Reform multilateralism to achieve sustainable recovery and decent work

The ITUC commends the endorsement by development banks of long-term investments for decent work and just transition, while calling for greater dialogue with unions and more participation from the multilateral development banks.

Four hundred and fifty development banks took part in the Finance in Common Summit, 9 – 12 November, the first such event of its kind and an important sign amid a weak multilateral response to COVID-19.

Vulnerability to the pandemic, the economic crisis and climate change are the consequences of failed austerity and deregulation, with under-investment in the real economy, public health, and social protection systems, while the private financial sector remains fixated on short-term profit. Public development banks guided by social mandates that look beyond profit can help lead a transformation toward a net-zero carbon economy with decent work for all.

To finance a just and sustainable recovery, particularly in developing countries, more resources need to be directed to long-term public investment in sustainable activities that create decent jobs. The virtual Finance in Common Summit brought together the entire range of public development banks, at both the global and national levels, culminating in a joint declaration and the formation of a coalition.

“The Finance in Common Summit represents a first step toward using public development banks to lead a transformative recovery that supports the Sustainable Development Goals and climate action aligned with the Paris Agreement. We welcome support in the Summit declaration for ‘decent and sustainable jobs’ and just transition. A remarkable commitment has been made to work jointly on aligning development bank operations with ILO conventions and recommendations, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and binding labour safeguards,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

In a briefing ahead of the Summit, the ITUC called for reforming and replenishing public development banks. Although development banks hold great potential, they can fall short without shared governance and dialogue structures that include workers’ representatives, accountability, binding environmental and social standards, and robust procedures to measure sustainable development impact, including the creation of decent jobs.

The World Bank and other development banks have prioritised the interests of private finance as the solution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, dangerously neglecting the need for foundational investments in quality public services and a sustainable real economy. Several multilateral development banks, including the World Bank and regional banks in Asia and the Americas, did not fully sign the declaration, reportedly over concerns about the climate action commitments.

“As public development banks build a coalition and a Summit in 2021, trade unions should have a formal seat at the table. Social dialogue is fundamental to rebuilding multilateralism and the SDGs. Alongside sharing best practices on international labour standards, we urge the development banks to include the measurement of decent job creation as part of the coalition’s work programme in line with SDG 8. Trade unions strongly urge the World Bank and other multilaterals to strengthen engagement in the coalition and raise their ambitions on climate action,” said Ms Burrow.