Switzerland has called for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other United Nations agencies to do more to tackle the social effects of globalisation.
Addressing the International Labour Conference in Geneva, the Swiss Secretary of State for Labour, Jean-Luc Nordman, said the world needed a leaner and more efficient ILO, and for that to happen it had to continue the reform process it had begun.
"The ILO is making a comeback, and has shown itself ready to take up the challenges of the new millennium. But there's a high expectation among stakeholders that more reforms are needed," he said.
"It needs to develop a worldwide employment strategy. Something has to be done about the 182 ILO conventions. Less quantity might mean more quality," Nordman told swissinfo.
Many countries feel that the ILO, unlike the World Trade Organisation, has failed to respond quickly enough to the challneges of globalisation and new technologies.
But Switzerland is one of many countries that wants to see the ILO play a bigger role, because it brings together the three major players in the economy: governments, businesses, and trade unions.
"Certainly the ILO needs to become more important, because it's the only tripartite organisation,» said Nordman, the head of the Swiss delegation. «It's therefore an organisation which can do a great deal for social peace and fighting poverty."
He said Switzerland advocated a multilateral initiative. That is, bringing governments, international organsations and civil society together to try to solve the problems created by globalisation.
This would be in evidence at Geneva 2000, a forum which will run in parallel to the United Nations Social Summit, to be held in Geneva at the end of this month.
"We have to get everyone around the table to discuss the social dimension of globalisation. This includes the relationship between trade, development and labour issues," Nordman said.
The aim is to devise a common analytical framework. No longer is it possible to talk about trade and labour only. All these issues have to be considered together," he added.
He said a spirit of partnership had to replace the truncheons and slogans of Seattle. He added that the ILO's own working group on the consequences of globalisation is the natural platform for this multilateral inititative.
"The multilateral initiative is a chance and a responsibility for the ILO and its members. Switzerland calls on all stakeholders to give their backing to the multilateral initiative and so use Geneva 2000 as a window of opportunity," Nordman said.
Switzerland has also put forward a resolution at the International Labour Conference (ILC), which seeks to strengthen the ILO's labour standards. It seeks «to ensure the dominant role of the ILO in implementing the social dimension of globalisation by giving it a solid armoury of standards».
The International Labour Conference ends on June 15.
by Roy Probert