October 29, 1998
Report to the SIRG on Labor Items by the United
I am pleased to attend this meeting of the Summit Implementation
Review Group (SIRG) to report on progress being made with regard to
implementation of two items in the Santiago Plan of Action:
1) Modernization of the State in Labor Matters-, and
2) Basic Rights of Workers.
The United States is the responsible coordinator for
these two items, with Brazil as co-coordinator.
- In particular, I would like to report on the Eleventh Inter-American
Conference of Ministers of Labor, which took place in Viņa del Mar,
Chile, on October 19-21. 1 want to recognize the excellent work done
by the Chilean hosts in all aspects of the meeting, and in particular
the leadership role played by the Conference Chairman, Minister
Molina, and his overworked team. The deliberations of Ministers of
Labor at this meeting, and the decisions they made, are directly
relevant to the two labor action items in the Santiago Summit.
- By way of background, the Inter-American Conferences of Ministers of
Labor have been held since 1963 under the auspices of the OAS. In
recent years, the meetings have been held every three years. The Tenth
Conference was held in Buenos Aires in October 1995.
- The Eleventh Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor was
seen by Ministers of Labor of the region as a very important event
since it was specifically referred to by the Leaders in the Santiago
Plan of Action.
- Representatives of the OAS, the IDB and the ILO were present at the
meeting. OAS Secretary General Gaviria addressed the conference, as
did also the Deputy Director General of the ILO and a representative
of the IDB. The leaders had specifically requested that these
organizations support the work of the Ministries of Labor in advancing
the Santiago Plan of Action.
- The themes of the Conference were. 1) Globalization of the Economy
and Its Social and Labor Dimensions; and 2) Modernization of the State
and Labor Administration: Requirements and Challenges
- The Ministers had a very good discussion on each of the themes.
- They issued a Declaration -- the Declaration of
Viņa del Mar together with a Plan of Action.
- They agreed to the establishment of two working
groups to follow-up the work that they identified in the Declaration and
the Plan of Action and to a procedure to ensure that the work gets done.
In particular, they agreed that the Working Groups should develop a
program of activities by April 1999.
- They also agreed that they need to meet more often
than every three years -- some countries proposed annual meetings -- and
that their next meeting at the Ministerial level will be held in the
Dominican Republic in 2000; at that meeting, they will review progress
made in implementing the Plan of Action and will make decisions
regarding the venue for future meetings.
- The Ministry of Labor of Chile presented to the Conference a report
on progress that has been made to date in implementing the labor items
of the Santiago Plan of Action. The Brazilian Minister of Labor,
Minister Amadeo, also presented a very interesting paper on
globalization and the role of Ministries of Labor. I believe that both
of these documents have been issued by the OAS and have been
circulated to all delegations. I encourage all SIRG members to read
these two important documents.
- A representative of the International Labor Organization also
reported at the Conference on the Declaration on Fundamental
Principles and Rights at Work and Follow-Up, which were adopted by the
International Labor Conference in June 1998. It should be recalled
that in the Santiago Plan of Action, the leaders indicated that they
supported the negotiation of the Declaration.
- In the Viņa del Mar Declaration the Ministers established two
- One on Globalization of the Economy and Its Social
and Labor Dimensions, coordinated by Peru assisted by Uruguay.
- The other on Modernization of the State and Labor
Administration, coordinated by Costa Rica with the support of Venezuela.
- The working groups will prepare a program of activities, which will
include meetings to be held, their agenda and dates, as well as
studies that they consider will be necessary. The coordinator may call
on the OAS, ILO, the IDB and ECLAC as well as on other relevant
agencies to assist. The program of activities will take the form of
projects, which can be presented to funding or technical agencies,
such as the ILO, the IDB and ECLAC.
- The Ministers requested from the General Secretariat of the
Organization of American States that, through the Technical Secretariat of the Inter American
Conference of Ministers of Labor, support the Chairman pro tempore of the
Conference (the Minister of Labor from Chile, until the next meeting of the Conference in 200 1) in carrying out the Plan
of Action adopted by the Conference- The Ministers also requested that
the General Secretariat redouble its efforts in supporting the Chairman
On the basis of the mandate from the Santiago Summit of the
Americas, the Eleventh Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor was a very important
gathering of Ministers of Labor. Twenty-three delegations were
represented, with 19 Ministers of Labor leading their delegations. Some
Caribbean countries were not present, in part because of problems in
communicating to them information about the meeting. We have to do
better in the future in outreach and communication efforts to the
Ministries from the Caribbean.
It was clear from the preparations for the meeting that the
Ministers were focused not only on reaching agreement on a Declaration
that said the right things, but also on creating a process that would
ensure that the issues were advanced between Ministerial meetings.
Many hours of discussions prior to the meeting at Viņa del Mar and
during the meeting were spent on how to develop a process that would
ensure that progress was made between Conferences.
To conclude, the Viņa del Mar Conference of Ministers of Labor was
an important success. It demonstrated that Ministers of Labor are
aware of the responsibility entrusted on them by the leaders and are
already focused on seizing this opportunity to advance on the
modernization of their Ministries and on the promotion of basic worker