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– Paul N. Tennassee

In September of 2005, the Heads of Governments around the globe will meet at the United Nations in New York to review how the powers that be have progressed towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). One of the eight (8) goals is the halving of poverty by 2015. In preparation for that meeting, for the first time, the General Assembly (GA) held an informal hearing to solicit the views of Civil Society Organizations, regarding the reform of the United Nations. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, issued a comprehensive document as to how the UN should be reformed in order to be more effective in ensuring peace, respect for human rights and sustainable development. At that hearing, I spoke on behalf of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labor (WCL). These organizations have union affiliates organized in most countries of the world. Hereunder, are my remarks.

Mr. President:

The trade union movement brings to the table over a century of experience battling those intent on socializing poverty and privatizing profits. In spite of the odds, labor has contributed significantly to the creation of the world’s middle classes and the social security systems. Our interest in the elimination of poverty is permanent.
On behalf of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labor (WCL), we wish to ask your support for the inclusion of a ninth goal: DECENT WORK to the MDGs in September. There is widespread evidence that jobless growth and growth without development is the reality of most nation-states.

The ICFTU and the WCL endorse the establishment of the three (3) Councils as principal organs of the UN, a strengthened Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Security Council. We, however, seek your support and that of the government representatives present, that consultative status, as is presently accorded to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), be extended to the GA, Security Council and the New Human Rights Council. The latter, Mr. President, has been inadequately addressed by the Draft Outcome Document of the President of the GA. We wish to request the inclusion of the latter to your final document.

Our presence here in this meeting, as representatives of civil society is the initiation of a courtship with the GA and we look forward to a happy marriage in the future. Mr. President, we support the strengthening of the Presidency of the GA. We do not support the “Queen of England” model. We would like to see a pro-active President who is not impeded to take bold initiatives.

Mr. President, we need a strengthened ECOSOC to deal with issues of Human insecurity in the same way that the Security Council has to address issues of Peace and Security. The historical records will show that the trade union movement played a major role in lobbying for the establishment of ECOSOC. There was even hope for a place for labor on the ECOSOC. We have not given up on this.

Mr. President, we are all aware that the UN has lost ground to the International Financial Institutions (IFI) perceived by many in civil society as the (Imperial) Financial Institutions. The UN summits and conferences of the nineties produced great socio-economic manifestos but had no money to implement them. Then at the Conference on Financing For Development (FFD) it was agreed that an Annual High Level Meeting between IFIs, WTO, UNCTAD and ECOSOC would begin to address policy, financial and trade issues.

However, labor has monitored those meetings and we are not satisfied with the results or progress in any of the areas. Labor recommends that there should be a Memorandum of Agreement in which the policies of the IFIs and the WTO be examined against the norms and standards, that have emanated from the ILO and the conferences of Copenhagen, World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), Beijing and the Human Rights Commission, to verify whether there are violations and agree on what remedial actions are necessary. A well resourced DESA can contribute towards the achievements of such an objective. The World Bank (WB) holds the largest share of trust funds. Perhaps, ECOSOC should learn to negotiate like trade unionists at those annual meetings, to ensure that the UN gets its share to do its work. May I point out that the IFIs and the WTO have a relational agreement in which the IFIs are committed to support WTO’s policies. ECOSOC also has to ensure greater coherence and coordination among UN agencies.

Mr. President, I particularly wish to address the government representatives who are here. Firstly, may I share the reflection that VISION WITHOUT IMPLEMENTATION IS HALLUCINATION. We believe that each one of you here today can make a difference. We in civil society do not have a monopoly on idealism, ideas or the integral humanist vision of the world. We hope that in listening to us that you will embrace these ideas which we know you all share, and that you will work from now to September with the President of the GA, to ensure that sweeping reforms of the UN are agreed to, so that we achieve MDGs.

Mr. President and government representatives, the human race was born free but presently over two billion members of our race, the human race, are enchained to poverty. Labor, and civil society as a whole, calls upon each of you to do your part to ensure that those chains are broken, so that billions of men, women and children can enjoy the “larger freedom” which is the promise, you here at the UN, hold out to the world.

(Paul N. Tennassee is WCL Representative United Nations/Director WCL Washington Liaison Office
Producer/Host: CaribNation Television Program.)
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