Through Global Deal, Social Dialogue a Means to Achieving the SDGs

A year after launching the Global Deal, the Prime Minister of Sweden said at the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit that the international initiative for social dialogue and better conditions in the labour market is successfully contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are seeing a reduction in poverty, have a growing middle class and more children are going to school – this is progress,” said Stefan Löfven, who spearheaded the initiative. “We want all human beings to have a good life. The Global Deal is essential to that.”

The Global Deal aims to encourage governments, businesses, unions and other organizations to make commitments to enhance social dialogue. Social dialogue includes all types of negotiation, consultation or exchange of information between or among representatives of governments, employers and workers on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy.

Acknowledging that workforces across the globe are becoming less unionized as economies move away from the manufacturing sector to services, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris; and a Member of Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum, said new forms of social dialogue and protection are needed to adapt to growing digitalization. “You need to prepare the workforce and society, and leverage social dialogues, when moving the economy into the 21st century.”

Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO), Geneva, added: “Social dialogue is a public good in that it helps society address problems” in a way that is fair, inclusive and takes the edges off of inequality. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International, United Kingdom, added that her organization is committed to exposing the extreme rise in inequality and to fighting for the rights of workers. “Social dialogue [between business, government and citizens] is the way forward.”

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, said that such a dialogue is important to the protection of human rights and labourers. “We must see the interest of labourers, especially women, farmers and downtrodden people, and assist all people so they can have a better life,” she said. Bangladesh is one of the countries that signed up to the Global Deal.

Tabaré Vázquez, President of Uruguay, said that dialogue is the cornerstone of democracy and, as leader of a country that has also signed the Global Deal, has seen an improvement in real wages and health insurance.

Philip J. Jennings, General Secretary, UNI Global Union, Switzerland, said engaging the workforce through social dialogue is a win-win situation, especially given the demands and new pressures on the business community. “We like the Global Deal,” he said. “It is an invitation to the business community to engage with the workforce and important stakeholders.”

The Global Deal, as well as achieving the SDGs, also makes good business sense for one of the largest industry sectors – the mobile industry, which today connects over 5 billion people. “2G gave us mobility, 3G gave us more speed, and then 4G gave us better speed and one common platform globally. This platform is connecting everyone to a better future,” said Mats Granryd, Director-General, GSMA, United Kingdom. “What will happen with 5G?” he asked. “It will change society.”

Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, concluded, saying that the Global Deal, the SDGs and the Paris climate agreement are all one and the same, and that people need to be at the centre of the dialogue to actualize justice; and to do it without fear, they need equal access. “The UN is ready to lead and the SDGs will deliver us to the ‘promised land’.”

The Global Deal is a multistakeholder partnership in line with Goal 17 (“partnerships for the goals”) in the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. It is also a concrete input to several of the other goals, not least Goal 8 on decent work and inclusive growth and Goal 10 on inequalities.

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