Belgian unions’ expectations on the Global Accelerator

“Belgium’s contribution to the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions is good news. But employers and shareholders in the South must not shirk their responsibilities,” write the Belgian trade union centres.

The Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions (Global Accelerator) was launched at a special session on the eve of the last UN Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals. The initiative is being coordinated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in partnership with other international agencies.

At the time of writing, three countries had decided to provide budgetary support: Germany, Spain and Belgium, under the initiative of the Belgian development cooperation minister Caroline Gennez. Belgium will contribute €3 million, Germany €7 million and Spain €10 million.

The Belgian trade union centres (FGTB, CSCand CGSLB) can only welcome this contribution, which also gives Belgium a say in how the global accelerator works. But, as the unions point out, Belgium must not limit itself to being a “passive donor”, it should also play a political role.

Action is needed to determine how the funding made available will be used. What direction will it take? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel: an approach was negotiated and a global tripartite consensus - unions, employers, and governments - was reached on social protection at the last International Labour Conference in June 2023 in Geneva. The conclusions reached are supposed to serve as a reference for international development cooperation initiatives in this area.

In line with the ILO’s guidelines on social protection, the Accelerator should build the capacities of beneficiary countries to ensure decent pay, including minimum wages, through collective bargaining, and to combat precarious employment, informal work and the mischaracterisation of the employment relationship, which are fundamental to securing access to social protection. It should also, of course, support the implementation of social protection, based on respect for tripartite social dialogue and with the involvement of the social partners, as defined by the ILO.

It is not a matter of directly financing social benefits but, rather, of bolstering the fiscal and parafiscal capacities of the beneficiary countries to finance their own social protection system in a fair, structural and autonomous manner, ensuring that the private sector in the South and its shareholders do not shirk their responsibilities at the expense of contributing and taxpaying workers.

The commitment made by the development cooperation minister, who told the Belgian parliament that “the Accelerator should enable the launch of activities in a certain number of countries in the short term, by creating a framework that will facilitate the mobilisation of national resources and national efforts”, is seen by the Belgian trade unions as a step in the right direction.

The Belgian trade union movement will closely monitor Belgium’s efforts to deliver on this commitment by ensuring that the Accelerator supports formalisation strategies, as a key means of providing access to social protection, together with strategies to develop the fiscal and parafiscal capacities required to finance it. It will work to ensure that the Accelerator also supports wage policies, as it does not want people working for poverty wages, it wants workers to be treated decently. Finally, Belgium’s trade unions will keep watch to ensure that the initiatives supported by the Accelerator are deployed with due respect for tripartite social dialogue in the beneficiary countries.