HLPF 2023: ITUC delegation brought workers’ voice loud and clear to the Forum

For two intense weeks, 10-19 July, the ITUC delegation joined hundreds of representatives from governments, civil society organisations, the private sector and other stakeholders at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The delegation included Fathimath Zimna (general secretary of MTUC Maldives), Jordi Musoni (deputy secretary general of CESTRAR Rwanda), Olivier Ouedraogo (secretary general of CSB Burkina Faso), along with Paola Simonetti and Diego López from the ITUC.

Through their work, our delegates brought forward workers’ demands on the five Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were under review this year (SDGs 6 on access to water and sanitation; 7 on clean and affordable energy; 9 on sustainable and resilient industry, infrastructure and innovation; 11 on sustainable cities; and 17 on partnerships to achieve the Goals) as outlined in the ITUC’s submission to the HLPF and its #timefor8 campaign. They also delivered first-hand evidence-based counter-narratives to their government’s Voluntary National Reviews on the state of SDG implementation in their countries.

A wide range of topics beyond SDG revision

During the two weeks, ITUC delegates intervened in several official sessions and side events. Jordi Musoni started off with a strong intervention during the review of SDG 7 on sustainable energy, in which he called for a just energy transition to ensure access to clean and affordable energy for all.

At a special session dedicated to advancing the SDGs in the least developed countries, including African and developing landlocked countries, brother Olivier Ouedraogo voiced the concerns of workers in these countries and outlined trade unions’ recommendations to support their effort to get on board the train of sustainable development.

As part of its involvement in UN-led development processes, the ITUC holds the UN Workers and Trade Unions Major Group. The Major Groups and Other Stakeholders (MGoS) compose the main platform of non-state actors who monitor the 2030 Agenda at the global level. Speaking on behalf of the Coordination Mechanism of the MGoS, ITUC Equality Director Paola Simonetti urged all actors to embrace the New Social Contract as envisaged by workers to ensure progress towards the 2030 Agenda and beyond.

Intervening in a high-level discussion organised to mark the World Youth Skills Day, Fathimath Zimna presented workers’ proposals to ensure quality public education that nurtures the development of students and teachers alike. She also participated as a main discussant at the ILO-UNEP special event on just transition and climate change, where she provided a first-hand testimony of the struggles workers living in climate-impacted island nations.

Finally, Diego López represented workers at the 4th Global Climate and SDG Synergy Conference that was held in the frame of the HLPF. In his intervention, he reminded the audience that “the term of ‘just transition’ has been coined by trade unions” and that to be ‘just’ the transition must bring workers on board and give them a voice. López had also the opportunity to represent workers at the HLPF side-event of the European Union to complement the presentation of the bloc’s first voluntary review of its efforts to implement the SDGs. López presented the findings of the research paper that the ITUC and ETUC have produced on the work of the EU within the SDGs and emphasised the importance of increasing EU support to social dialogue and to the labour dimension of the SDGs.

VNRs: countering governments’ official narrative

The delegation succeeded in taking the floor during the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of three governments. Jordi Musoni made a reality check of the state of decent work and working poverty in Rwanda, and reminded that social protection coverage is lacking for many in the country. Following Burkina Faso’s VNR, Olivier Ouedraogo outlined workers’ priorities to better implement the SDGs in this West African country. Finally, Fathimath Zimna addressed the Maldivian government after its VNR and denounced the persistent limitations to workers’ fundamental rights, such as the right to collective bargaining and to freedom of association in the Maldives.

Next steps

2023 is an exceptional year in terms of SDG. The United Nations will convene the Heads of State and Governments of all UN Member States for the second SDG Summit on 18-19 September. This summit, held every four years under the auspices of the UN General Assembly, will be a key stocktaking moment halfway to 2030 Trade unions will follow this process and represent workers’ concerns within sustainable development policies because, as ITUC President Akiko Gono has said: “Midway to 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals are more relevant than ever to deliver a New Social Contract. The time to act is now!”.