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Opening remarks by the Secretary General at the High Level Dialogue on Decent Work in ACP States, 31 March 2015, Brussels

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First of all, let me thank the International Labour Organization (ILO) for organizing this High Level dialogue on Decent Work  in ACP States, which is consistent with our ACP-ILO cooperation. 
 
It is to be recalled that Article 20 (a) of the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement recognizes the important role of job-creation and employment in the development strategies of ACP Member States, by stating that the ACP-EC cooperation strategies at national, and where appropriate, at regional levels shall aim at achieving four key objectives.
First, rapid and sustained job-creating economic growth;
Secondly, developing the private sector,
Thirdly increasing employment, and
Fourth improving access to productive economic activities and resources. These are part of the pre-requisites for the successful integration of ACP Countries into the world economy, which is one of the principal objectives of ACP-EU Cooperation. 
 
We acknowledge that the ILO decent work agenda involves the implementation of four strategic objectives, that is:
Promoting jobs;
Guaranteeing rights to work;
Extending social protections; and
Promoting social dialogue.
As such, our countries and indeed the international community should be committed to undertake these priorities for decent work in the context of their social, economic, and political agenda. 
 
In its report on the State of the World Population 2014, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that decent work opportunities are still out of reach for young people poised to enter the labour force. Up to 60% of young people in developing regions, which include many ACP countries, are not working or in school, or have only irregular employment. For young people, access to decent work and improved living conditions is a gateway towards empowerment, and a protective factor. 
 
Young people are central to the next generation of sustainable development goals, especially those aimed at achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. This is consistent with the aspirations of the post-2015 development agenda, which is, to create a just, prosperous and responsive world where all people, regardless of their age, realize their rights and live with dignity and hope.
 
My Dear Friends,
A good education gives young people the skills and knowledge to have access to a good job or the hope for a meaningful livelihood. To this end, improved education quality, increasing equity of access to education, reaching marginalized populations and building strong national education systems, are crucial to meet the strategic objectives of the ILO’s decent work agenda.
Noting that decent work contributes directly to poverty eradication and the reduction of income inequality, its importance to sustainable development and poverty eradication was indeed recognized in the Millennium Development Goals, where a specific target on full and decent employment was added under the poverty goal (MDG1b). The employment target, however, has not received the attention it deserved and remained far from being achieved in most developing countries, undermining global efforts to eradicate poverty and ensure sustainable human development.
 
We therefore strongly support the inclusion of a global goal on reaching full and decent employment in the post-2015 Development Framework. 
 
 
It is vital though that this goal is accompanied by country-level targets on reducing precarious work, ensuring a living wage, investment in green job promotion, as well as complying with international labour rights and gender equality at the workplace.
In this regard, national policies of ACP States should endeavor:
to include investments in labour intensive infrastructures, particularly those that generate green jobs;
to support small and micro businesses, through infrastructure development and ensuring reliable access to sound finance;
to support increased agricultural productivity;
to invest in relevant training and education; and
to ensure universal social protection floors for poverty reduction and resilience.
 
We therefore welcome the proposal of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, which has defined this goal as to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.  We are also of the view that this goal will require a new set of measurable, and unambiguous indicators for productive employment and decent work.
 
The ACP Group of States as it transforms itself as a formidable global player, has drawn up a set of future perspectives in which five policy domains have been identified to address both the common and unique challenges and opportunities of the ACP Member States, and anchored in the internationally agreed development framework. 
 
One of these policy domains aims at “building sustainable, resilient and creative economies” in our member states, with the objective of improving institutional mechanisms for the implementation of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in ACP societies in the post-2015 Development Framework. We see this as being consistent with ILO’s Decent Work Agenda.
 
In conclusion, may I wish you fruitful deliberations, and I am convinced that the exchanges and sharing of experiences in which you will engage,  you will contribute to this important debate of ensuring that the  decent work agenda is part and parcel of the post-2015 Development Framework.
 
I thank you for your kind attention. 
 
 
Dr. Patrick I. Gomes
Secretary General
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