The trade union take on SDGs at ITUC World Congress

The TUDCN has organised a session on the SDGs on Monday 3 December as part of the ITUC’s 4th World Congress (Copenhagen, 3 to 7 December). Participants engaged in a dynamic discussion about the potential role of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as drivers of progressive policies. They also shared their experience regarding trade unions’ contributions to the SDGs and their solutions to address the numerous challenges that are hampering their implementation.

Paola Simonetti, Deputy Director of the ITUC Economic and Social Policy department, launched the session with a short introduction about the Agenda 2030’s relevance for trade unions: “The Agenda 2030 goes beyond the concept of GDP. It looks deeper into existing inequalities, calling for a sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, which will only be possible if wealth is shared and income inequality is addressed.” The trade unions country reports on SDGs are contributing to creating an efficient multi-level governance in the public sector, which is a main necessity for the Agenda2030 to succeed.


Sharing experiences from affiliates

The session continued with a discussion with Ragnhild Lied (President of UNIO, Norway), Japhet Moyo (General Secretary of ZCTU, Zimbabwe), Sulistri Afrileston (Head of International Department with KSBSI, Indonesia) and Andrés Larisgoitia (Director of the International Relations Secretariat of CTA-T, Argentina). They expressed their views on the role of trade unions in the Agenda 2030 and shared some examples of how their organisations have been engaging in the process.

The SDGs hit the heart of our core value,” stated Ragnhild Lied during her intervention. She also stressed the fact that a well-functioning social dialogue is central for the SDGs to succeed.

Japhet Moyo told about the contributions of the ZCTU to ensure Zimbabwe is committing to the SDGs. The union was involved in the 2017 multi-stakeholders workshops that were organised to validate Zimbabwe’s voluntary national review, and it participated in the following High-Level Political Forum.

Initially, the situation in Indonesia was rather difficult because the government was not involving trade unions in the first discussions, explained Sulistri Afrileston. It was later on that a governmental decree made it possible for stakeholders, including trade unions, to contribute to the government’s plans on the SDGs. In the meantime, the KSBSI was not remaining passive. The union took the initiative to produce its own SDG agenda and started a programme to raise awareness among workers, notably young workers, about the SDGs and how to mainstream them in their union’s activities.

The government in place in Argentina is not keen in pushing for SDG-friendly reforms. On the contrary, it has been jeopardising previous achievements resulting from successful tripartite social dialogues. To address this situation, the Argentinian trade unions built a common front and produced a joint Trade Union Country Report on National Implementation of the SDGs to shed the lights on what the government’s official report does not mention. “Three years on, the government is still discussing what the implementation programmes (of the SDGs) will be, but this is a marketing strategy, because in real terms poverty has increased and wages are falling,” said Andrés Larisgoitia.

It is in this context that the Argentinian trade unions also decided to revise their joint strategy on engaging with the government. They have created a platform (PAMPA2030) together with civil society actors, with the aim of monitoring Argentina’s implementation of the Agenda 2030. In addition, they have started to collaborate with the UN Resident Coordinator, the ILO, and some regional organisms in order to catch the government’s attention and demonstrate that trade unions are key actors of development.

Finally, all panelists agreed that engaging with and involving young people in the unions’ work on SDGs is very important. This has become a priority in Indonesia’s KSBSI and Zimbabwe’s ZCTU. In Norway, UNIO is working with teachers’ unions to push for including knowledge about the SDGs in the educational curriculum. Additionally, everyone supported the CTA-T’s call for trade unions’ to continue with their solidarity programmes and to keep their engagement on the SDGs.