Towards The ILO Centenary, By Issa Aremu

iloILO was founded in 1919 after the destructive first world war. It upholds a vision of the world based on social justice. It marks 100th anniversary in the next 6 years; 2019. This year’s 102th Session of its annual Conference assumes a special and historic significance. Yours comradely delegate served on the Committee of the Conference on Sustainable Development. Importantly too, as the Chairman of the NLC International Relations committee, I took the floor at the Plenary which opened on the 12th Wednesday of June in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the report of ILO Director General. Today, I share my intervention with readers on the twin issues of Sustainable Development and global poverty. Happy reading;

“I bring fraternal greetings from the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar to the chairperson of ILC and the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder. I recall with nolstagia that until last year Guy Ryder, was a formidable voice in global trade union movement, my constituency! We appreciate the 10th Director General for his report which is truly “concise, clear and accessible”. An old received wisdom has it that “He who does not look ahead always remains behind”. We commend the Director-General for his comprehensive forward looking realitic report enttittled; Towards the ILO centenary; Realities, renewal and tripartite commitment. The strength of his vision lies in its profound
commendable appreciation of the current realities in the world of work and it’s proposals for the future. Two issues are of special interests ; war against extreme poverty and sustainable development to the NLC. This report rightly deals with the issue of extreme poverty and prosperity. It is now fashionable to lament the plight of the poor.. But it it was ILO which first commendably raised the alarm about the danger of global poverty. And that was at a time it was not fashionable and even risky to do so! United States of America which did not join the ILO until 1934 under President Franklin Roosevelt. It actually once labelled
the moderate lofty human ideals of ILO “communist ” and “inimical to free enterprise”. ILO Objectives in the Declaration of Philadelphia in 1944 say it all; poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity every where!

We agree with the optimism of this report that overcoming poverty is clearly surmountable. The cited case is China’s dramatic development which has taken millions out of poverty. It is clear that progress is being made in the global struggle to eradicate poverty. The Director General’s report is even frank enough to point out the danger of the emergence of what I call the new poor, ironically in a number of middle income countries. “These new contours of poverty and prosperity” task us to critically relook at the ILO mandate. The poor need jobs,
incomes, food, housing, schools, electricity, roads, pension, credits not recommendations and conclusions. 6 years into ILO centenary, poverty anywhere remains a danger to prosperity everywhere. The zones breeding terrorism are also poverty zones of the world.. ILO more than ever before even need to be more vocal and loud against the extreme wealth of the few in few nations of the world. There is an inverse relationship between the prosperity of the few and the misery of the many. Many millions of youths and women lack jobs. Many workers do precarious jobs without minimum wages. Many young women and children are pushed into prostitution and child labour. All these unacceptable deprivations take place in a
number of member-countries of ILO that parade few billionaires and even owners of private jets! We must reverse this trend. The global widening income inequalities undermine the struggle for social justice.“Mahatma Ghandi of India said it all; The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”
At centenary, ILO must throughout the instrument of social dialogue demand for global wealth redistribution to eradicate poverty. Let us moderate extreme prosperity of the few through tripartite social dialogue for wealth redistribution. It is about common sense. There is a Nigerian proverb which says and rightly too that; “It is an unthinking man who achieves prosperity, and then finds with time, that his body can no longer pass through the door.” We have downsized the poor enough. The extreme rich must also shed the weight of their
excess wealth through reinvestment of idle luxury wealth in sustainable labour intensive industries, public sector institutions, public schools and creation of decent green jobs. “The alcohol that is insufficient for a whole town ought not to intoxicate one man.” In the next century, ILO should be celebrating the wealth of nations and peoples of our planet not lamenting the poverty of many and prosperity of the few. We must replace the well-having of the few with the well- being of the many.

We agree with the conclusion of this report that the key out of poverty is decent job. A Nigerian proverb says it all; “Work is anti-dote/remedy to poverty”. However without sustainable development there cannot be decent jobs. In many African countries, we have to reinvent development before we can even make it sustainable. There is a new underdevelopment and de-industrialization in Africa. Many African economies are outside development discourse much less sustainable development! Many are neck deep in corruption. Growth drivers in the continent are in the extractive sectors. Economies that live on extractions of raw materials without value additions pose serious danger to the climate.

ILO’s priorities should include the promotion of economic diversification in constituent members states that are currently dependent on export of raw materials. Countries should be encouraged to create value adding green economic activities and create quality jobs through appropriate macro economic and industrial policies. Real sector is increasingly collapsing killing mass jobs.There is a withering away of the working class. Labour standards without working classes are standards in vain! ILO created in the heat of the crisis of the 20th
century is hunted with global economic crisis of the 21st century. We need sustainable enterprises to guarantee sustainable jobs. Indeed as ILO celebrates its centenary we need a binding Convention on SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. We once again congratulate the DG for his Vision and urge all tripartite members to make it a reality through critical tripartite engagement and cooperation with the DG centenary reform agenda. Long Live ILO! Thank you”
ISSA AREMU ([email protected])

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