Trade unions at European regional meeting of the Policy Forum on Development

A trade union delegation attended the first Europe regional meeting of the EU Policy Forum on Development (PFD), the EU’s structured dialogue with civil society and local authorities on development cooperation. This event took place in Ghent (Belgium) on 15-16 January 2018.

The meeting discussed many points that are high on the agenda, such as private sector accountability in development, enabling environment for civil society and local authorities, migration and security, the role of cities in sustainable development, and the EU financial instruments supporting development cooperation.

Anton Leppik, Executive Secretary of ITUC’s Pan-European Regional Council (PERC), spoke at the session on enabling environment, underlining the difficulties many workers and trade unions face in Europe and the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood. These difficulties range from limitations of freedom of association and assembly, imprisonment of trade unionists, impediments to pursue social dialogue and collective bargaining to recurrent austerity measures and degrading of labour rights and working conditions and span from Poland to Kyrgyzstan. Leppik asked the European Commission to continue supporting trade unions in the regions, which are key actors to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth.

Paola Simonetti, TUDCN Coordinator, spoke at the session on private sector accountability, stressing how in the SDG era, private and for-profit entities have an increasingly prominent role in development cooperation, potentially jeopardising the very nature of official development assistance (ODA). In light of the EU External Investment Plan (EIP), which covers both Africa and the EU’s Neighbourhood, Simonetti warned against blended finance as a development finance miracle that can fill the financing gaps. Instead, she referred to evidence-based research by trade unions signalling that blended finance and the vehicles managing it (development finance institutions) are ill suited to manage development funds while preserving a degree of effectiveness. Moreover, Simonetti said that any initiative to engage the private sector in development should include trade unions, as the inclusion of both social partners produces more effective development results.

Liina Carr, Confederal Secretary at the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), spoke at the panel discussion on migration, security and peacebuilding, which touched upon EU initiatives on fragility and resilience. Carr blasted the EU’s response to the refugee crisis, while advocating for safe ways for migrants and asylum-seekers to reach the EU. Carr also advocated for equal conditions for workers, regardless of their residency status, and highlighted how decent work and social dialogue can contribute to fragile countries’ reconciliation and reconstruction.

The contents of this meeting will feed discussions at the global meeting of the PFD, which will take place in Brussels on 20-22 March 2018. In a time of important changes in the pipeline, notably the EU’s Multi-Annual Financial Framework after 2020, the post-Cotonou EU-ACP agreement and the EU External Investment Plan, sustained dialogue with European institutions is crucial to advance trade union priorities in development cooperation.

The trade union delegation was formed by representatives from ACLVB-CGSLB Belgium, ISCOS-CISL Italy, USO-Sotermun Spain, the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, SAK-Finland, Liina Carr from the ETUC, Anton Leppik from PERC and Joan Lanfranco from TUDCN as global representative of trade unions at the PFD.

Find all background documents here.

Trade Union Development Cooperation Network