Speech

Speech by Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen at IBTU-kongres 4.-6. september 2001

Global solidarity

It is good to see you all here in Copenhagen.

One of the books that has made the greatest impression on me is Hard times by Charles Dickens. In this book Dickens describes child labour in England in the 19th century.

He describes how children at the age of 6 years – boys as well as girls – were taken down in the coalmines. Here they had to work for 12 hours a day under ruthless conditions.

The industrialisation led to drastic changes in people’s lives and working conditions. And it was also the era during which the foundation was laid for the trade union movement and the work for international solidarity.

Our ancestors were fighting for the right to organise and form trade unions.

They recognised the necessity and need for organisation of workers and international solidarity.

This lead to the abolition of child labour in the coalmines.

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All this came and became reality in our nations. Not by chance – but by choice. By will and solidarity in our organisations – through our trade unions and through our labour parties/social democratic parties. Gradually welfare societies became realities in our part of the world. By will and solidarity and united efforts.

This meant that ordinary people began to benefit from the big opportunities which industrialisation opened up for.

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Now the times they are changing again. This time internationally.

In many ways, globalisation shares many of the features characterising the era of industrialisation.

Globalisation do have two sides – as the two sides of the coin. It is about change again. It is about need for political leadership and trade union efforts.

On the one hand, globalisation contains new opportunities for growth.

And cross-border investments which may contribute to the spreading new advanced technologies, a higher degree of know-how and more efficient production processes.

On the other hand, there are aspects of the globalisation which lead to uncertainty and concern. And to the deterioration of the working conditions of many people. And to stop or delete new opportunities and progress for many people.

I know that you have lots of examples within the IBTU. For instance building and construction workers who have to compete with illegal and underpaid imported labour.

Many people are very worried about their working conditions and about social dumping.

A small number of multinational companies controls today more than half of the world trade. In a small number of management boards, rooms, decisions are taken, which influence our daily life for millions of people in nations, without any democratic or political counterplay. Without any political regulation.

We have seen in the past years what economic turbulence on financial markets can do of damages to nations and peoples. We need more politics to ensure a more stabilized economic development.

We need to face these issues and to provide viable solutions if we want to reap benefits of globalisation. And to make the man in the street feel wholesome in the new international circumstances.

We need more politics not less politics. We need more regulation worldwide, not less regulation. We need a human face of the market forces globally, as we have created nationally, not least here in this part of the world in Europe. We need a shared vision among labour parties and social democratic parties and our trade unions all over the world. A shared vision which we can fullfill in the coming years.

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The answer from IBTU to globalisation

In IBTU’s strategy plan for 2001 to 2005 you have presented your answers to the issue of globalisation.

I find these answers very good and very relevant.

Let me mention just a few of them:

You propose to build up a global network. It is evident that such a network is necessary for coherent and co-ordinated action which will ensure and develop working conditions within your occupational field.

The fight against discrimination – whether on the grounds of ethnic origin, colour of the skin, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, political opinion or nationality – is an important goal. A goal which is a cornerstone in the Danish Government’s foreign policy.

A safe and sound working environment is also an important issue. It is not only the trees out in the forests which are to be thriving. Forest workers also have a right to a healthy working environment.

The biggest challenge we are facing is probably our efforts to abolish child labour, forced labour and bond-slavery. It is extremely distressing to see so many examples of these practices here at the beginning of the 21st century.

Each and every of these examples are just too much. We have to stop these activities. They do not belong in the 21st century of humanity and democracy.

International problems and threats need international political answers and international regulation.

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The OECD guidelines, WTO and a new “Global Deal”

We are now recognising – also at the level of governments – that the global economy opens up for new opportunities and great potentials. But we also realise that it needs regulation in order to have a human face.

At the OECD ministerial meeting last year 33 countries reached an agreement to draw up a set of guidelines for multinational enterprises.

The purpose of these guidelines is that it should not be possible to avoid or fail to observe reasonable requirements to good business practice by just moving across the border. This is why these guidelines lay down a number of standards for good business practices as regards environment, employment, industrial relations, the duty to disclose information, competition, corruption, taxation and technology.

From the Danish side, we have found it important to draw up guidelines which are as comprehensive and effective as possible. But it was also important for us to ensure that the representatives of enterprises and trade unions were involved and committed. Otherwise the guidelines would just be an empty gesture.

I see the guidelines as an important first step in the right direction. But only a first step.

We expect these guidelines to be observed by all enterprises irrespective of where in the world they are operating.

NGO’s have played an active role in the drafting of the guidelines and supported the goal which has now been reached. We hope that more countries will endorse the guidelines.

But at the same time, I would like to stress that the Danish Government has not given up the idea of introducing multinational binding rules in this field.

This is especially important in the age of globalisation because today we see more and more governments try to attract international investments. This is not always a pretty sight. In my country we avoid it, but in others we can see governments are changing ability and rules to attract international investments. This is a specific argument to make multinational binding rules in this field.

On the international scene we therefore have to increase our efforts and to find the framework to make progress for ordinary people. At least we have some concrete possibilities, which we should use more actively, that we have done up till now.

now we see WTO as a possible forum for negotiations which may at some point of time lead to binding rules. This could, for instance, be rules which provide that countries which receive investments have to comply with international commitments concerning workers’ rights and the environment. And also that national rules in these fields must not be relaxed or set aside in order to attract foreign investments.

ILO is also an important forum when it comes to giving globalisation a human face. ILO’s measures to promote decent work is an example of this. Not all jobs are good. It is important to look at the quality of the jobs created. And the message from ILO is clear: It must be decent jobs with good working conditions and with a guarantee of fundamental workers’ rights.

In the concept of G7/G8, the World Bank, the IMF, we should take political initiatives which go even further than we have seen up till now, to obtain higher stability on financial markets. The so-called heads-funds, and off-shore funds have often contributed to more turbulence which has undermined national governments efforts to bring their countries out of economic problems on a democratic basis. We need more political international regulations on the financial markets – not less.

Globalisation must be met with initiatives of this kind in a number of international organizations. But at the same time a challenge as fundamental as globalisation does call for a global solution. There is need for a new “Global Deal” with the view to secure an economic, social and environmental sustainable development in the world.

The fundamental importance of solidarity stays in the centre of the global deal. The richer part of the world, including Europe, have to open their markets. This is fundamental for new economic and social development in the third countries – in developping countries. I am personally convinced that the new initiative from the European Union: “Anything but arms” in the coming years will be of fundamental positive importance to reach a further add value to the economic and social development of the developing countries in the world. We are prepared to follow up – and we shall.

The new “Global Deal” must be agreed upon by the richer economies and the developing countries. Between the Northern and Southern hemisphere.

The goals are clear – our ambitions too. But what about our strategy?

Do we have a platform for performing and fighting for our goals in this globalised world. Do we have any region in the world to take the lead, to take the initiative , to take the ambition?

Let me be clear: I think that the European Union in this part of the world is the only effective cross border organisation, which can make decisions of coordinated caracter to change, to set the agenda on the basis of our values and goals.

I look forward to seeing the European Union take upon her the responsibility of global leadership as far as these fundamental questions is concerned, which we are discussing on this international congress.

And luckily so, because the European Union has shown – and has decided – to take upon her, so to say, an agenda.

Ten years after Rio, we will meet next year at a very important meeting about the global deal.

Such a deal should be concluded in September next year at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in South Africa.

We – the Danish government – will be president at that time of the European Union. We feel great responsibility to that job. We will be clear in our voice. We will be well-prepared and well-coordinated. We will be well-equipped to fight for a substantial global deal in Johannesburg.

A “Global Deal” could be a deal where we in the developed economies commit ourselves to market access and enlarged development aid. And where the developing countries commit themselves to principles on safe and sound working environment and to international environmental objectives – including protection of the world’s rainforests.

The vision of such a “Global Deal” was presented at the OECD ministerial meeting earlier this year in Paris. A meeting chaired by Denmark. At the Gothenburg Summit in June the EU countries agreed to seek a decision on a “Global Deal” at the Johannesburg World Summit in September next year. A summit meeting which will have a very high priority for the Danish EU-Presidency in the second half of 2002.

I am not saying that it would be so. I am not saying that these goals automatically will be reached. I am only saying that it could be.

But a fundamental precondition for that is that we unite. That we have this shared vision. That we stand up and coordinate and fight for our points.

The first comprehensive binding political answers to globalisation. And goal-oriented fight against poverty. This is our ambition. This could be so if we wanted to be so. And if we stand together.

It took a hundred years to build up decent regulated national societies and nations. We shall not wait another hundred years to do that same effort on international level. We need not wait another hundred years to create international order and human rules and to ensure a human face to the international market forces.

We want to go faster and we can do so. In our nations we have reached progress by solidarity and united efforts. We must do the same on the international scene now.

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Conclusion

We must learn from the past.

The social costs which were the result of unregulated market forces in the era of industrialisation must not be repeated in our time.

Children must not be seen working in mines or at construction sites.

Worker in our countries should not be threatened on their jobs by illegal and imported labour.

Building workers should not be seen climbing unsafe scaffolds.

Forest workers are not be used for ruthless exploitation of the forests.

This is why we say no to child labour and no to social dumping.

Instead we should be working to promote labour standards in all countries in the world. We must work for global cohesion and solidarity. This is the only way to ensure that all human beings will profit from the big opportunities entailed by globalisation.

IBTU is a very important active partner in this combat. I firmly believe that by joining our efforts we will be able to create a globalisation and a market economy with a human face.

Our efforts to create a better world for ordinary workers and families by building international rules is a fundamental human and democratic project.

Let us unite our different efforts to create our common shared vision.

Let us make that shared vision a reality in the next few years.

I wish you all well – and united.