GSO Commentary — The ILO and the Rio+20 Summit

The ILO will play an active role in the Rio+20 Summit for Sustainable Development, as laid out in the deliberations of its Governing Body in March.  In contrast to the slow and indecisive bracketing of divergent amendments to the outcomes document for the Rio+20 Summit during the “informal- informal” consultations and inter-sessional negotiations in New York, the Governing Body deliberations were remarkably harmonious.

While there were some differences between the ILO’s social partners, the Workers’ and Employers’ Groups who are part of the tripartite governance of the ILO along with governments, both groups seemed to zero in on the issue of the green economy and how “green jobs” should encompass sustainability and Decent Work for the whole economy.  The Employers emphasize sustainable enterprises, while the Workers emphasize the broader Decent Work commitment, but the basic message is the same.  As the US government delegate put it, the definition of green jobs should incorporate the concept that all jobs need to be performed in a green manner.  The EU called for a green economy roadmap with a timetable for poverty eradication and social inclusion.  Brazil, the host of Rio+20, remarked that the three pillars of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) entailed a struggle to realize a new economy based on social inclusion and new and sustainable patterns of production and consumption.  India’s delegate protested the use of the term “green economy” but then embraced similar concerns to the other speakers.  There were some disagreements about the relevance of including a social protection floor in the Rio+20 mix, but the terminology of ensuring a “just transition” and the integration of decent work in all three pillars of sustainable development did appear to bridge the divergent points of view.  The ILO can also be expected to send a tripartite delegation to the Rio+20 Summit and to push for the inclusion of Decent Work as one of the Sustainable Development Goals – not that the Rio+20 Summit will produce the SDGs that are slated to replace the Millennium Development Goals, but the idea of having a new set of SDGs is expected to be endorsed by the Rio+20 Summit.