ITUC-Asia Pacific/TUDCN Regional Meeting: Trade unions must be at the centre of the UN call for a renewed social contract

Mar 2022
United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Representatives from across Asia-Pacific exchanged views about union engagement in the SDGs with representatives of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific (UNESCAP), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The webinar provided affiliates in Asia-Pacific an opportunity to be briefed on the upcoming SDG processes in the region, share information and viewpoints with key stakeholders on these processes, and better strategise how unions can contribute to them. This information was complemented by Joy Hernandez (ITUC-Asia Pacific), who talked about unions’ planned engagement in this year’s edition of the Asia-Pacific People’s Forum on Sustainable Development (22-26 March 2022), and Riccardo Mesiano (UNESCAP) who went through the agenda of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (28-30 March 2022) and presented the potential entry points that unions should use to bring their messages forward.

This was also an opportunity to put forward the labour movement’s main demands on sustainable development – articulated around the ITUC’s call for a New Social Contract with SDG 8 at its core – as well as to review the tools that the Trade Union Development Cooperation Network has produced to support trade unions’ work in this field, such as the “A Trade Union Focus on the SDGs” reports, the SDG 8 Global Monitor, and the #timefor8 campaign.  

Throughout the discussion, affiliates in Pakistan, the Philippines, India and Indonesia expressed their concerns about their respective governments’ unwillingness to include trade unions in the national SDG processes, while ILO ACTRAV senior specialist Ariel Castro recalled that governments have the obligation to ensure that unions are fully enabled to actively take part in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of SDG plans through formal channels, adequate and timely information, and access to funding and resources.

The webinar also included a high-level debate with the participation of the director of the Social Development Division at UNESCAP, Srinivas Tata; ADB’s chief economist, Albert Park; and Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, regional director for the ILO in Asia and the Pacific.

Mr Tata underlined that for UNESCAP, a healthy and productive workforce is at the core of building back better from the pandemic. He also pointed out that the region’s recurrent decent work deficit, massive levels of informality, and employment vulnerability are major challenges that undermine fundamental workers’ rights and often entail poor working conditions, inadequate learning and insufficient protection.

“It will be critical to explore the role of trade unions in this social contract, and how they can support the transition towards this healthy, protected and productive workforce. We know that they have to be at the centre of it,” said Tata.

Held in a context of global tensions triggered by the war in Ukraine, this webinar also was the occasion to underline the extreme relevance that the SDGs and their vision of providing everyone with a life in dignity and leaving no one behind have to build peace.

This article was originally published on the ITUC website.

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