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Preface: Working Out of Poverty
This is my third opportunity to offer the Director-General’s Report to
the International Labour Conference. The first,
mandate, interpreted it and defined our mission for the world of today,
based on ILO values. You subscribed to the agenda we set out, which affirmed
that the ILO had to be concerned with all workers, including those
beyond the formal labour market.
My second Report,
Reducing the decent work deficit,
examined the gap
between people’s aspirations about work and the reality. I identified the decent
work deficit as a measure of that gap between the world we work in and
the hopes that people have for a better life. That Report observed that, for
many, decent work is the quality road to poverty reduction and greater legitimacy
of the global economy. This year’s Report zeroes in on that theme. It
focuses on the working poor and the poor who are excluded from work.
It shows the “decent work dividends” that accrue to families and societies as
a whole through a concerted effort to attack poverty.
Chapter 1 crystallizes my thoughts, commitments and ideas on this vital
issue. We have a rich historic mandate that calls us to the challenge of fighting
poverty. Our experience on the ground is bringing that mandate to life
throughout the world. And we face common challenges as we join with
others to provide women and men with the tools and support to work out of
poverty. Chapter 1 is my personal exploration of these key issues.
The subsequent chapters are more technical in nature, providing an indepth
and detailed account of the various dimensions of ILO efforts to eradicate
poverty. Chapter 2 focuses on the complexity of poverty and the cycle
of disadvantage that it creates. Chapter 3 describes ILO action on the ground
and tools in the fight against poverty. Chapter 4 examines how rights at work
and the institutional structure of the informal and formal labour market relate
to employment creation, poverty reduction and competitiveness in a global
economy. Finally, Chapter 5 discusses the need for a coordination of
policies that focus on different dimensions of the life of people living in
We know that work is the best route out of poverty. But one cannot
legislate employment in and poverty out. It is a long and complex process
that requires all elements of society to work together. Governments, employers
and workers each have a unique and crucial role to play in defining
a positive consensus. I invite you to emerge from this International Labour
Conference with a renewed tripartite commitment to helping free people
and societies from the global poverty trap. Tripartism is our strength and
unique contribution. Together, let us take the next and needed step on the
road out of poverty and to decent work for all.
April 2003 Juan Somavia
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References: Learning to change: Skills development among the economically vulnerable and socially excluded in developing countries
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As the world's only tripartite multilateral agency, the ILO is dedicated to bringing decent work and livelihoods, job-related security and better living standards to the people of both poor and rich countries. It helps to attain those goals by promoting rights at work, encouraging opportunities for decent employment, enhancing social protection and strengthening dialogue on work-related issues. The ILO is the international meeting place for the world of work. We are the experts on work and employment and particularly on the critical role that these issues play in bringing about economic development and progress. At the heart of our mission is helping countries build the institutions that are the bulwarks of democracy and to help them become accountable to the people. The ILO formulates international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations setting minimum standards of basic labour rights: freedom of association, the right to organize, collective bargaining, abolition of forced labour, equality of opportunity and treatment and other standards addressing conditions across the entire spectrum of work-related issues.
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