The end of racism and xenophobia relies on the commitment of Fiji’s political leadership – UN expert

United Nations human rights expert Mutuma Ruteere today called on the Fijian Government to intensify their efforts to end racism and xenophobia. Mr. Ruteere urged the authorities to adopt a National Action Plan and comprehensive legislation recognising racial or ethnic motives as aggravating circumstances for hate crimes in the criminal legislation.

“The elimination of racial and ethnic divisions in Fiji depends on the unequivocal commitment of the country’s political leadership and willingness to denounce and reject those keen on organising politics along ethnic or racial lines,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism at the end of his first fact-finding visit to the country*.

The expert recognised the Government’s stated commitment to build a country that guarantees equality for all citizens, irrespective of their race, ethnic background and religion, and noted its policy of inclusiveness, which resulted in a comprehensive reform of the educational system, ending schooling based on ethnicity.

“I am particularly impressed by the policy of teaching conversational Hindi and Itaukei languages to students at a young age, which can only improve community relations and help promote a sense of inclusiveness for all citizens of Fiji,” he highlighted.

Furthermore, the expert noticed the several poverty alleviation programs put in place to tackle social and economic challenges faced by people particularly living in rural and remote areas. “Thanks to the cohesive and coordinated approach of all governmental departments, these programs allow a better and quality delivery of social services to beneficiaries.”

“Hate speech and racial vilification, in the media, in the Parliament or on the internet, remain very strong,” Mr. Ruteere said, calling for urgent efforts to eliminate institutionalised racism. “Any measures to address racial and ethnic incitement on the internet must be designed and implemented in the respect of international human rights standards, especially regarding freedom of expression and opinion”.

The Special Rapporteur acknowledged the efforts of all Fijians, particularly the work of the civil society, the media, academics and religious groups and faith-based organisations to ensure a reconciliation and constructive dialogue in the society.

However, he expressed concerns that “the space and opportunities to constructively discuss issues of ethnicity and race within society at large is quite limited.”

“Political leaders of all parties need to work together to address this crucial issue of reconciliation and move towards an inclusive society,” the expert stressed.

The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, he said, has a fundamental role to play in providing guidance to the Government, also in receiving complaints and providing assistance and guidance to victims of alleged acts of racism and discrimination.

Finally, the expert recommended that Fiji urgently moves to strengthen this Commission and accord it necessary resources to ensure that it can secure the necessary confidence and legitimacy of relevant actors as an independent and professional human rights body.

During his visit, from 6 to 11 December 2016, the Special Rapporteur visited Suva, Natandola, and the Vatukarasa Village near Sigatoka, where he met with representative of the Government, including the President of Fiji, legislative and judicial representatives, the Australian National Human Rights Commission, representatives of civil society organisations and of the UN system, as well as individual working in the field of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

A comprehensive country mission report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017.

Source:  United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

For full end-of-mission statement:

ILO’s Asia-Pacific labour conference calls for more efforts to achieve equitable economic growth with decent work

The 16th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) concluded with a call for governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations in the region to do more to promote inclusive growth, social justice and decent work.

At the closing ceremony of the APRM, delegates agreed a “Bali Declaration” which outlines priorities for policies and actions at national level and by the ILO.

“Governments, employers and workers in the region agree that action to promote decent work fosters inclusive growth and social justice, stimulates economic dynamism and innovation, and drives sustainable development,” the Declaration states.

The policy targets outlined include strengthening the application of fundamental labour standards and the ratification and implementation of ILO Conventions in the region, and mandates the ILO to run a promotional campaign to support this.

Additional measures to close gender gaps are also outlined, including measures to break down barriers to women’s labour force participation and advancement, promotion of equal pay for work of equal value, and extended measures for maternity protection and balancing work and care responsibilities.

On labour migration, Governments, workers and employers agreed to work on enhancing policies in accordance with international labour standards, especially those concerning fair recruitment principles. These include not charging recruitment fees or related costs to workers and allowing them to keep their own identity and travel documents. Protection measures should be provided, including arrangements to improve portability of skills and provide social security. Delegates also agreed to safeguard migrant workers’ freedom of movement, their right to terminate employment or change employers, and to return freely to their countries of origin.

Welcoming the Bali Declaration, the ILO’s Director-General Guy Ryder told delegates that “implementing the Declaration can change and improve the lives of many millions of workers and their families. It can begin the task of generating the 249 million decent jobs that need to be generated in this region if we are to implement Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Declaration also outlines policy actions related to the creation of more decent jobs, responding to the impact of technology on employers and workers, increasing action against child and forced labour, reversing widening inequalities and sharing productivity improvements, and building resilience to conflicts and disasters.

Other actions include recognizing and maximizing the decent work potential of Global Supply Chains and the opportunities arising from investment, trade and multinational enterprises, improving social protection, social dialogue and tripartism, and strengthening labour market institutions, including labour inspection.

Delegates asked the ILO to report back on progress towards achieving the Bali Declaration every two years.

The ILO is the United Nations specialized agency dealing with work-related issues. The 16th APRM was attended by some 350 delegates – including 24 ministers and vice-ministers – representing governments and workers’ and employers’ organizations from 37 countries in Asia, the Pacific and Arab States region. It was the largest of the last four APRM meetings, which are held every four years.

Source:  ILO Media Resources–en/index.htm

Noriyuki Suzuki: “Violations of workers’ rights remain a challenge in the Asia- Pacific region”

Noriyuki Suzuki, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia/Pacific

The General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP), Noriyuki Suzuki, discusses the decent work challenges the unions face in his region Fair migration and the role of unions in the implementation of the ILO’s Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy in Asia Pacific are particular priorities for him.

ACTRAV INFO:   Building a future of Decent Work in Asia and the Pacific is one of the major challenges in your region. What role can the trade unions play to achieve this challenge in Asia and the Pacific?

Noriyuki Suzuki: The specific role of trade unions is to strengthen labour market institutions to overcome the prevailing inequalities in the region.

Globalisation has contributed to fast economic growth in the region and globally. In the past decades, the developing Asia recorded an annual growth rate of 7%, PPP based GDP per capita grew between1990 and2010 from $1,602 to $4,982 (PPP 2005), and nearly 700 million people step out of poverty (US$1.25 a day). However, the threshold of US$1.25 as poverty line may not be adequate.  Looking at the distributive aspect of regional national economies, the picture is quite different from what we had expected from globalisation; inequality is pervasive in Asia and the Pacific.

Wages have not been catching up with productivity growth and expenditure on social security remains low. There are major deficits with respect to taxation and fiscal structures. Employment structures have been drastically changing affecting full-time and fixed term employment. What’s more, the labour share has been constantly declining, while the GINI coefficient is constantly on the rise.

This trend can only be reversed by establishing a balanced tripartism based on constructive industrial relations. A major challenge here are the trade union rights in the region. According to the ITUC Global Rights Index, the simple average score of the Right Index in our region stands at 4.2, showing systematic violation of rights. Moreover, less than 50% of the population are covered by ILO Conventions 87 and 98. These are the realities. The only way forward is to build up workers’ power’ through mobilising more and more workers as decided at the 3rd ITUC Congress in Berlin. Organising and unity are key to realising decent work in the region.

ACTRAV INFO: One item on the agenda of the 16th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting is “Fair Migration with a Focus on Recruitment”. What are your expectations regarding this discussion?

Noriyuki Suzuki: Some months ago, I witnessed in Kathmandu a crowd of young people at the passport centre, and hundreds of people at the immigration desk Lack of decent job opportunities is one of the reasons for such forced migration. Except for a few specific professional categories, most people do not want to be separated from their family.

These people dream to have a higher income, but workers are frequently subject to unequal treatment and opportunities, as well as discriminatory behaviour.

In accordance with ILO Conventions 97 and 143concerning migrant workers, and the General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment which were recently endorsed by the ILO Governing Body, trade unions are playing a pivotal role in protecting and promoting the interests of migrant workers in ensuring that migration policies support development in countries of origin, and uphold the principles of equal opportunity and treatment, as well as full recognition of migrant workers’ rights in destination countries.

ACTRAV INFO: In your view, what role can trade unions play to implement the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy in Asia and the Pacific?

Noriyuki Suzuki: Multinational Corporations (MNCs) are drivers of globalisation and play a dominant role in the world economy. There are over 63,000 multinational corporations in the world with 700,000 affiliates, and they represent two thirds of global trade and 80% of global investment. They provide employment to more than 80 million workers. When supply chains are taken into account, that number becomes much higher.

They are undoubtedly engines for national and global economic growth; however, we witness, throughout supply chains, frequent violations of trade union rights, denial of freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively, and in some cases, extremely bad occupational health and safety (OSH) standards, which have led to tragedies like the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.

The ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy is an important tripartite agreement in terms of wages, employment policy, OSH, and the promotion of social dialogue and fundamental rights at work – in compliance with relevant ILO Conventions. We will continue to stress the importance of companies ‘compliance with the Declaration though our ongoing supply chain campaigns, and publicise cases of violations within our regional and national industrial relations systems.

Source:  Mamadou Souare, ILO ACTRAv Media Centre–en/index.htm

Rise in zero-hours contracts, gig economy and unreliable pay have fed revolt, says ILO Director General Guy Ryder

The ILO wants to see minimum guaranteed hours, better social protections and stronger collective bargaining.

Politicians around the world risk giving more traction to nationalistic movements if they continue to ignore the growing numbers of workers getting a “raw deal” from globalisation, the head of the UN’s labour agency has warned.

The Director General of the International Labour Organization (“ILO”), Guy Ryder, described Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election and the UK’s vote for Brexit as “the revolt of the dispossessed” and gave a damning assessment of the establishment’s failure to offer an alternative to protectionism.

British-born Ryder said governments had been too quick to focus on headline figures that flattered the state of labour markets since the global financial crisis.  In so doing they had failed to scratch below the surface into a world of zero-hours contracts, underemployment and unreliable incomes, he said, as the ILO released research showing a rise in such non-standard forms of employment.

What do we mean when we talk about non-standard employment?

Here’s a useful breakdown: More about our latest report:

– ILO (@ilo) November 14, 2016

“The societies we all live in are distributing the benefits of globalisation and economic processes extraordinarily unfairly and people think they are getting a raw deal,” Ryder told the Guardian.

Speaking days after Trump stunned the world with his victory over Hillary Clinton, the ILO chief highlighted the common ground between the Republican candidate’s supporters and those who voted for the UK to leave the EU.

“It is the people who feel they haven’t benefited from globalisation and from the EU, from the way things are organised. This is the revolt of the dispossessed in that regard,” he said.

“And the point here is that feeling, that frustration, that disillusionment, I think is very much generated from people’s experience of work. Their exclusion from work, or their insertion in labour markets in conditions, which they find unacceptable.”

The ILO’s mandate centers’ on ensuring what it calls “decent work”.  But based on its own findings, the UN agency is facing an uphill battle. Casual forms of work more common in the developing world are being replicated in advanced economies – the “gig economy” – as on-demand services such as Uber and Deliveroo grow.

The ILO report published on Monday finds temporary work, agency work, precarious self-employment and other non-standard forms of employment have become more widespread.

On the ground, that translates into downward pressure on earnings, unreliable working hours and lower access to workplace benefits.

It comes back to the “raw deal” that Ryder talks about.

“If you count somebody on a zero-hours contract as being in work that helps the headline figures. If you look at their life you know that it is not the type of quality, decent work that I think we are all pursuing,” says Ryder, who has headed the ILO since 2012, having started his career at the TUC in Britain.

“People want to know how it can be different and the fact of the matter is, it can be different but it requires us to put the world of work and these tough labour market issues back on the table from which I think they have been unwisely removed by policymakers in recent years.”

His comments reflect the tendency among ministers to focus on record employment levels and falling unemployment, while largely ignoring that wages have stagnated, people have felt pressured into self-employment and millions say they want to work more hours than they can get.

Ryder believes the UK’s vote to leave the EU should be a wake-up call.

“If you take Brexit vote as a faithful reflection of the mood of people, it is not an expression of contentment and satisfaction with a full employment, ‘I’m doing well, I’m getting ahead’, workforce. The message is: ‘We are living this and it doesn’t feel very nice,’” he says.

Again, there are parallels with the US where ILO researchers found 10% of the workforce had irregular and on-call work schedules, with the lowest-income workers the hardest hit.

The agency wants old systems brought up to date to reflect today’s world of work.

Its recommendations for improving the quality of non-standard employment include plugging regulatory gaps to ensure workers are treated equally whatever type of contract they have. The ILO also wants to see minimum guaranteed hours, better social protection and stronger collective bargaining. That includes expanding unions to represent the growing number of workers in non-standard forms of employment.

Ryder also stresses the need for more equal treatment of migrant workers. “If you take seriously the enforcement of minimum conditions, if you take seriously the notion of equal treatment … you disarm and detoxify the labour market worries about undercutting local workers and at the same time you do the right thing by migrant workers.”

The ILO director concedes his agency is asking for a lot. But failure to act will leave voters looking to the “wrong place” for solutions, he says. That warning echoes growing concerns that the nationalist sentiment that boosted Trump will also come to the fore at upcoming votes in Italy, France, the Netherlands and Germany.

“In generic terms, I think people think they have a binary choice in life at the moment,” says Ryder. The options were “more of the same” with an acceptance that inequality would rise further or “defensive, protectionist, nationalistic” movements rejecting the status quo.

“We have to construct something which is different from both of those two poles and to demonstrate, or to convince people, that there are different ways. That we can manage our labour markets,” he says.

“But middle ground between the two binary options requires the hard work of doing some fairly hard engineering of labour markets.”

Furthermore, the establishment must work hard to regain people’s trust, he adds. “People are not necessarily looking to the established institutions or political parties or international organisations, of which I include the ILO, in the belief that we have credible responses. So we have to up our game in that regard.”

Ryder has just been given the backing of his agency to do just that. Last week the director general was re-elected for a second term with support from all three branches of the tripartite agency: workers’ representatives, employers and governments.

Alongside curbing the rise in insecure jobs and the ILO’s work on tackling child labour and forced labour, Ryder is also pushing the agency to anticipate future trends.

He believes the big drivers of change are technology, globalisation, demographics and the need to align jobs and job creation with fighting climate change. All are being explored under a “future of work” programme marking the ILO’s centenary in 2019.

So for an agency that has been through the second world war, the cold war, the fall of communism and the rise of globalisation, the focus now shifts to robots, global warming and the gig economy. But the motivation remains the same and as the world digests the latest political shock, it is perhaps unsurprising that Ryder highlights the ILO’s roots.

“Our historic mandate, and it came after the First World War, is based on the notion that if you want to preserve peace and stability in the world, you have to promote social justice and that has to begin in the world of work.”

Source:  theguardian

“Decent work and social justice – the APRM must bring a change in mindset”

Ms Tomoko Nishimoto, Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific

We all work; it is one of the few experiences shared by all humanity. But it is a mistake to believe that the importance of work lies just in providing material benefits. Work should offer dignity and importance, a chance to make a contribution to society. But, too often, it does not.

In a few days Government ministers, policy makers, employers and workers representatives will meet to debate some of the key issues currently affecting ordinary working people in our region.

The ILO’s Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) only takes place every four years. It will bring together more than 45 countries from Asia, the Pacific and the Arab states, offering a rare opportunity for the key actors shaping employment policy and practice to get together and co-ordinate their actions.

They are meeting at a time of great global uncertainty. The old economic dogma, that ‘a rising tide raises all boats’ is now widely discredited. Even in Asia Pacific – where economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty – it is widely accepted that unguided growth alone has not been enough. Inequality and vulnerable employment remain doggedly persistent in the region and in some places are getting worse.

This should be a concern for us all. The news headlines remind us almost every day of what happens when ordinary people feel electorally and economically disenfranchised, although 97 years ago the ILO’s Constitution put it just as succinctly as any newspaper editor; “poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere”.

I believe the international policy debate is now shifting to reflect this. Inclusivity and sustainability are watchwords for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which UN member states endorsed just over a year ago. What’s more, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) give specific attention to the role of Decent Work; it is the focus of SDG 8 and the principles run through many of the other 16 goals and their targets.

This shift in emphasis, from the quantitative to the qualitative, creates a need for fresh ideas that can shape a growth path that is inclusive and job-rich, rather than fostering inequality, uncertainty, and even fear.

But, to make this shift we must also change our mindsets and our definition of progress. We must position growth as a driver of social justice, not as an end in itself.

“The future we get will be shaped by the policies we adapt and the strategies we implement at meetings such as this”

The APRM offers a timely opportunity to do just that.

Our keynote debate will focus on inclusive growth and social justice. It will look at how we can shape the riptide of globalization – rather than be shaped by it – so that it delivers the equality and social justice we need.

Plenary debates will look at the trends and challenges we face and discuss the policies needed to create decent jobs and foster equity. They will also highlight the crucial role of social dialogue; it is no exaggeration to say that unless we embed social dialogue in our political and social cultures none of our goals will be achievable.

Another session will be devoted to skills and training. This is vital. Skills open doors to brighter futures, in particular for young people and groups who are often marginalized in development – women, indigenous peoples, those with disabilities. Skills and training allow new technology to create jobs. They form foundations which employers can use to create innovative, successful businesses.

Delegates will have the chance to discuss migration, in particular the importance of a fair, correctly regulated recruitment process.

There will also be a special session on the role of multinational enterprises (MNCs) and their interaction with social policies in the region, in the context of the ILO’s Tripartite Declaration of Principles on MNCs.

We will also review the results of the Asia Pacific Decent Work Decade (2006-16), through which the ILO member States in this region committed to promoting decent work for all their people. Our analysis shows that good progress was made, but that the Decade should be regarded as a foundation, not a conclusion of this process.

In particular more needs to be done to promote internationally-recognized labour standards, stronger labour market institutions, fair labour migration, social protection and gender equality. We need to work harder on the transition from informal to formal employment, and on the effects of climate change.

So the APRM must act as a call for action, leading to solid policies.

Ultimately, whether Asia Pacific finds a future that is inclusive and defined by decent work will be a political decision. The future we get will be shaped by the policies we adopt and the strategies we implement at meetings such as this.

Source: ILO Newsroom – Decent work and social justice – the APRM must bring a change in mindset

Pacific Workers Unions on the move

The Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Lautafi Fio Purcell, opened a key training involving workers’ Union representatives from the region at Orator Hotel, Apia Samoa on Monday.

The three-day meeting is being organised by the International Labour Organization (I.L.O) Office and the Samoa Workers Congress. “I encourage committing and increasing the promotion of youth and women in union activities,” said Minister Lautafi.  “I encourage you to continue the momentum and commitment in order to be truly active in strengthening the capacities in unions and the Pacific, and that the workers are well represented, their rights are respected and their voices are heard.”

The training is designed to strengthened capacities of the unions in Pacific by promoting freedom of association and decent work through effective organizing strategies and leadership skills. This will contribute to:

  • Increased understanding of the re-established Samoa Workers Congress to effectively make contributions to policy reform agenda of the social partners
  • Strengthen trade union structures through the promotion of freedom of association and organizing campaigns
  • Enhance the capacities of union to develop negotiators and educators  as leaders to promote collective bargaining, decent work and foster communication exchange and networking amongst unions for organizing and actions for decent work in Pacific  The training is being attended by young union activists and leaders in selected countries of the Pacific region – members of National Executive committee /Women’s Committee of national or industrial unions, and staff involved in organising and education.

Participants are from unions in Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

The training is facilitated by the I.L.O Workers Specialist; Jotika Sushil Gounder from Regional Office for Asia Pacific (ROAP) in Bangkok, with assistance from I.L.O National Coordinator for Samoa; Tomasi Peni, and the president of Samoa Workers Congress; Gatoloai Tilianamua Afamasaga.


By Natasha Schmidt