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A New Consensus for the Post-Covid World: Strengthening Social Protection for Sustainable Recovery

At the Paris Peace Forum on November 12, French President Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders launched an international discussion on building a new consensus for the post-Covid-19 world. This discussion continues with an ongoing debate, with contributions from leaders and experts from around the world. Discover the forum of Guy Ryder, General Director, International Work Organisation (OIT).

Renforcer la protection sociale pour une reprise durable

The Covid-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented shock. All regions of the world have experienced a historic fall in income and massive job losses. This shock was not only economic and social. It also tested the cohesion of societies and confidence in public institutions and in the future. Finally, this shock highlighted the limitations of a development model that consumes ever more fossil fuels and raw materials, threatening, in the short term, the habitable environment of the planet and the survival of mankind.
Six years ago, the international community adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. This strategy is more relevant than ever in the 18 months of the pandemic.

The ILO is fully involved in the implementation of these objectives. This centennial organization, an integral part of the United Nations system, was historically born out of the realization that there was no lasting peace without social justice. Peace and social justice remain key objectives of the United Nations. We must now add the fight against climate change and the protection of the environment, without which peace and social justice would remain empty promises to future generations.

In this ordeal of the pandemic, the Sustainable Development Goals must serve as a compass to define appropriate, relevant and targeted responses. Allow me to focus on a few areas in which the ILO is taking concrete action.

First, human rights, with the example of child labour, an area in which the world had made significant progress since the late 1990s. Unfortunately, the trend reversed in the mid-2010s, and there is reason to fear that the Covid-19 crisis will further exacerbate the situation, particularly on the African continent. It is the duty of the international community to respond, because we have effective levers. It is the poverty of families that drives children to work and to drop out of school. It is by developing social protection and acting on global chains It is therefore necessary to ensure that this scourge can be eradicated and that poverty can be effectively combated.

The crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of the most vulnerable in society. A recent ILO report indicates that half of the world’s population is excluded from social protection. However, the health crisis has shown the benefits of income support for all those unable to work. We now know with certainty that social protection has averted economic collapse and social catastrophe, particularly in high-income countries. But we also know that outside those countries, poverty has increased as a result of inadequate social protection coupled with unequal access to vaccines, thus jeopardizing economic recovery and a return to better days in much of the world. In the necessary revival of the global sustainable development strategy, it is therefore imperative to focus on strengthening social protection in all countries.

Examples of social protection and child labour show how much the pandemic is likely to deepen the global divide between rich and poor. The fight against inequality is a challenge facing the international community and it is in everyone’s interest to rise to it. In 1944, on the eve of the establishment of the United Nations, the ILO adopted the Philadelphia Declaration affirming that “Poverty wherever it exists is a danger to the prosperity of all”. Since its inception, the ILO has been committed to combating poverty and inequality by taking action to address the problems of poverty and inequality on their Improving working conditions and achieving better sharing of wealth through trade union action, collective bargaining between workers and employers, developing individual and collective labour rights, access to social protection and combating discrimination.

This fight is global, because in 1919 as in 2021, we know that it is illusory to achieve social justice independently of international solidarity and cooperation. Vigorous action within the multilateral system is now needed to overcome the consequences of the pandemic and put the world on a path to sustainable development and decent work.


Guy Ryder, General Director, International Work Organisation (OIT)