Trade unions demand a stronger role for workers in development cooperation policies at the OECD-DAC High Level Meeting

Trade unions participated in the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) High Level Meeting (HLM) on 15 November and voiced their demands on the priorities for development cooperation donors over the next two years.

They highlighted the importance of partnering with trade unions through social dialogue and mobilising efforts for the respect of the rights to freedom of association, collective bargaining and the right to organise, as upheld in the DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society.

TUAC General Secretary, Veronica Nilsson, called on DAC donors to increase aid funds to reach 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income (GNI), and warned against the ethos of the “billions to trillions” narrative, under which private sector finance is encouraged to invest billions in developing countries with a view to generating trillions in private capital. She emphasised the necessity to apply responsible business conduct instruments when working with the private sector. She also stressed the importance of increasing support for the creation of decent, climate-friendly jobs and social protection by dedicating 7 per cent of aid to this priority by 2030 and 14 per cent beyond that. Additionally, Veronica Nilsson proposed to work towards a DAC Recommendation on social protection.

“Inequalities between and within countries are rising and we are witnessing dramatic setbacks in development in a context of high geopolitical tensions, armed conflicts and environmental degradation. This further undermines social cohesion and weakens democracies. Social dialogue, social protection and worker’s fundamental rights must be at the centre of development cooperation, including in response to climate change,” she said.

In the discussion on the reconstruction of Ukraine, trade unions stressed the need to respect the rights to organise and to collective bargaining, while guaranteeing the involvement of social partners and social dialogue. Social rights and the active involvement of trade unions, they emphasised, should be at the heart of reconstruction efforts.

HLM Communiqué

While noting that the HLM Communiqué, which was adopted at the end of the meeting, fell short of providing the strong commitments needed to tackle current global challenges, trade unions welcomed a number of commitments that were made. Chief among them were the reaffirmation of the 0.7 per cent ODA target, the promise of “taking comprehensive measures to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality, and to tackle climate change”, as well as the initiative to work in dialogue with partners to “issue new guidance for action to reduce poverty and inequalities”, and the references to increasing finance to gender-responsive social protection systems.

Trade unions also strongly supported the Communiqué’s pledge to, “as a priority […] strengthen promotion and application of OECD standards on Responsible Business Conduct in development co-operation,” as well as the commitment to “continue to provide and mobilise finance to support a green and inclusive transition in developing countries […] noting the importance of each country’s just transition for workers and communities.”

Trade union engagement in the DAC’s work over the next two years will be key to ensure that these priorities become a reality and translate into strong progress in the fight against poverty and inequalities.

  • Read the ITUC-TUAC Joint Statement to the OECD DAC HLM here
  • Read more about trade unions’ engagement with the OECD here