ITUC-Africa promotes decent work at the UNECA SDG Forum

An eleven people strong ITUC-Africa delegation participated in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The delegation highlighted the challenges facing the world of work and bemoaned the rising of informalisation of the labour market.

by Alex Nkosi, ITUC Africa

It was that time of the year when the UNECA, in collaboration with regional organisations, seeks to advance the implementation of the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda and the goals set out in Africa’s Agenda 2063. Hailing from the 50 plus African countries and beyond, drawn from various organisations and constituencies, development experts of all sorts congregated in the Moroccan city of Marrakech from 15 to 18 April to discuss matters development as they relate to the African continent.

The Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD), convened by UNECA does so by "providing a multi-stakeholder platform for follow-up and review of implementation progress and challenges, strengthening learning and advocating effective policy measures and actions to achieve the goals of the two agendas in Africa". The regional forum therefore play a cardinal role in strengthening multi-stakeholder engagement and synergies, and thus promoting concerted efforts to implement and achieve the development goals of the two mutually reinforcing agendas.

The everyday work of trade unions, such as upholding freedom of association and collective bargaining rights and social dialogue between workers’, employers’ representative organisations and governments for all workers, is critical in achieving many other SDGs.

- Naome Chakanya, Ledriz - Zimbabwe

This was the fifth session of the UNECA Forum and was held under the theme “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” From the 17 goals, the forum had focussed on carrying out an in-depth review of SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 13 (climate action), and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and the matching goals of the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063. An in-depth review of SDG 17 which exhorts partnerships for the goals was also carried out to “address challenges and strengthen partnerships to develop capacity, harness science and technologies and mobilize and scale up finance to implement the goals".

The African regional organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) through the Africa Trade Union Development Network (ATUDN) sent an 11 member delegation coming from the Zimbabwe, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Rwanda, Tunisia, Ghana, Chad and from the ITUC-Africa headquarters, Togo.

During the forum, ITUC-Africa was part of the high-level panel discussion on "promoting peer learning and the exchange of experience and lessons learned in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063", which took place on 16 April and also hosted a side event on Decent work. During the panel discussion, the network was ably represented by Naome Chakanya from Zimbabwe.

Naome Chakanya speaking on behalf of Trade Unions


Taking her turn to speak, Naome mentioned that trade union’s foundation is premised on a rights-based approach to development, with labour standards guaranteed for all, as a requisite for achieving sustainable development. Furthermore, she added that the everyday work of trade unions such as upholding freedom of association and collective bargaining rights and social dialogue (between workers’ and employers’ representative organisations and governments) for all workers is critical in achieving many other SDGs.

Naome submitted that "trade unions strongly believe that social dialogue contributes to institutional stability by promoting consensus among social partners on socio-economic policies thereby promoting a peaceful and just society". She emphasised that this view is "supported by many research studies on the contributions of social dialogue to peace and economic development".

Commenting on the emerging challenges in the world of work, the trade union delegation bemoaned the rising informalisation and precariousness of jobs with acute decent work deficits characterised by job insecurity, indecent wages, absence of social security and workers’ rights, all which threaten worker’s enjoyment to decent livelihoods. The unions pointed out that in Africa, the deindustrialisation, structural regression of African economies and the growth of the informal economy has reached catastrophic levels – a ticking bomb requiring urgent attention and redress.

trade unions strongly believe that social dialogue contributes to institutional stability by promoting consensus among social partners on socio-economic policies thereby promoting a peaceful and just society.

- Naome Chakanya, Ledriz - Zimbabwe

The ATUDN delegation shared its experiences in the implementation of SDGs including lessons learnt. The delegation mentioned that there is need to enhance willingness and readiness by the government to consult, negotiate in good faith and share information with all key national stakeholders, noting that there is still mixed results across countries of how trade unions are being excluded from national processes regarding the implementation of the two Agendas. "Whilst we applaud the move by some governments to institutionalise national multi-stakeholder SDG dialogue platforms", the unions explained, "there is need to ensure a sustained, conscious and continuous engagement process driven by governments beyond presentation of VNRs at HLPF. In addition, there is need to create mechanisms that ensures that outcomes of multi-stakeholder dialogue are binding and enforceable – moving away from a ’gentleman’s agreement’ approach".

In giving recommendations and measures to speed up implementation and the achievement of the goals and targets, especially pertaining to SDG 8, the unions urged governments and all stakeholders to design and implement pro-decent employment and demand-driven macroeconomic policies and strategies, in line with the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998), supported by progressive and liveable minimum wage policies.

Four sessions of the Forum have been held since 2015. ITUC-Africa has been part of the forum for the past three years and is now a member of the UNECA technical team for the major groups.