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First of all, let me extend a warm welcome to all of you here today. Especially to those of you who have travelled long distances to share your viewpoints and your knowledge with us. We are here to discuss a new global deal between capital and labour, insuring a positive development for all.
I would like to thank you on behalf of the Swedish Social Democratic Party for being here. I am looking forward to hearing your remarks on which specific steps that are needed to move forward – so I will keep this introduction brief.
These seminars are held every year in the memory of our dear colleague and minister of foreign affairs Anna Lindh. She was a great force of both wit and willpower in Swedish politics. And a great voice for equality, sustainability and Human Rights in global affairs.
Anna Lindh saw globalisation not as a threat – but as a force that could be used to meet our common needs.
In a speech at an international conference in Helsinki in 2002, she stated that:
"The globalisation of information makes people aware of what they have - and have not. Problems and oppression are impossible to hide, and the new and powerful tools of information provide us with more opportunities than ever to react and act."
We are here today, in memory of Anna, to take part in that opportunity, and discuss future modes of action.
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The subject of today's seminar – a new global deal between capital and labour – is at the very core of the possibilities of global cooperation, and a subject that is very close to my heart.
I have been able to follow the constructive discussions on a global level, both within trade unions and the corporate sector, for some years now. When we see globalisation as a fact – and global cooperation as an opportunity – progressives world wide have made clear progress in those debates.
I do believe that the increased mobility of goods, services, capital and labour across borders is a great opportunity. Not just for developed countries, but for all. And during the increased globalisation of the last few decades, we've witnessed an extraordinary development:
The conditions for trade and production have changed fundamentally. The world's total GDP has increased sevenfold since 1980, the global workforce has more than doubled in size and hundred of millions have risen from poverty.
Just a few months ago, the UN reported that for the first time since poverty trends began to be monitored, both the number of people living in extreme poverty and the poverty rates have fallen in every developing region.
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However, our positive attitude towards globalisation should never be confused with naivety. Three of the UN Millennium goals have been reached – but many still lie ahead of us.
One of the key goals in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, pointed out by the UN, is productive and decent employment for all. Many developing nations still lag behind in granting basic human rights to its working men and women.
I think that many of us here today have seen it:
- Men and women working under slave-like conditions,
- organized persecutions of people who dare to speak out against those conditions,
- and conflicts where workers are set against workers, forced to compete in a race towards the bottom, letting go of their basic rights and their chance of a decent life.
In some sense, through the globalisation of information, we've all seen it. And it creates an uncertainty concerning the force of the international economy.
This uncertainty can be seen in all countries, with people questioning the future of their work, their wages and their rights, in a globalised world.
In the mean time, progressives world wide have not had a visible strategy to address these problems.
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It's easy to question if there can be a solution. I remember meeting a German business man once on a flight to Frankfurt. He told me that he was planning to move his production in Eastern Europe further east to countries in Central Asia, always trying to escape the demand of reasonable wages and worker's rights.
And I felt really dispirited for a moment. I saw him as a symbol of global capital constantly moving to another country, constantly in search for lower wages.
But then I realised something that shouldn't really be a surprise: the world is finite. If we continue, and secure decent work, country by country, one day there will be no countries with despicable conditions left. One day it will end.
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What we need is to secure a basic model worldwide, a new global deal between capital and labour, putting in place a foundation for free and fair trade, shared prosperity and decent work for all.
To achieve such a deal puts new demands on both business, governments and labour.
- Companies need to accept the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining – while trade unions accept the companies' right to management.
- Trade unions should accept companies need to make a profit – while companies must accept the need of taxation as a basis for welfare and education.
- And governments should play their part, not interfering with collective bargaining and recognizing both unions and companies as social partners.
What it boils down to, and what must be the core of any such deal, is mutual respect. Respect based on mutual understanding of each others viewpoints and needs, and based on a knowledge that common progress leads to common prosperity.
This model has already been tested, not only here in Scandinavia.
We know, however, that the transfer of any models directly across borders would be neither possible nor preferable. But what we can transfer is fundamental facts concerning the positive effects of a labour market built on respect and common understanding.
For what we have seen here in Scandinavia, and in many other countries where worker's rights have been secured in a similar fashion, is that it benefits both labour and capital. It's the foundation of the Swedish success story. It is – with the use of a common phrase – a win-win situation.
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A successful deal, a successful understanding, will not only tackle poverty, but form the foundation for a society that can use its commons strength to reach economic, ecological and social sustainability. This is a necessity for both labour and capital's continued existence.
Creating a sustainable society is also our only way of enlarging and strengthening our current freedom as individuals, and making it possible to be inherited by future generations. Transforming our freedom to a sustainable freedom will not diminish it, but strengthen it.
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Progressives world wide need to support this strategy. We need to learn from examples where it has been achieved.
We can take Brazil as an example, a country that in only two decades has strengthened both organized labour and the open market economy, becoming a new player in the global economy while increasing the welfare of millions of people.
With the tools of democratic cooperation, with the strength of mutual respect, I truly believe that labor and capital can come closer to each other, country by country.
We have no lack of common arenas, such as the UN and ILO, the IMF, the WTO, or the G20 for that matter. We have no lack of individuals or organisations involved in these issues – and no lack of question to be solved.
We are here today to discuss how a new global deal between labor and capital can take shape. I would like for us to be as precise as possible on what needs to be done to lay the foundation for such initivatives.
My wish for this forum is not a series of monologues, but a constant constructive dialogue, where we reach conclusions that we can continue to develop after this meeting with the help of a group of researchers and experts.
I therefore ask you to be specific on the questions put forward here today.
- Which forums should be used?
- Which concrete mechanisms need to be introduced?
- What responsibility is held by governments, businesses and labour?
- Which of today's multilateral organisations should take a leading role?
Once again – thank you for joining us here today. We truly have a great day ahead of us.
And with that I would like to leave the floor to Ann Linde, who will go through the plan for today and lead the first panel discussion concerning our present situation.