Government argues for cuts to ILO budget
Despite protesting its continued commitment to the principles of Decent Work, and the central importance of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as the UN body charged with promoting job-rich growth globally, the British Government has this week continued its sustained assault on the resources that enable the ILO to do its job.
Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell announced on 1 March that the support previously provided by the Department for International Development through a series of 3 year partnership agreements would be ended. The last of these agreements had between 2006-9 provided vital support for work on the elimination of child and forced labour in India, increased protection for migrant workers and large scale job creation through co-operative enterprise development in Africa. DFID support had also helped improve ILO work practices along the lines set out in the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness. An independent evaluation commissioned by DFID indicated greatly improved results based management systems and a greater emphasis on gender inclusion in all ILO work.
Not content with removing this support – widely criticised by Labour MPs such as Denis MacShane – during the ILO Governing Body’s biannual budget discussions this week the UK has taken the lead in opposing the proposal for a standstill budget, an increase of just 2.4% in government’s basic contributions (in line with inflation), and instead has called for an effective cut in government contributions to the ILO.
A series of governments from across the world – together with the workers and employers representatives – stressed the vital need to protect the ILO’s work. Speakers stressed the increased rather than decreased need to equip the ILO to work on job creation and implementing the Decent Work agenda as the effects of the economic crisis continue to bite. Several highlighted the fact that the eruptions of popular protest in the Middle East and North Africa were connected to increased unemployment and general lack of economic opportunity and noted that the ILO had rapidly moved to support the new governments of Egypt and Tunisia. Others noted that the ILO has now been effectively operating on standstill budgets for 12 years. However the British government continued to stride in the opposite direction.
It is sadly clear that the basic principle on which the ILO was founded – that ‘poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere’ – no longer holds true in the eyes of our government.