World Day for Decent Work: Business cupidity should end

At the occasion of the World Day for Decent Work and at the moment where the European institutions negotiate a Proclamation on the coming European Pillar of Social Rights to be presented at the European social summit in Gothenburg in November, SOLIDAR reiterates the importance to guarantee decent work worldwide. Decent work is more than about jobs, it is about rights and dignity. Over the last year, decent work has been seriously challenged by globalisation. Indeed, the growing affluence of private companies and global supply chains in emerging countries have contributed to the creation of new job opportunities. However, it often happens at the expense of decent wages, fair working conditions and environment, communities’ and citizens’ rights. Moreover, greater power imbalance has been observed, where States have failed to guarantee and protect the rights of communities and indigenous people while the space for civil society organisations has been shrinking as a result.

In this context, SOLIDAR presents its briefing paper, which looks at the diverse implications of private sector’s involvement in development. It falls at a moment where the private sector is highly being promoted a key actor for development. Referring to the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, stated that ‘The massive need for investment in projects of public interest in developing countries cannot be met by the public sector alone, this is why the involvement of the private sector in reaching the SDGs is key’.

From SOLIDAR perspective, while private sector could contribute financially to development, it does not mean that development objectives will be achieved. So far, the private sector has not shown a real and positive impact on poverty eradication and inequality reduction.  If the private sector is to be involved in development, this must be based on well though-out and critical assessments, which is the only way towards sound policies meant to respect planetary boundaries and to leave no one behind.

In light of this briefing, SOLIDAR recommends to:

  • Define and adopt a normative framework offering an approach and clear guidelines to the private sector when engaging for development.  It means ensuring a participatory, solidarity-based and human right-based approach to development while keeping inequality reduction, poverty eradication as primary objectives and promoting decent work. The 2030 Agenda, promoting policy coherence for sustainable development, should help setting this framework to ensure that private sector’s involvement does not go against the achievement of social cohesion and human rights;
  • Improve and spend more effort on transparency, accountability and regulations. This requires: (1) the regular and public publication of data and information on the activities and results of the projects (transparency); (2) the setting of clear social, labour and environmental standards in any contracts which should be regularly assessed and monitored internally but also by independent and external actors, including civil society organizations (accountability); (3) the establishment of binding instruments to ensure compliance with the standards and limit development-unfriendly corporate behaviors such tax avoidance or evasion (regulation); (4) the setting of free, accessible and independent complain mechanism to avoid conflicts of interests;
  • Ensure that any development-related foreign direct investments, business investment, responsible corporate actions and projects is designed in line with the country and local specificities as well as with the national development strategy. Consultations with all concerned stakeholders from government officials and worker representatives to locals and communities must be held during the project design as well as during the implementation process.

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