The undersigned Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) had the joy of virtually attending the 110th session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) that took place from May 27th to June 10th.
The CSOs wish to extend our welcome and felicitations to Mr. Gilbert Houngbo for being appointed as the new Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). We are sure that this new stage will come with many successes for ILO, and all partner organizations. We would like to express our hope for the continuation of the excellent collaboration between the ILO and the CSOs, as has been the case for so many years.
The importance of the topics discussed has increased our awareness of the seriousness of this subject and its impact on the lives of workers around the world. We were highly privileged to have been able to participate in this Conference, as observers, to examine and contribute to each theme through our allies in the various delegations, and to deepen our understanding of some of the issues that workers in particular experience on a daily basis.
We know and frequent those workers; they represent our grass root-members; we rub shoulders with them on a daily basis and we identify with them. Our International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) and social movements work closely with their Trade Unions. Together we collaborate and act to build a fairer world that empowers everyone to achieve their full potential and realise human rights.
We are aware that Decent Work is central to achieving this objective. Decent Work must and should provide all people with a living wage and social protection that is sufficient to live in dignity, and enable all humankind to access food, housing, education, ongoing training and leisure.
The main objective of the ILO, as an international tripartite platform, is to promote this right to Decent Work, and to implement policies based on economic, social, cultural and environmental rights and that are people and planet centred.
The ILC, which held its 110th gathering this year, provides all its actors not merely with a place for reflection, but also a forum for discussion, and seeks to constantly build consensus that supports human rights. We share this objective.
Today, at a time when labour rights are being undermined around the world by multiple crises that include, wars, food price crises, environmental and climate crisis and more, we believe more than ever, that our role is to listen to and include the voice of the most affected by these situations, of those who wish to become the leaders and voices of change.
For many years, our organizations have actively followed and participated in the sessions of the International Labour Conference, even in 2021, when the Conference was fully virtual and had to sit in two sessions in May/June and November/December. This difficult year did not discourage us from organising webinars with the participation of ILO experts, contributing statements in Committees and Plenary sessions, and meeting for follow-ups. We did that with high appreciation of the important work of the ILC and to raise awareness on the crucial issues negotiated through tripartism.
Nevertheless, the participation of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in this Conference leaves us with a slightly bitter taste and saddened this year. Although we were enthusiastic about the debates, exchanges, and negotiations that we were able to follow, we regret that we were only able to do so remotely. Luckily, some of us were still able to contribute our input through our various allies within both State’s and worker’s delegations. We are extremely thankful for this.
There was so much enthusiasm following the tripartite discussions, and it has been such a delight to witness the consensus that was reached to ensure that labour rights prevail.
But what place did our organizations have to make useful contributions? We shared this fate with the other International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and delegates who were not able to travel or were suffering from COVID-19.
The context of a global pandemic has forced us to avoid face-to-face discussions for over two years. Technical problems sometimes prevented us from participating in some deliberations.
As movements of working people, organizations concerned with labour and grass-roots issues, we would have liked to have met face-to-face with the other participants. The possibilities for exchanges and for informal discussions, were rendered impossible given the constraint of virtual participation only.
Some discussions caused us to react strongly, challenged us, and reminded us of the realities that we are facing today. Many of us were very interested in the debates on the Social and Solidarity Economy, because millions of workers survive thanks to this form of economy around the world. Furthermore, the issues of health and safety at work, where we recognise many of our experiences were extensively in our discussions. We are looking forward to a recommendation on apprenticeship and its finalisation next year. On these subjects, where it is so important for us to exchange, we would have appreciated it if we had been considered more as actors within the framework of this Conference, rather than as spectators.
Nevertheless, and in spite of these critical remarks, we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who were present on the ground in Geneva for their efforts to reach agreements and overcome their differences. We recognise and appreciate the work of those with whom we have been in contact, who have enabled us to gain a better understanding of the issues under discussion, the challenges, the work carried out.
And we celebrate the work of the ILO, for all its efforts in the pursuit of Decent Work.
Once again, our deep thanks to all those who even in the midst of the pandemic and again this year, have made it possible for us to participate at least virtually in this session. We sincerely hope that the organization of the next ILC, will see an easing of the pandemic and will allow INGOs, CSOs and social movements to be included in greater face-to-face participation, as was the case prior to this pandemic.