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IP/01/1029

Brussels, 18 July 2001

The European Commission adopts strategy to promote core labour standards and social governance globally

The European Commission today adopted a communication proposing an EU strategy to promote core labour standards and social governance globally. The communication proposes action at European and at international levels, to support the effective application of core labour standards at global level. The development dimension is central to the strategy, which aims to help developing countries apply core labour standards for social development. Commenting on the launch of the proposals today, Commissioners Pascal Lamy (Trade) and Anna Diamantopoulou (Employment) said : "Citizens feel there is a need for an equitable global economic system which promotes social development and fundamental rights and that our current governance model does not adequately address this. Global market governance has developed more quickly than global social governance. We should rebalance the system to help promote social development and ensure that globalisation benefits all people and all countries."

The strategy confirms the central role of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The Communication supports a better balance of the global governance system, through both a strengthening and using more effectively ILO instruments and fostering joint work by international organisations In the ILO, this would imply discussion of steps to reinforce the effectiveness of supervision, including better publicity and more effective follow-up, and discussion of a new incentive mechanism to promote the respect for core labour standards, as well as increased contributions to ILO technical assistance The Communication also proposes to create a high-level international dialogue, with the participation of international organisations the ILO and the World Trade Organisation, as well as development organisations such as United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This international dialogue would help identify best practices and policies that will further the contribution of trade to social development worldwide.The Communication stays true to the fundamental principle of clearly rejecting any use of core labour standards for protectionist purposes or putting into question the comparative advantage of low-wage developing countries.

As regards action at the European level, the strategy proposes a more coherent use of a wide range of policy instruments. Poverty and inadequate domestic governance structures are often the main cause of social problems, and development tools therefore play a central role. The Commission communication suggests integrating core labour standards in its development policy and strengthening capacity in developing countries to apply core labour standards. It also suggests that core labour standards should have their place in bilateral agreements between Europe and third countries. The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) of the EU provides preferential market access to developing countries. Additional preferences are given to countries under the social incentive scheme, provided they apply core labour standards. The Commission suggests improving this social incentive scheme to make it more attractive to developing countries and making available development assistance available to developing countries to help them make better use of the social incentive opportunities.

The Commission also recognises the importance of private voluntary initiatives. Such initiatives reflect the corporate social responsibility of companies and their increasingly important role in supporting social development. The Commission also today adopted a Green Paper on Corporate Social Responsibility, which complements the Communication on the promotion of core labour standards and the improvement in social governance.

This initiative of the Commission should be seen in the context of important international developments over the last decade, in particular the understanding on the universality of core labour standards in the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen and the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. International consensus to promote corporate social responsibility has also developed, such as the UN Global Compact and the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, which the Commission supports.

Background

The full text of the Communication can be found on DG TRADE's website:

http://ec.europa.eu/trade/miti/devel/cls.htm

To know more about the EU development policy go to:

http://ec.europa.eu/development/politique_en.htm

For details on the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) go to:

http://ec.europa.eu/trade/miti/devel/ngsp_reg.htm

Details on the Green Paper on Corporate Social Responsibility can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/soc-dial/csr/csr_index.htm


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