HLPF2022: Mission accomplished for trade unions

The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) ended on a high note for trade unions. Indeed, the HLPF Ministerial Declaration included many references to workers’ demands for a New Social Contract for a gender-transformative agenda, confirming trade unions’ view that SDG 8 has a central leverage effect on the whole 2030 Agenda.

Trade union asks are based on both the recommendations included in workers’ demandsfor a New Social Contract and the trade union submission to the HLPF, which was presented at the ITUC’s side-event on Monday 11 July. The ITUC delegation present in New York worked hard to voice its priorities during the official sessions of the HLPF and several side meetings.

Leading the financing discussion

The delegation of the ITUC secured a lead discussant role in the important session on Financing for Development of the HLPF. In her speech, Paola Simonetti, ITUC Equality Director, stressed the importance of public investments in job creation, debt restructuring and cancellations, stronger multilateral coordination on taxation, increased ambition for the reallocation of special drawing rights, increased Official Development Assistance for social protection and the alignment of all investments with SDG 8.

The leverage effect of SDG 8 on the goals under review at HLPF 2022

The first week of the HLPF was devoted to the review of five goals: SDG 4 (access to education), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 14 (life below water), SDG 15 (life on land), and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals). Although it was not included in the review, Goal 8 remained prominent in most discussions also thanks to the interventions of the delegates of the ITUC.

Delegate Zingiswa Losi (COSATU, South Africa) gave a strong speech in the session on the review of Goal 5, sharing the priorities of women workers to achieve gender equality, including equal pay, investments in care and the eradication of gender-based violence. In the sessions on life below water (SDG 14) and life on land (SDG 15), Julius Cainglet (FFW, Philippines) and Omar Faruk Osman (FESTU, Somalia) demonstrated the leverage that investments in climate-friendly jobs can have to protect biodiversity and restore ecosystems. In addition, Anne Cecile Coly (UNSAS, Senegal) emphasised the centrality of Goal 8 for inclusive recovery policies in her intervention in the plenary session on the vision of civil society for leaving no one behind in recovering better.

Confronting governments’ SDG implementation plans

The second week of the Forum was devoted to governments’ voluntary national reviews (VNRs) on the implementation of the goals in their respective countries. Several ITUC delegates managed to present their organisation’s recommendations based on the national SDG trade union reports, which are compiled in the publication "A Trade Union Take on the SDGs".

In this regard, Viviana Rumbo (PIT-CNT, Uruguay) confronted the Uruguayan government and questioned its claim to have managed the pandemic successfully when it “has led to a rise of poverty in the country”. Marita González (CGT, Argentina) called on all actors in Argentina to overcome their differences, which “expose children, women, youth and elderly to deeper poverty and graver inequality”. The intervention of Omar Faruk Osman (FESTU) included a poignant description of the reality of women, children and workers in Somalia. Responding to the VNR from Senegal, Anne Cecile Coly (UNSAS) urged the governmentto connect the SDGs with Senegal’s national development plan to ensure access to education, health and decent work for all while protecting nature. Finally, Thusang Butale (BFTU, Botswana) gave an important reality-check on the situation in the country, where he contrasted the official VNR with the grim reality that workers, particularly women workers, are facing as Botswana is the fourth most unequal country in the world by GINI-coefficient and the worst in terms of rapes.

Support from around the world

In support of the delegation’s efforts, trade union leaders and workers from around the world mobilised en masse and shared messages in support of workers’ demands for a new social contract with investments in decent work and SDG 8. These messages and testimonies were widely shared on social media targeting HLPF participants.

Next steps

The ITUC will continue to monitor global progress on the SDGs through the lens of its Global SDG 8 Monitor. The confederation will also support affiliates who engage in the drafting of their SDG country report before next year’s VNR. To date, 21 countries have registered to present their voluntary national reviews. 2023 will be an exceptional year as the United Nations will convene the Heads of State and Government of all UN Member States for the second SDG Summit. This summit, held every four years under the auspices of the UN General Assembly, will be a key stocktaking moment halfway to 2030