Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Statement of the Netherlands in the framework of the UN Commission on Social Development

Statement of the Netherlands in the framework of the UN Commission on Social Development (11 - 21 February 2014) on promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all

Statement by

Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Commission for Social Development

Agenda item 3A Priority theme: Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty

eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all

New York, 12 February 2014

 

Mme Chair,

The Netherlands aligns itself with the statement made by Greece on behalf of the EU. In addition, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the views of the Netherlands on empowerment of people. And, more specifically, on the role of private companies in this respect.

Empowerment of people, how can we contribute to this objective? Goals and instruments of empowerment policy vary of course with the level of development of a society.

In the Netherlands, the government has chosen the so called ‘participatory society’ as a central empowerment policy goal. The central objective is active involvement of citizens, above all in paid employment. At the same time, a well functioning social security system is a necessary element in this approach. As well as a clear division between responsibilities and roles of all parties concerned: the government, social partners, civil society and, last but not least, private companies.

Today, I do not want to focus on the situation in the Netherlands but rather on global challenges. In particular I want to focus on the role of private companies in empowerment. Although companies are not always on the forefront of our debates about empowerment, they do have an important role to play to empower employees. They can do this by creating good working conditions. For example, by contributing to freedom of association, by preventing and eradicating forced labour and child labour, and by ensuring payment of adequate wagens (sometimes called living wages). In other words, they should make sure decent work is offered. Through their business conduct companies can change the livelihoods of the people working for them. And thus, support the achievement of United Nations policy goals.

 

In today's global economy, this is a complex issue. The world is changing, more and more countries and people are involved in producing products. The value chain is getting more global and complex. Improving working conditions in the supply chain is hard work. There are hopeful signs that a constantly growing number of multinational companies do take up their responsibilities and make positive social changes in their global supply chain. The question is how we can further contribute to this.

Obviously, the company itself is the starting point: a company should spread its own values and standards throughout its whole global supply chain. Socially responsible businesses take actions to improve the working conditions of all workers in their supply chain.

Such actions often go beyond legal obligations.

However, governments and multilateral organisations as the United Nations do have a role to play. They should support the enterprise by creating the preconditions. They should take up an agenda setting, stimulating and supportive role. And they should also make companies aware of already existing guidelines, like the UN Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO MNE Declaration. These guidelines can support companies in setting up their corporate social responsibility policy.

Providing positive incentives, support and solutions to companies based on the normative framework of multilateral organisations can lead to sustainable and productive cooperation between public and private actors.

Many companies are already involved in the UN Global Compact, a network of businesses who are actively engaged in corporate social responsibility. And one of the main current goals of the ILO is a wider engagement with private enterprises. More direct engagement with the private sector will contribute to achieving decent work outcomes, all over the world. And thereby contribute to the empowerment of people.

Cooperation between enterprises and multilateral organisations is important. We believe that linking the needs of companies to the expertise and services supplied by UN organisations, like the ILO, can and will give a considerable boost to the actions taken by private companies to deal with social and labour issues in their global supply chain.

In the discussion about the post-2015 development goals, companies should be stimulated to take up their responsibilities. With this I do not mean that we should look to the private sector as an alternative sources of funding. We should look at businesses as strategic partners in mutually beneficial relationships.

To quote mr. Paul Polman, ceo of Unilever and member of the UN High level panel on the post-2015 development agenda: ‘Business is a critical enabler of inclusive economic growth and job creation, which is key to unlocking human potential and poverty reduction’.

Mme Chair,

In conclusion, private companies play an important role in the empowerment of people. They should take up their responsibilities, within the framework of employment and other social policies and norms promoted by the United Nations, the ILO, and the OECD.

Therefore the Netherlands want to call upon the UN Commission for Social Development, to collaborate with partners such as UN Global Compact and the ILO with the aim of enhancing its focus on what businesses can do in the context of social policy issues and the social perspective of development.

Thank you very much.