Saturday, February 21, 2009

UN/ILO Meting on Day of Social Justice

Mary Robinson Challenges both the ILO and the UN on "World Day of Social Justice"

by Mike Tolochko

Mary Robinson the former President of Ireland, former High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations and many other major international positions challenged the International Labor Organization and the United Nations to live up to the highest level of workers, labor union and everyone's social justice on the first day of the implementation of the United Nations General Assembly declaration that February 20th of each year: "World Day of Social Justice."

This UN declaration took place in 2007 and it was followed in June 10, 2008 by the International Labor Organization's adopting of the "Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization." The ILO declaration was signed by governments, employers and workers organizations, which emphasized the ILO's Decent Work concept adopted in 1999.

H.E. Omurbek Babanov, Vice Prime Minister of Krygyzstan, opened the special UN session, Friday, February 20, recalling the importance of past UN actions such as implementation of the Millennium Development Goals especially in regard to the collapse of the world financial system. He called special attention to the crisis with the invasion and destruction of Gaza.

Thomas Pogge a professor of philosophy and international affairs at Yale and author of the book, "World Poverty and Human Rights" cited worldwide poverty and malnutrition. He cited World Bank figures that in 2005 there were 3.14 billion people living in poverty and malnutrition or 48% of the world population. The world economic crisis will radically increase those numbers. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon often talks about the Bottom Billion.

Radhika Balakrishnan professor of economics at Marymount Manhattan College next said, "The current global economic crisis is evidence that the neo-liberal economic policies that have been followed for almost three decades have not worked." She said the policies have made bad assumptions, "about the virtues of the marker." She continued, "neo-liberal fiscal and monetary policies favor those groups with unearned income from interest-bearing financial assets and neglect the fulfillment of the right to work for those whose only asset is their labor."

She later, during the discussion period said that a main problem for academics is that most, a large percent, economic teachers are not equipped to deal with an economy where their main ideology has failed.

H.E. Miguel D'Escoto, president of the General Assembly for the 63rd Session sent a message of support. He said, among other things, "These are trying times for the world, especially for the hundreds of millions of marginalized people who live in poverty and isolation. Last month we were witness to the violence against the most afflicted members of our world community, the Palestinian people in Gaza."

This special session took place in the Economic ad Social Council Chamber of the UN.

Mary Robinson's comment triggered a lot of discussion. She made it clear that the UN has a special responsibility with its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The celebration of that Declaration on its 60th Anniversary took place in Paris, 2008. Robinson especially pointed to Article 23 of the Declaration, which demands the Right to Work and to right to form Trade Unions. This she coupled with a minimum package of labor union rights. She was very well received by the few hundred of gathered NGOs and activists.