Promoting Decent Work Worldwide

10 March 2015 | „Axica“, Berlin, Germany

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi spoke at the conference "Promoting Decent Work Worldwide through Sustainable Supply Chains" hosted by BMZ and BMAS.

‘Decent work cannot be a luxury that only rich countries can afford,’ declared Andrea Nahles, German Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, in her opening speech at the G7 International Stakeholder Conference in Berlin’s Axica on 10 March. The ‘rich G7 countries’ she referred to, however, account for 52% of international wealth creation. The market power of the 750 million consumers who live there cannot be denied. This is why Ms Nahles, in conjunction with Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dr Gerd Müller, aims to initiate genuine improvements. ‘My favourite vision is that we manage to set up accident insurance schemes in producer countries,’ said Ms Nahles.

Development Minister Gerd Müller also stressed the market power of consumers and the responsibility that this brings with it. But he was careful to point to the obligations of manufacturers and the trade industry too. ‘The penny must drop,’ said Müller. ‘We live in one world. It is a question of global responsibility and ethics.’ Although Andrea Nahles is not in his political party, ‘what we share is the need to make our one world more socially responsible and more just’.

At a press conference on the sidelines of the conference, the two ministers presented their initiative to promote decent work worldwide through sustainable supply chains. The vision paper ‘Good work worldwide’ lays out specific steps for the G7 states to take. The two ministers agreed that Germany is willing and able to act as trailblazer here.

The children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his work, found expressive words in his address. Only if we work together, he said, ‘can we put an end to the slavery of children’.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (BMZ) Partnership for Sustainable Textiles too was discussed at the conference. A number of guests from producer countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan were invited. Bangladesh’s Minister of Commerce Tofail Ahmed was one of the speakers at a panel discussion, alongside the French Minister of Labour François Rebsamen.

The conference offered participants six different forums at which they could discuss the various aspects of sustainable supply chains: How can accidents at work be avoided? How can small and medium-size enterprises in G7 states help implement standards? What can be done to strengthen networks on environmental and social standards? How can complaints mechanisms be improved? How can capacity development be stepped up in producer countries? And how can consumers in G7 states be encouraged to make responsible decisions?

Two of the forums were headed by Thomas Silberhorn, Parliamentary State Secretary at the BMZ, and Jörg Asmussen, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS). Inputs came from representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the China National Textile and Apparel Council, BMW, and GIZ’s own Managing Director Dr Christoph Beier. Key was that enough time was allowed for discussion and comments.

At the closing session on 11 March, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim expressed his support for the initiative to promote decent work worldwide. The intention of making further progress in this context at the G7 summit of leading industrialised nations at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria in June is also an important contribution to the war on hunger, said Kim. He added, ‘The G7 could set the scene for an entirely new era in cooperation.’

Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, underscored the huge importance of Germany’s G7 Presidency, because it is high time that new momentum was found to implement standards along entire global supply chains. Germany can act as an important driver.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder also expects a lot from Germany’s Presidency. A great deal can be initiated, especially in the field of working conditions, but it must then also be carried forward, he said, perhaps to the G20 states. There are still about 80 days to go before the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau, but here in Berlin the stage has already been set in important ways. On that all participants agreed.

The event was jointly hosted by BMAS and BMZ with the support of GIZ’s Development Policy Forum.

Impressions of the event

Photo: Thomas Köhler

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