.  Coherence remained the focus of the fund. 

ANTONIO PRADO, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that the Commission cooperated with a number of agencies in the region, such as an annual bulleting with the International Labour Organization, and also suggested some policy measures to be adopted.  It was very interesting cooperation with the International Labour Organization and the main theme of the last bulletin had been about how to measure decent work in the region.  The Commission also cooperated, specifically on the Millennium Development Goals, with agencies in the region.  The Commission placed an emphasis on good quality statistics in order to harmonise and ensure quality to provide good information to decision makers.

MARCIA POOLE, Director of the Department of Communications, International Labour Organization, and Moderator of the discussion panel, following up on Mr. Prado’s remarks, highlighted that there seemed to be quite a few initiatives in the areas of employment and decent work.  It would seem that in the United Nations less attention was being paid to the issue of improving productivity.  In Mr. Prado’s experience, what could be done to promote partnerships in this area?

ANTONIO PRADO, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that the Commission brought together all stakeholders, facilitated discussion among them, and encouraged them to provide inputs for policies.  Results so far had been very positive, and several policies had been adopted that way, following dialogue between the relevant actors.  There was also an annual school for public civil servants, focusing in particular on information technology and communication, and a statistical database operating at regional level and aiming to provide a harmonized and consistent database for the policymakers of the region.  The Commission was also advising Heads of States such as Paraguay, Ecuador and Argentina.

SIGRID KAAG, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Development Programme, said the challenge lay in the setting but not as much in the approach.  The approach in least developed countries and fragile settings, as well as a wide range of middle income countries, were the links to the markets that were not there.  Another track involved capacity building to improve policy on key areas.  Value chain and commodity platforms were alternative instruments to look at employment and create inclusive growth opportunities, including opportunities for employment for women. 

MARCIA POOLE, Director of the Department of Communications, International Labour Organization, and Moderator of the discussion panel, highlighted Ms. Kaag’s reference to the need for creating inclusive worth and, turning to Mr. Houngbo, in reference to the tripartite structure of the International Labour Organization, asked how was it possible to leverage resources and experience of the private sector in increasing capacities for employment?

GILBERT FOSSOUN HOUNGBO, Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnership, International Labour Organization, said that there was an interest in the private sector to honour their commitment to sustainability.  The private sector was willing to work with the system to carry out certain activities in accordance with its commitments.  Bearing in mind that transparency and the fight against corruption were a major problem which required scaled-up initiatives, they should consider in what way they could engage the private sector.
MARCIA POOLE, Director of the Department of Communications, International Labour Organization, and discussion Moderator, asked what were the key factors enabling success and what the United Nations system could do to increase coherence in the way it functioned.

JOMO KWAME SUNDARAM, Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said that rather than waiting for recovery as the light at the end of the tunnel, the international community should be asking about the measures that were needed to sustain economic recovery.  Demand was as important as production.  The question should then be how to increase production as well as demand, and how to transform an adverse situation into a favourable one.  The United Nations Secretary-General had called for a “global green new deal”.  This involved a “new deal” in the Rooseveltian sense, creating jobs and demand for growth.  Among its other two dimensions were an affirmation of sustainable development but also the recognition that there might be areas of production that would not have an economic remuneration but social returns.  The Secretary-General had proposed a major thrust in promoting sustainable and renewable energy that would provide the basis for creating conditions favourable for growth and sustainable development.  This also involved the recognition of the global conditions and the need to reshape globalisation so that it was conducive to a positive global economic cycle.

MARIA PAZ ANZORREGUY, Senior Policy Adviser, International Organization of Employers, said that she agreed that more and sounder partnerships were needed, not only between United Nations agencies but also between the United Nations system and the private sector.  Those partnerships should help to deliver decent jobs.  She noted that the private sector had a keen interest in forming partnerships with the United Nations system, and stressed that one key component to forming stronger, coherent and more effective partnerships was to ensure that the parties chose the right partners at the national level and that they knew each other and were conversant with one another.  It was necessary for them to speak the same language and understand each other’s objectives and various commitments, needs and pursuits.  The private sector should also understand the language and modus operandi of the United Nations system.  Conducting a self-assessment to see how close the United Nations system was to the needs and expectations of the private sector was an excellent idea.

ANITA BHATIA, Director, Partnerships and Advisory Services Operations, International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group, said that it was useful to be reminded of the scale of the problem.  As the report indicated, by 2017, 210 million jobs would have to be created, while there were now fewer jobs than in 2007.  This was a sobering exercise, particularly noting that the world was in the midst of an economic recession which showed no signs of improving.  Ms. Bhatia urged the Council to consider specific roles of the public and private sector and, in this context, noted that the standard setting role was critical for bodies in the United Nations system and country programmes, including performance standards.   It was important to look at what really worked.  The experience of the International Labour Organization with the “better work programme” showed conditions improving and increased productive capacity.  It was important for actors in the United Nations system to make a purposeful effort to discover real world examples of measures that worked and to disseminate them.  Country programmes could also contribute to benchmarking and to bring accountability and transparency.  Concerning the private sector, today was beyond the state of corporate social responsibility and the question was about how the value and supply chains they managed could generate win-win conditions for business and societies.

Benin said that the issues of employment creation and building productive capacity were closely linked.  The problem in the least developed countries was that they could not satisfy the needs of their populations in terms of job creation, so building productive capacity should be seen as the entry point which could allow rapid progress.  The support of the international community and attracting investment were crucial in that respect.  Benin had stepped up efforts to promote the social protection of its workers, especially women.  

Nepal said that it wanted to draw the Council’s attention to the problem of youth unemployment, which was particularly worrying, and the issue of migration, which was also mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report.    

Sudan said that unemployment represented a real challenge in the crisis circumstances which the world was experiencing, and its effects could be seen both in the developed and in the developing world and in all aspects of life.  According to official United Nations figures, unemployment was increasing rapidly and was contributing to poverty.  The Ministerial Declarations adopted in the Council since 2006 and all the resolutions taken in this context had underlined the need to eradicate poverty.       

GILBERT FOSSOUN HOUNGBO, Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnership, International Labour Organization, said that Benin’s example was a topical one, for example, when promoting microcredit how to ensure that this did not promote informality in the economy.  Minimal social protection and profits could go together.  For example in the World Bank report on doing business, the International Labour Organization believed that it should have additional parameters to measure social protection mechanisms, as part of an appreciation of the business environment in different countries.  Responding to the comments by Nepal concerning migration, the United Nation Global Migration Group had addressed this issue.  Often, from the development view, migration was positively seen through the effects of remittances; however, it should also be seen from the migrants’ view and all the human rights issues behind it.  In this context, the International Labour Organization was advocating for the convention on domestic workers.  The question of how to scale up positive experiences was important, there were no “one size fits all” solutions, and least developed countries continued to struggle with this issue.

JOMO KWAME SUNDARAM, Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said that social protection affected women in different ways and mentioned as an example the National Employment Guarantee Act in India, which had made a difference to many persons.  Guaranteed employment could be used to provide social facilities, which, in turn, could lead to positive results in terms of child care and prenatal care.  All those matters were valued very much by those who benefited from them and by society as a whole, so they should consider ways of bringing those issues into their work.  Improving the income of workers helped to eliminate poverty but did not necessarily deal with other less evident issues, such as the problem of nutrient deficiency or the problem of “hidden hunger”.  They should start thinking of partnerships in more practical terms. 

ANTONIO PRADO, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, concerning the experience in Latin America, said that while youth unemployment rates were lower than in other regions ,it was still double of the average of unemployment and constituted an important issue.  A number of young people were neither employed nor in education which was significant in the context of social problems in the region, particularly high rates of violence associated to youth.  In relation to regional experiences, Mr. Prado referred to initiatives in Brazil between the government and the private sector and which should be looked at carefully.  A fund had been created to protect people who had been dismissed, different from the unemployment fund, which financed the areas of construction and housing in Brazil on the basis of a tripartite structure.  This had been an important experience and was related to other initiatives, for example, to efforts to promote formal work by reducing the tax burden on business that had been discussed in this type of framework.

SIGRID KAAG, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Development Programme, said that most agencies had a gender marker strategy to ensure that gender remained a key dimension when it came to partnerships.  Practical ways of measuring progress involved benchmarking, but an extra push was needed to ensure that girls were enrolled in school, that they stayed in school and that they received quality education.  Strong political leadership at the top was also needed, and it should advocate for strong implementation to protect the rights of women.  Employment equaled empowerment for women and also benefited the entire family and society in general.  Gender was a cross-cutting issue but, at the same time, it was an important issue in its own right, and, as such, it should not be mainstreamed so much so that it might disappear.

European Union said that decent work and social protection were basic for ensuring living standards.  Concerning youth unemployment, the European Union was promoting grant schemes promoting work, education and training; bearing in mind countries’ specificities, the European Union was willing to share its experience.  Social security should be considered as a long term investment in human capital.   Partnerships and social dialogue could not take place without the implementation of basic principles, including human rights and fundamental freedoms.

GILBERT FOSSOUN HOUNGBO, Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnership, International Labour Organization, said one had to look at the different dimensions, including how to promote decent work in the rural areas in order to prevent the migration of individuals to the cities in search of better conditions.  In this context, questions about inclusive growth could also help ensure that growth contributed to addressing rural problems.  It was also important to avoid thinking about the rural dimension on a stand alone basis.  Concerning the issue of unemployment at the rural level, this reflected the difficulty of talking about indicators: how was it possible to accurately measure unemployment in rural areas?

ANITA BHATIA, Director, Partnerships and Advisory Services Operations, International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group, said that partnerships should go beyond having a role which limited itself merely to observing and reporting but, rather, they should create a knowledge sharing platform so that good practices could be easily exchanged.  Also, they needed specific recommendations about the kind of education and capacity-building which could address the issue of youth unemployment, taking into account that the nature of jobs available had changed.  It was no longer enough to follow a traditional academic curriculum to create jobs, but employment-generating education and vocational training should be given more attention.  The private sector should focus more on what could be done in terms of job creation. 

MARIA PAZ ANZORREGUY, Senior Policy Adviser, International Organization of Employers, said that they should be thinking about how to make sure that public and private partnerships delivered positive outcomes for all parties concerned.   

ANTONIO PRADO, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said Latin America had many countries with cash transfer programmes which contributed to the reduction of poverty.  It was also important to say that the main causes of poverty reduction were linked to the labour market; employment growth and GDP growth were effective for poverty reduction and concerning equality.  Latin America had accomplished a significant reduction of poverty but equality indicators had not improved.  There had been a strong default in the creation of social programmes for people outside of the labour markets, which constituted a significant population.  Designing ways of transferring resources to those not formally connected to the formal labour was important.  Equality was key to sustain growth and to avoid the kind of financial speculation associated with wealth concentration.  The European experience was important and the welfare state remained preserved.

GILBERT FOSSOUN HOUNGBO, Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnership, International Labour Organization, responding to a question on what he would consider as success in the following year, said success would be a 20 per cent drop in the unemployment rates.  Short of that, however, progress could be made if every delegation advocated for an inter-ministerial dialogue.  While several ministers had programmes and were mindful about the issues being discussed, it was important to move into fiscal issues concerning fiscal space.  Russia had an initiative, under the G20 to bring together the finance and labour ministers and Mr. Houngbo hoped that this initiative would bear valuable discussions soon.  The nexus between social cohesion and youth unemployment, for example in rural settings and in relation to education and training, was another dimension that Mr. Houngbo hoped could be subsequently discussed.

JOMO KWAME SUNDARAM, Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said that the problem of hunger was not due to a lack of food but, rather, to the inability of those concerned to buy or grow the food they needed.  Subsidies for farmers and for food consumption were used in countries such as Japan and the United States but were seen as unaffordable in developing countries.  Sharper thinking was needed about improving existing programmes and making them more effective.  They also needed to think about innovative social protection as an investment, not just as expenditure, and for that a fundamental change of mindset was necessary.  Progress could only be made through strengthening the fiscal capacity of developing countries, and for that to happen developing countries had to be more actively involved in international cooperation.      

SIGRID KAAG, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Development Programme, said that what was needed was political will demonstrated through cross-country policies and measurable outcomes targeting vulnerable and marginalized groups, particularly in countries involved in conflict.  They also needed to change their way of thinking, planning and doing business.  A strong leadership ready to take decisions was needed, particularly in countries experiencing political instability.   

NESTOR OSORIO, President of the Economic and Social Council, updating delegations on the status of the draft Ministerial Declaration, said that consultations had focused on some specific areas in which there was still some disagreement and substantial progress had been made.  Mr. Osorio would continue to carry out consultations and the final text would be distributed to all Member States as soon as it was ready.  Mr. Osorio hoped to reconvene the High-level Segment on Monday morning at 10 a.m. in order to adopt the Ministerial Declaration.


For use of the information media; not an official record

ECOSOC13/012E


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