The 35-member BWI delegation consisting of trade union leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Ecuador, Panama, Sweden, and Switzerland and headed by Per-Olof Sjöö, president of the BWI pushed for the Decent Work Agenda during Habitat III which was held in Quito, Ecuador, from October 17th to 20st.
Habitait III, otherwise known as the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development occurs every 20 years. It is predicted that by the year 2050 nearly 70% of people will live in urban centers posing enormous political, economic, social, and environmental challenges. The focus of Habitat III was to adopt the New Urban Agenda, a non-binding document that would set out a blueprint for cities to be sustainable, inclusive, and smart.
In his opening speech at the Trade Union and Workers Roundtable, Per Olof Sjöö, emphasized the importance of workers who, “build, service, and maintain the cities.” It is because of this he stressed the importance of ensuring the human and labour rights of workers. In this stated at the core would be the Decent Work Agenda.
He stated, “Cities will not be sustainable if the livelihoods of the all those who live and work are not embedded in policies and actions. This means the promotion and implementation of decent work policies. The recognition of the value of decent work which is now included the New Urban Agenda is an important step. However, now, it is critical for, that specific commitments and actions which will pro-actively promote decent work are proposed for implementation.”
BWI along with PSI had been actively engaged in the Prep Coms leading up to Habitat as well as formulating a trade union agenda that addressed a number of issues ranging from tax justice, the need for essential public services and the need to include social and labour clauses in public procurement policies which despite aggressive lobbying efforts was not included in the final text of the New Urban Agenda.
Speaking at a Special Session on Local Jobs and Livelihoods in Urban Development coordinated by ILO, Gunde Odgard of Batkartellet highlighted the need to install good vocational training programs to provide the necessary skills training for them to find decent jobs. He stressed the need for trade unions to be part of the solution rather than being viewed as temporary “projects.”
Sjöö also had an opportunity to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon along with other representatives of 16 major partners under the frame of General Assembly of Partners to address the concerns and recommendations of trade unions in relation to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.