HLPF 2021: unions reiterate their commitment to shaping recovery and building resilience in line with SDG8

The ITUC held its virtual event at the HLPF “SDG8 as a New Social Contract for a job-rich recovery and resilience” on Tuesday 6 July focused on the pandemic’s impact on Sustainable Development Goal 8 and what policies the world needs to apply to recover and build resilience.

During the session, which was broadcasted and recorded online, all panellists agreed that the pandemic has had a terrible impact on SDG 8 and the whole 2030 Agenda. However, opportunities to improve are still available if the right policies are brought forward.

The ITUC’s General Secretary Sharan Burrow stressed the commitment of the global labour movement to engage in the shaping of recovery through social dialogue with five key demands: climate-friendly jobs with Just Transitions, universal social protection, equality, inclusion and respect of rights – which are deteriorating worldwide. She concluded by reminding that Goal 8 is connected to delivering on all the Goals of the 2030 Agenda.

The Director-General of the International Labour Organization Guy Ryder mentioned that the situation was already grim in pre-pandemic times, as the world was off-track on all the SDGs. Corroborating the data from the findings of the ITUC SDG8 Monitor (compiled in this publication), he underlined that the pandemic hit hardest women, young people, informal workers and migrant workers. To conclude, he warned that while the rich world is progressively recovering, developing countries are being kept out of this trend, risking increasing global levels of inequality further. "The vast majority of the 16 trillion dollars that have been spent to confront the pandemic, has been spent by rich countries for themselves," he said. He identified unequal access to vaccines and uneven fiscal fire-power as the main two reasons for this.

Sanda Ojiambo, the Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, said that the business community does see the deficit in decent work and acknowledges the increases of rights violations and inequalities. She underlined the necessity for the private sector to engage with governments to generate sustainable business models in the frame of the Global Compact. She also reminded that human and labour rights are two main pillars of the compact and that 90% of SDG targets are related to human rights and labour standards.

The General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation Stephen Cotton insisted on the need for the world to refocus recovery investments so that these create decent jobs in the green economy, support technology development that is not displacing workers but re-orienting tasks, and supports establishing social protection. Finally, he explained that for the labour movement it is fundamental to establish a truly inclusive multilateralism system with an equal voice and shared idea of how the future could look like.

The last speaker, Robert Andrew Piper - Assistant Secretary-General for the UN Development Coordination Office- said that the pandemic has revealed structural vulnerabilities in development models. He identified inequality and the lack of access to social protection as two major obstacles to recovery and resilience. On social protection, he underlined the fundamental role it plays to build real resilience to crises.

In addition, Mr Piper acknowledged the role of social partners in the work of the UN at national level. He highlighted two major entry points for social partners to engage with the UN processes at national level. The first one being the Common Country Analysis (CAA), which analyses how the development context of a country looks like, who is being left behind and what are the key risks. “It is crucial that social partners are part of that analysis,” he said. The second entry point is the Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework that the UN negotiates with the government. This action plan should stem from broad consultations with stakeholders, including social partners. It is important for unions to engage in that process and make sure their views are reflected in the final document.