Summits of the Americas Newsletter

February 2008 | Summits Online | Español

BACK TO NEWSLETTER: Youth and the Inter-American agenda | Ministerials: Agriculture - Labor - Education

Regional Labor Ministers Renew their Commitment to Decent Work


The Hemisphere’s Ministers of Labor gathered during the XV Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor (IACML) of the Organization of American States (OAS) to advance policies centered on the promotion of decent work and address issues related to labor and employment as key elements of social and economic development in the context of globalization. Also present were representatives from the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, international organizations, and the IACML´s advisory bodies, which bring together the main labor unions and employer organizations of the region.

This meeting, which was held September 11-13, 2007 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, holds the distinction of being the first IACML held in the English-speaking Caribbean. During the opening session, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza noted that the region still faces many challenges in the realm of labor that are intricately linked to issues of poverty, inequality, and discrimination. For this reason, he urged the Ministers to “continue to examine the progress of the Mar del Plata agenda,” as defined at the Fourth Summit held in Mar del Plata in November 2005.

The Ministers of Labor noted that the XV IACML was the first Ministerial meeting to follow up on the employment and labor aspects of the Declaration and Plan of Action of the Fourth Summit. As such, they renewed their commitment to the fulfill objectives of the Summits process, “with the goal of improving the living conditions of all workers in the Americas.”

In her remarks, Ambassador Carmen Marina Gutierrez, Director of the Summits of the Americas Secretariat, made a point of highlighting and explaining the important link and mutually supportive relationship that exists between the Ministerial and Summits processes. She underscored that Ministerial meetings are essential to the Summits process, as they are a vehicle for identifying new challenges and evaluating achievements while pointing out that the Summits provide the political endorsement that ensures the institutionalization of the Ministerial Meetings.

During the course of the IAMCL, the Summits Secretariat presented a summary of the activities of Member States and institutions towards the implementation and follow-up of the Labor commitments emanating from the Summits process. Of special note were those Summit mandates related to Youth Employment and Labor in the Americas, particularly as the under-35 year old demographic accounts for 42% of the region’s unemployment.

Among the specific commitments renewed during the Meeting were achieving economic growth with equity in order to reduce poverty and fostering social development and democratic governance. Furthermore, the Hemisphere's Labor Ministers recognized that full and productive employment and decent work are central to sustainable social and economic development. They focused on the eradication of child and forced labor, guaranteeing education and training to ensure decent jobs, protecting labor rights of migrant workers, and improving labor conditions for young people, among other issues. They reiterated their commitment to continue implementing the Inter-American Network for Labor Administration (RIAL), a mechanism of the IACML created to strengthen the institutional and human capacities of the Ministries of Labor. Lastly, as part of the commitment to improving the labor market and labor conditions in the Americas, the Labor Ministers of the Region reemphasized the importance of the ILO's Decade of Promoting Decent Work.

During the XV IACML, the OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Juan Somavia, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to continue strengthening the collaboration between these institutions on issues related to labor and employment, particularly on the follow-up of the IACML and the Summit processes.

Ultimately, two documents containing the vision and commitments of the regional Ministers were produced: the Declaration and Plan of Action of Port of Spain. The Declaration stated that the Ministers resolved to base their work on the mandates stemming from the Fourth Summit of the Americas, as well as the resolutions of the previous IACML meeting. In order to achieve its goals, they agreed to continue the work of their two Working Groups and to further advance their collaborative efforts with both Member States and the institutional members of the Joint Summit Working Group (JSWG) towards the Fifth Summit. In addition, Argentina was designated as the host of the XVI IACML which will take place in 2009.

For more information on the XV IACML please visit the website of the Department of Social Development and Employment, SEDI, which is the Technical Secretariat of the Labor Ministerial process.

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