Global Issues, Local Action

Posted on August 30, 2016 at 03:01 PM

David Joyce: International Development Officer
David Joyce: International Development Officer

David Joyce delves into some of the key issues to be tacked at the Global Solidarity Summer School

Global challenges & Opportunities: Local & Global Responses is the theme for the 2016 Global Solidarity Summer School, which takes place this year in Donegal.

This is the eight successive incarnation of the event, whose agenda and attendance grows and swells with each passing year.

This year, delegates in Donegal will debate the key issue of Climate Change the, critically, how we can make a just transition to a greener economy (see below).

The global Refugee Crisis will also be on the agenda, while we also hear new eyewitness testimony from Palestine.

Since we gathered in Cork last year, the world has seen two major international agreements that, if fully implemented, could help improve the lives of hundreds of millions. September 2015 saw formal agreement of Agenda 2030 which includes Goal 8 - on Decent Work and inclusive economic development.

The ILO estimates that we need to create around 40 million jobs per year and radically improve conditions for the some 780 million working men and women who do not earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

The End to Poverty Initiative outlines how Agenda 2030 puts decent work for all at the heart of the global sustainable development road map for the next 15 years and we look forward to hearing from keynote speaker, Anna Biondi from ACTRAV on this key issue. (Congress is co-hosting, with Trinity College Dublin, a specific conference on Goal 8 on November 11th 2016. More details will be posted to the Congress site when available.)

In June 2016 we also saw the International Labour Organisation’s Committee on Decent Work in Global Supply Chains hold nine days of intense tripartite discussions to explore how global supply chains can effectively contribute to decent work and sustainable development. The Committee adopted by consensus a resolution and set of action-oriented conclusions. These give a strong mandate to the ILO to lead the global call for action to bridge governance gaps in sectoral, national, regional and international supply chains. 

In December 2015, governments gathered in Paris where the historic global agreement on climate change was agreed. The deal recognises the reality of the climate change threat, despite the gap between the long term objective and the aggregate effect of the nationally determined contributions agreed by countries in advance of the conference.

Crucially, and due to trade union efforts, there is a reference to human rights and the concept of just transition in the Paris text. There is a broad consensus that in order to stabilise the climate we need to make profound changes to our energy systems and to all economic sectors.  Workers have a right to know about and feed into the plans to decarbonise economies and work places. (SDG 13 has targets for Climate Action).

Looming large over all of this is the worst refugee crisis since the World War II. More than 60 million people are fleeing from war, terror and abject poverty. With 80% of displaced persons remaining in developing countries, Europe and other G20 nations are scrambling to minimise refugee intake. The ITUC has set out a trade union approach to the crisis and we will be discussing how we can play our part.  SDG 10 has targets for migration and there is an international summit for refugees and migrants next month in New York to which trade unions will be submitting views.

The ongoing violation of the human rights of the people of Palestine continues to be a stain on humanity and the situation of workers in the occupied territorties is an issue for unions globally. Trade Union Friends of Palestine will report to the summer school on a recent delegation to the region.

Warnings have also been sounded about the dangers of environmental regulations and poverty reduction measures being sacrificed at the altar of trade deals – such as TTIP – and Congress will continue to resist such deals that threaten our rights.  Recent reports of the demise of TTIP have perhaps been exaggerated as Owen Tudor of the TUC explains

Unfortunately, we are well aware of the urgency of promoting decent work from tragic events such as Rana Plaza (which claimed the lives of 1138 people) and the ongoing scandal of the treatment of migrant labour in Qatari preparations for FIFA World Cup 2022. A recent report from the International Trade Union Confederation estimates that $15 billion profit will be made by companies working in Qatar and estimates that 7,000 workers will die before a ball is kicked in the 2022 World Cup. 

The Irish Government is also in the process of finalising a national action plan on business and human rights which could prove to be a useful lever to ensure that Irish companies operating abroad are doing all in their power to ensure their operations do not infringe upon the human rights of people.

Irish trade unions have a proud record of shining a light on violations of workers’ rights in Qatar and elsewhere. We are coordinating with the TUC on a day of action to be held in October and we encourage unions to play an active role in any initiatives organised in Ireland. 

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