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ILO Head Warns Unemployment Could Endanger Global Stability - 2004-06-01


The head of the International Labor Organization has issued a warning that global stability is at risk if the problem of unemployment around the world is not solved. More than 4,000 delegates from 177 member states are in Geneva for the ILO's three-week conference, which will set the organization's work and social policies for the coming year.

The focus of this year's International Labor Conference is on jobs. The ILO says globalization has failed most people in the world and that the system must be changed to create opportunities for decent work for hundreds of millions of workers around the world.

The ILO's director-general, Juan Somavia, says the conference is meeting at a time when global unemployment is at record highs. He says more than one-billion people are unemployed, under-employed or are working poor.

Mr. Somavia also said half the world is surviving on less than $2 a day. "There is no doubt that globalization is bringing new opportunities and possibilities. But for the majority of people around the world globalization is not shining. This is a process that must change, as the commission says. A fair globalization is the foundation of global stability and our discussion here is focused on advancing that goal," he said.

Next week, the ILO conference is scheduled to hold a special discussion based on a report of the so-called World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization. The panel will include the presidents of Finland and Tanzania, who co-chaired the commission, as well as the president of Bulgaria and the prime ministers of Spain and New Zealand.

The World Commission report calls for an urgent reconsideration of current policies and institutions that govern globalization.

Mr. Somavia said the ILO agrees with the commission's assessment that globalization as it exists must be changed. "The trade policies, the financial policies, the monetary policies, the development policies, the migration policies, all the policies can be changed. And that is what the report says. We need to look at those policies, change the path of globalization to make it equitable and to make it fair. The report is an eminently common sense report, because what it says is if we want a sustainable process that benefits more people, the policies will have to be adapted and changed," he said.

The conference agenda also includes a general debate on the need to ensure greater protection for migrant workers. The ILO. says a growing number of migrants, about 86 million, are crossing borders in search of employment. The ILO. says it intends to submit an action plan next year based on this year's discussions.

The conference will start work on revising international labor standards in the fishing sector, one of the most dangerous industries in the world. It will hold special sessions devoted to forced labor in Burma and the situation of workers in the occupied territories in the Middle East.

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