Trade unions at Major Groups and ministers breakfast meeting

An event, which brought together representative of the Major Groups and the ministers of countries presenting their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) over breakfast, was organised on 19 July 2017 at the High Level Political Forum 2017. Representatives of the Workers and Trade Unions Major Group participated.

The trade union interventions highlighted the fact that, in their daily work, trade unions are actors for a people-centred development. As such, they play a fundamental role in achieving the SDGs. Social dialogue is a key component of SDG implementation for the effectiveness of trade unions’ contributions to be maximised, as well as to guarantee coordination with other social partners. Furthermore, speakers showed that trade unions are engaging at national, regional and global levels. National trade unions are mobilising to identify key areas where attention is needed and interventions pointed out that some of this analysis is summarised in the Trade Union Focus on the SDGs national country profiles. However, this work also highlighted that governments were not always helping these efforts and in some cases did not consult trade unions at all or even make key SDG implementation documents available to them.

In his intervention, Alex Nkosi (ITUC Africa) raised a number of issues surrounding the increasingly prominent role being given to the private sector in achieving the SDGs. Private sector instruments are being deployed without sufficient guarantees for their accountability. Problems are consistently being raised surrounding blended finance for instance, partly as its results fail to be accountable to those they aim to help, and in many cases are not transparent. Mr. Nkosi also pointed to evidence of dangers associated to applying public-private partnerships (PPPs) to development contexts, the exclusion of the most vulnerable and hidden costs to the public purse among them. Yet, he warned, while efforts to address this poor track record are insufficient, they continue to be applied to SDG implementation efforts.

Kristina Henschen (Union to Union Sweden) spoke out against the harassments, violence and killings that trade unionists and other civil society activists continue to face. Civil society participation, a pillar of the 2030 Agenda, is being gravely undermined by these crimes. In order to take the SDGs seriously, Ms. Henschen warned, governments must start by putting an end to this most basic form of abuse. The case of Sweden, whose long-term commitment to civil society inclusion has resulted in an ample experience of testing out models of social partnership, can provide much-needed evidence-based examples of what works in this regard.

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