The Centenary session of the International Labour Organisation has started in Geneva. More than 5000 delegates from governments, trade unions and other civil society organisations are expected to discuss current problems related to the world of work. One hundred years after the constitution of the ILO and its preamble that ‘lasting peace is not possible without social justice’, we have to stress once again that indeed social justice is our most urgent demand.

As ILO’s Director-General stated in his opening speech, we are now living the most profound and transformative changes in a century.

While during almost all of the 20st century workers’ rights have been improved, at the end of the century and the beginning of the new millennium we are witnessing serious regressions. Workers’ rights are being violated, inequalities are rising, in spite of thirty years of slogans on poverty, more than a billion people still suffer from hunger, curable illnesses, lack of decent housing.

Conflicts and climate change are at the root of migration flows that are more and more difficult to handle, coupled as they are to growing protectionism and a false feeling of vulnerability. Right-wing populist regimes are stirring and exploiting fears instead of helping people with a decent living.

Progressive forces in today’s world are numerous, but hopelessly scattered and fragmented. The World Social Forum, the only gathering with a potential to represent the world’s social movements, is fighting to survive. Political parties have lasting problems to look beyond the borders of their countries, while trade unions are, more often than not, limiting their actions to formal sector workers. One piece of good news is that a new union for the informal sector will be launched in Geneva.

How is it possible that the wealthy half of the world’s population accepts this constant violation of human rights? Why do poor people not get organised to defend their rights, to claim a decent living standard, to escape slavery and exploitation?

It looks as if all progressive forces are paralyzed, looking with amazement at this worsening situation, feeling powerless, wondering what can be done, often blaming others for not doing anything, filling pages on social media with analyses of what is happening, but not taking any new initiative. Ego’s competing with ego’s. Fortunately, a new movement of young people fighting for climate justice seems to be in the making. We have to support them.

What is happening today at the ILO is therefore very important. But will it be enough? According to climate scientists we have around 10 to 12 years to save our planet. We can only achieve this if in the meantime we take care of people, we give them security, we promote their rights, we convince them that environmental policies can be a means to further their material living conditions. Moralizing will not help. We need urgent measures to defend the sustainability of life, of nature, of people and of societies.

Global Social Justice has been promoting a new social contract for a just transition, claiming that the environment can be saved with social measures. We therefore support all initiatives for a new social contract that goes further than formal workers’ rights, that defend the rights of all men, women and children to live a life free of armed conflict, free of slavery and exploitation, geared towards the preservation of life on this planet. There is no other choice possible.

Global Social Justice wants to make a call to start a new movement with just two demands: to fight the dangerous right-wing populism and growing fascism that threatens peace and is now governing around half of the world, and to promote a new global social contract for a just transition, starting with economic and social human rights in order to achieve environmental rights.

Let me know if you can agree with it and let us start the work to do!


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