Vatican Urges a Coalition for "Decent Work"

Child Labor Is Among the Abuses Targeted

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GENEVA, JUNE 14, 2001 ( The Vatican proposed that the international community establish «a global coalition» in favor of «decent work.»

The initiative, illustrated last year by John Paul II during the Jubilee of Workers, was officially presented by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Vatican´s permanent observer at the United Nations in Geneva, when he addressed the 89th session of the International Labor Conference, held June 5-12.

Archbishop Martin explained that the concept of «decent work» emphasizes «the qualitative aspects of work and its deepest connections with human dignity.»

«We realize today as never before,» he said, «that the decisive force in production is not just capital, but the human person and his or her knowledge, creativity, and capacity for innovation and organization.»

Indeed, a «society in which the right to work is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace,» the archbishop explained Tuesday.

However, «decent work» not only implies the «quantity of work,» in assuring access to work for all, but also its quality, he said.

The proposed coalition for «decent work» implies, above all, «the elimination of forced and compulsory labor, and the worst forms of child labor,» he noted.

In this connection, the Vatican aide acknowledged that in recent years the International Labor Organization has taken decisive steps to reach consensus. «We must ensure that this consensus now becomes universal,» he stressed.

The challenge, he said, is to «identify common strategies which show that increased productivity and competitiveness are not incompatible with an improvement in the quality of work, even while bearing in mind the variety of local conditions.»

In the second place, «decent work» must keep in mind the worker´s relations with his family, the archbishop said.

«The Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself –Article 23, 3 — affirms that part of the scope of the right to a just and favorable remuneration is to ensure an existence worthy of human dignity for the worker´s family,» he said.

In the era of globalization, nations must ensure in the economic order that «workers and their families are not disproportionately exposed to the effects of external economic shocks,» Archbishop Martin said. This is one of the lessons that must be learnt from the recent crises in Asia and Latin America, following which many children were used again as cheap sources of manual labor.

The third key element to promote «decent work» is education. This coalition for «decent work» can also «work to assist families to see that their children´s aspirations for education are realized,» the archbishop said. On this depends, to a large extent, the struggle against poverty.

«The fight against poverty is today the proclaimed dominant aim of intergovernmental cooperation in favor of development,» he said. «The concept of ´decent work´ must be integrated more effectively into development and poverty reduction programs.»

The archbishop asked: «How far have they improved access to work, both in its quantitative and qualitative aspects?» This is the question that must serve to analyze programs to combat poverty and to make the global coalition in favor of «decent work» a reality, he concluded.

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