Trade unions at 4th Global meeting of the EU Policy Forum on Development

The 4th Global Policy Forum on Development saw actors from across the development spectrum come together in Brussels. The TUDCN coordinated the trade union representation at the three-day event which took place from the 14th to the 16th of March. The event was attended by over 160 people representing civil society organisations (CSOs), Local Authorities (LAs), the private sector, representatives from the EU institutions and from EU Member States.

Trade union representatives included: Haridasan Parayarikkal (ITUC AP), Anne-Cécile Coly (UNSAS, Senegal), Adrien Akouété (ITUC Africa), Marita Gonzalez (CGT Argentina), Hilma Mote (ITUC Africa), Gemma Arpaia (ISCOS-CISL, Italy), Karin Debroey (CSC Belgium), Anton Leppik (PERC-ITUC) and López-González, Joan Lanfranco and Theo Morrissey from ITUC.

Topic 1: The revision of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA)

The revision of the CPA was made up of two panel discussions. The panel of the first session was made up of representative of DG DEVCO (European Commission), the ACP Secretariat, the Dutch government, the European External Action Service (EEAS). Framing the debate, it was agreed that the results of the CPA should be evaluated based on the benefits it has created and put a strong focus on the challenges of the future rather than assessing the past. A consensus was formed among the panellists around the need for a new partnership to be elaborated according to new tendencies in the world, including climate change, migration pressures, economic development, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs SDGs The Sustainable Development Goals were one of the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference. The members States launched a new set of future international development goals, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post-2015 development agenda. ). Questions were raised as to the adequacy of co-management schemes and participants discussed the potential role of multi-stakeholder platforms as a more useful instrument to encompass different objectives. Notably vocal opposition to the legally binding nature of a new agreement was raised by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative.

The second session saw a panel of six made up of representative of CSOs and LAs and included Anne-Cécile Coly, from Union nationale des syndicats autonomes du Sénégal, the national trade union coalition of Senegal, take to the stage. The constraints on the voice of civil society being heard were highlighted. By favouring a healthier industry at ground level, it was suggested that issues such as unemployment, social protection and lack of decent work could be meaningfully tackled. Ms. Coly further highlighted that in order for a meaningful and efficient relationship between workers and employers to be established, workers must be given a voice. Current barriers to this voice included a lack of means and training. The current revision of the CPA was seen as an opportunity to address these systemic shortcomings.

The issue of coherence of EU external was raised. Illustrating her point with the recent signing of economic partnership agreements, Ms. Coly emphasized that one way of harmonizing discord between CSOs and governments would be for the EU to require that trade unions be involved in the negotiations of these agreements. It was notably mentioned that the impact of economic partnership agreements on employment, decent work and social protection risks to be very grave: estimates from the economic commission of Africa from the united nations that predict losses of 600,000 jobs in West Africa only.

Karin Debroey, from the Africa desk of the international department of the Belgian national trade union centre (ACV-CSC) identified one way of avoiding repeats of these failures: ensure that a future agreement stipulates that all commercial and trade agreements include social standards and labour standards that must be enforceable as well as include penalties in case of non-compliance. It was stressed that, in order for the agreement to be truly inclusive, the aim of negotiations must be to define clear roles for different CSOs. In response to the panel discussion, Adrien Akouété, deputy general secretary of ITUC Africa, suggested that this would allow for CSOs to provide a constructive contribution and be valued as specialists in their respective fields rather than as political enemies. He further highlighted that much of the more harmful external interference was brought about by bilateral agreements. These are seen as back channels through which the more stringent requirements of international agreements can be circumvented and this must be addressed.

Topic 2: Global Influence – how to collectively influence the new global agenda

This topic was also broken down into two panel discussions. The first session focused on the contribution of the upcoming Habitat III conference and how it can support the realisation of the Agenda 2030 objectives; the second session was on the role of the second High Level Meeting (HLM2) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC). The first session focused heavily on issues of urbanization and the role of cities in helping to achieve the realization of Agenda 2030.

The second panel was made up of representatives of DG DEVCO, the CSO partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). The priority of HLM2 is to prioritise specific actions to improve the effectiveness, quality and impact of development cooperation and contribute to achieving the SDGs SDGs The Sustainable Development Goals were one of the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference. The members States launched a new set of future international development goals, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post-2015 development agenda. . The role of CSOs and LAs as the link between the Agenda 2030 and what is happening on the ground was highlighted. These could identify why problems such as poverty, inequality, exclusion, human rights violations persist in the face of decades of development aid. Their role also extended to substantiating an evidence-based analysis in order to lead the global development agenda to identifying the most effective steps. A commitment to local ownership, to transparency and accountability, to inclusive development as well as to a focus on results was reasserted by the panel. Contributions from the floor repeatedly focused on the need to differentiate among private sector actors.

Eligibility criteria of development aid and monitoring methods were also questioned. There is a need to refocus both on the impact on the everyday lives of the population. Maria Theresa Lauron, CPDE co-chair, highlighted that monitoring is not just an opportunity to learn but perhaps more importantly, is a tool for accountability. Ms. Lauron also pointed to the role of the global partnership as a model of multi-stakeholder dialogue that could be adapted to national contexts. It was suggested that simple and universal measures such as decent employment, be placed at the centre of eligibility and monitoring as it is a building block for self-sustaining development and can help phase out the need for development aid.

Topic 3: Enabling Environments for a new global agenda.

The main panel was composed of nine people and focussed on country level findings. The shrinking space of civil society in many countries was at the forefront of discussions. As a consequence, development aid encountered a number of problems, including the balancing act it must play in supporting civil society while not being perceived as threatening the government in place. Dealing with national contexts in which neither democracy nor basic rights were afforded is a major challenge. Establishing the independence of CSOs themselves was revealed to be quite a case specific task.

Another challenge identified concerned the consistency of actor engagement in SDGs SDGs The Sustainable Development Goals were one of the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference. The members States launched a new set of future international development goals, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post-2015 development agenda. . Keeping actors, who can have a very local focus and in some cases even a temporary mandate, informed about the relevance of SDGs is important. A short-term hurdle in this regard is ensuring CSOs’ access to and understanding of the diversity of monitoring tools that have been developed in the SDG framework. However, as was highlighted in previous sessions, this may reap long term monitoring benefits once these are established and widely used. Capacity building of CSOs was identified as key to achieving this long term goal.

In her intervention, panellist Marita González, representing CGT Argentina, presented the results of three case studies: Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. In all three, social dialogue was revealed as central to reaching the MDGs MDGs The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that were officially establishing following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000. All 193 United Nations member states have agreed to achieve these goals by 2015. The ITUC advocates for the inclusion of Decent Work and Social Protection in the new development framework. . The prerequisites to social dialogue included respect of human and worker rights in the form of the implementation of ILO and human rights agreements. As illustrated by the recent assassination of indigenous and environmental rights activist Berta Cáceres, these cannot be taken for granted. An effective social dialogue is also dependent on the representativeness of trade unions and on their material and organisational capacity to carry out this representation.

Topic 4: Review of the EU Development Policy

There was concern about how development aid was defined. Policy coherence was the most popular recommendation. Primarily this was related to increasing coherence of EU action at different levels, that for instance trade, security or agricultural policies could have conflicting impacts to those set out by its development aims. This is closely linked to the coherence among the different EU institutions and in turn among the EU institutions and the member states. The idea of coherence was also brought up with regard to the objectives and methodologies of different development focussed projects on the ground. With regards to these different scales of policy coherence, a suggestion was made to set up a system in which CSOs and LAs can raise a hand if they perceive it is being undermined. Gemma Arpaia from ISCOS-CISL also underlined the point that social dialogue has a proven track record in contributing to development, with special regard to establishing systems of social protection. Ms. Arpaia suggested that the Addis Ababa Action agenda be used to target SDGs and highlighted the need for global governance to address the current economic and financial framework which is have impacts contrary to those in the SDGs.

The EU can help build capacity among stakeholder, with specific regard to the adaptation of Agenda 2030 to the local contexts. In order for a bottom up approach that takes account of the changing realities on the ground to be effective, the organisations must be equipped with monitoring capability. Beyond capacity building alone, the EU delegations can bring together different actors and act as dialogue facilitators at the national level. In this perspective, there is a need to inform the delegations on the different types of multi-stakeholder dialogues. In reinforcing the dialogue with local actors, the EU delegations can promote ownership of development policies.

Ownership should also be considered in differentiating private sector actors. It was reiterated that the difference among these actors and the ways in which they impact local conditions should inform the choice of private sector partners. As had been highlighted previously, fundamental differences between the functioning of big business, of local SMEs and of cooperatives mean that they have very different impacts on development. This distinction is particularly relevant in the light of a move to increasingly involve private sector actors in development aid. Given that the main argument for private sector involvement is a lack of funding, serious questions are raised about how to hold big business accountable. Central to this is the question of how to make sure that the private sector actually contributes to development processes rather than to capital accumulation.

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