ILO has moved one step closer to social justice and decent work by adopting a proposal to establish a Global Coalition for Social Justice in the ongoing 349th Session (30 October – 9 November, 2023) of its Governing Body at Geneva, Switzerland. It is just a beginning, and the Coalition will have the major tasks to accomplish which includes bringing together ILO tripartite constituent – Governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations for concrete actions aiming at social justice and decent work for all.
The Global Coalition for Social Justice endorsed by ILO Governing Body is supposed to increase multilateral cooperation and partnerships and play a key role in advocating for social justice. The Coalition will aim to generate increased political commitments and investment, and also galvanizing support for the recognition of social justice in the multilateral agenda, in particular at the UN Summit of the Future in 2024 and the proposed UN World Social Summit in 2025.
The Coalition will be mandated to bring together not only governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations – international and regional, but also international financial institution, enterprises, academia and non-governmental organizations that are committed to support the cause of social justice.
Joining the Coalition provides partners with amplified visibility on social justice aspects are in their mandates. Collaborative efforts allow for greater impact and scale, enabling outcomes otherwise unattainable individually, such as improved access to healthcare, quality education, decent work, leading to better employment opportunities, nutrition, and education for workers and their families.
The Governing Body also requested the Director-General to take into account its guidance in the further development of the Global Coalition for Social Justice. The members also requested him to report regularly on the Coalition’s progress to future sessions of the Governing Body.
Speaking after the decision, the ILO’s Director-General, Gilbert F. Houngbo, said, “I want to express my sincere gratitude to all our constituents. We now count on the efforts of all to mobilize key partners and advance social justice. The need for the Coalition to start work is becoming increasingly urgent. There is so much to be done, and so much the Coalition can accomplish.”
The Governing body had discussed the ILO DG’s proposal to forge a Global Coalition for Social Justice at its 346th Session (October–November 2022) and 347th Session (March 2023), and provided guidance on its scope, focus areas and governance arrangements while welcoming the initiative, including through the holding of a World of Work Summit on social justice during the 111th Session of the International Labour Conference (June 2023), and his proposal to hold tripartite consultations in preparation for the Summit. The Governing Body had also welcomed the Director-General’s commitment to take into account its guidance in preparing a governance structure and a thematic plan, and requested that the report to the Governing Body on further developments regarding the Coalition at its 349th Session.
The 111th Session of International Labour Conference (ILC) in June had highlighted the need to prioritize social justice at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the importance of collective action, and stakeholders were urged to work together in a coherent and complementary manner.
Importance of promoting decent work, addressing inequalities, and improving living standard were also emphasized. Dignitaries had also highlighted the significance of creating inclusive societies and providing equitable opportunities for just transitions. The discussions underscored the need for the enforcement of labour rights and the development of social policies that respond to societal demands.
Dignitaries in the ILC had also emphasized the role of social dialogue, fair trade agreements, and the integration of social protection with other relevant issues. Key factors such as education, lifelong learning, skill development, sustainable enterprises and technology were recognized as being crucial to achieving social justice. The statements and the panel discussions addressed a broad range of issues, including climate change, youth and women’s empowerment, migration, informality, fair financing options and solidarity between different regions.
It only shows the enormous task before the proposed Global Coalition, which would not be easy to accomplish, given the lack of will in political leaderships of governments across the globe. The world is set to miss majority of SDG targets by 2030, and trade unionism is being systematically undermined in violation of the principle of tripartism in the world of work. Informality is being promoted through outsourcing and contract works denying social security coverage for majority of the workforce. Both the social justice and decent work are being at receiving end.
We can take example of India, a country that was censured in the 111th Session of the ILC, where ILO’s Credentials Committee had found the Centre suppressing the workers unions rights and urged the government to come out clean.
Nevertheless, PM Modi led government goes on suppressing trade unionism in the country, and doing little for providing social security coverage to the workers. Policies adopted are detrimental to decent work, pushes workers in unorganised, and informal work, and decent works available in the organised sector are allowed to be informalized, contracted, and given to gig workers and fixed term employees. Decent work generation has been dismal, since the quality and salaried jobs are allowed to be shifted formorganised to unorganised and informal sector having no social security coverage.
It should be noted that the success of Global Coalition for Social Justice would be depending on voluntary nature of its participants including the governments and employers driving by their willingness to advance Social Justice and decent work. Therefore, effectiveness of the Coalition’s efforts will be measured on the basis of its ability to influence the coalition partners, even though, the adoption of the proposal for establishment of the Global Coalition for Social Justice is significant. (IPA Service)