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Trade unions welcome new anti-poverty initiative

Trade unions welcome new anti-poverty initiative at U.N.

(ICFTU Online): A new initiative to overcome poverty and increase financing for development received strong backing from the international trade union movement today. Backed by the Brazilan President Lula, the initiative was launched today at a special meeting of world leaders at the United Nations in New York. "We share President Lula's view that the levels of poverty and hunger in the world today are utterly intolerable," stated Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the world's largest trade union body, ahead of addressing President Lula's special session at the U.N. this afternoon (20th September). "The world trade union movement can play a fundamental role in mobilising hundreds of millions of workers around the world in a global campaign to end poverty and attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The blueprint for that campaign's objectives should be the report of the World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalisation, launched earlier this year at the International Labour Organisation (ILO)."

The World Commission report was prepared by 26 high-level members including trade union leaders John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO and President of TUAC (Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD); and Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary of COSATU in South Africa.

"We need innovative sources of funding to raise resources for development spending," stated John Evans, General Secretary of TUAC. "Proposals like the International Finance Facility suggested by Gordon Brown require full support from the international community, as part of a new joint effort. So do the innovative proposals raised in the report to President Jacques Chirac for new international initiatives to boost development financing and to meet the MDGs."

The union leaders stressed that decent work is the strongest tool world leaders can use in implementing effective anti-poverty measures. Hundreds of millions in the world's workforce are unable to find productive employment, which is an unacceptable waste of the world's most valuable resource - human beings. Historically high levels of youth unemployment in many countries are creating the seeds of a social catastrophe that risks exploding at any time. Women face particular difficulties as a result of the discrimination they have faced in the past and to which they continue to be exposed.

"The key to the reducing poverty is the provision of more employment and an improvement in the quality and remuneration of employment," said Ryder. "These concepts are all present in the ILO's definition of decent work. Dignity and justice at the workplace - requiring respect for core labour standards - is essential if workers are to receive a fair share of the resources their work creates, and so escape from poverty and contribute to social development."

Ryder and Evans emphasised the importance of the World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalisation.

"All organisations in the multilateral system need to deal with international economic and labour policies in a more integrated and consistent way as a foundation for economic development and social justice," stated Ryder. "The significance of the World Commission's report is that it offers all of us a real chance to make a new start on globalisation, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals".

The ICFTU represents 148 million workers in 234 affiliated organisations in 152 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions: http://www.global-unions.org

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