July 2001


1. The run-up to the Genoa G8 Summit itself was dominated by fears of violent protest that now typically accompany inter-governmental meetings, leading to this year’s Summit being held behind a ring of steel and a mass security presence. Tragically, that became a reality and it will be forever marked by the scenes of violent destruction and the death of a protestor shot by police. 

2. Ahead of the Summit, trade union leaders from G8 countries, the South and Russia met on 19 July with Silvio Berlusconi the host of the Summit, who was accompanied by his Labour and Industry Ministers. At the end of the meeting he pledged to press his fellow heads of state for a more institutionalised trade union input at future events. He repeated that comment at a subsequent press conference, which was picked up by the Wall St Journal and the Financial Times. The G8 Communiqué, however, was silent on this. The opening statement made by John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO (United States) and TUAC is attached for information. The Italian trade unions organised a successful mass public meeting on 18 July, to which Nelson Mandela sent a powerful message of support for trade unions via a video link. The Genoa Social Forum, which was co-ordinating the peaceful protest movement held a mass teach-in, to which a member of the TUAC Secretariat spoke at a workshop on export credits and sustainable development.

3. A plethora of documents were released at the conclusion of the summit, including: Communiqués of the G8 and G7 leaders, the Report and Action Plan of the DOT Force (set up by the Okinawa Summit), a Genoa Plan for Africa, a G8 Statement on Regional Issues, and one on the Middle East. These are available at the official G8 website: (http://www.g8italy.it/_en/index.html). 

4. When set against the expectations for Genoa, including the statements of various leaders prior to the Summit, the outcome was deceptively inadequate, with few breakthroughs of substance to accompany the usual platitudes claiming progress in key policy areas. The G8 Communiqué focused on development, debt relief and poverty reduction; the implementation of the Okinawa Dot Force’s Action Plan; the environment and food safety; employment; and combating transnational organised crime and drugs. 

5. Employment and wider social issues were treated in a cursory manner: just eight lines of text that committed leaders to “implement policies in line with the recommendations of the G8 Labour Ministers Conference held in Torino last year”. The only other reference to social issues in the nine page Communiqué came in the section entitled “Debt Relief and Beyond”. It stated: “We will work with the International Labour Organisation to support efforts to fight child labour and we will develop incentives to increase school enrolment”. The Turin conclusions were positive but global social issues merited a more substantial global response. 

6. References to the global economic slow down were left to the G7 Communiqué which repeated the complacent and optimistic comments made by Finance Ministers at their meeting a week earlier.  It went on to say that three further elements were important to strengthen the global economy: the launch of a new trade round, action to enhance the stability and integrity of the international financial system, and the implementation of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. The new trade round language was a step backwards as regards labour standards, stating through coded language: “The WTO should continue to respond to the legitimate expectations of civil society, and ensure that the new Round supports sustainable development”. Little was announced to add to previous pronouncements on the international financial market architecture, and the HIPC Initiative.

7. A reflection of the new political make up of the G8 is the total absence in the Communiqué of any specific reference to trade unions as a distinct group. Instead while the ‘private sector’ and ‘business’ warrant a specific mention, all other groups are bundled together under the title of ‘civil society’. Equally disturbing, and reflecting the new reality is the expunging of language on the global economy, while employment and social issues are either omitted or treated in a desultory way. The message needs to be brought home to governments that such a course is unlikely to build widespread support for elements of their agenda, including progress on trade and investment liberalisation.

The Labour Summit

8. As part of an inclusive approach to the G8 Labour Summit, trade union leaders from those countries were joined at the meeting with the host of the Summit by colleagues from Southern countries, and the ICFTU regional organisations. The trade union delegation, in submitting its written statement had five central objectives:

- To obtain from the Summit a message on the urgent need to take co-ordinated stimulatory measures to get the global economy growing again, so as to put it back on a full employment path;

- An expanded programme of development assistance, debt write-off, reform of International Finance Institutions, allied with new health and education initiatives to boost development prospects. Comprehensive reforms of the international trading and investment system were sought to make it work for working families, based on respect for labour and wider human rights, including export credit support being made conditional on binding measures to attain sustainable development;

- To ensure a socially balanced approach to the introduction and development of information technology, with a clear role for trade unions on this within the Dot Force Action Plan;

- A new consensus on climate change action through mitigating measures on employment and social effects;

- And, to widen public participation in the debate on reform of the financial market architecture.

9. Luigi Angeletti, General Secretary of the UIL (Italy) introduced the trade union participants, and pressed the need for the 2002 Canadian Summit to have a more institutionalised trade union input. John Sweeney then introduced the trade union statement. Bill Jordan, General Secretary of the ICFTU who spoke on the forthcoming Doha meeting of WTO Trade Ministers, followed him. Zwelinzima Vavi, COSATU General Secretary (South Africa) linked the scourge of HIV-Aids across much of the developing world to poverty and under-development, and called for a comprehensive strategic response, that included debt cancellation and reforms to the WTO Trips agreement. Etsuya Washio, President of RENGO (Japan) developed the theme of debt relief and the need for an expanded programme of development assistance. Luc Cortebeeck, Vice-President of the WCL and TUAC spoke on the need for a system of global governance and democracy that met the needs of workers, not just vested business interests. Dieter Schulte, President of the DGB (Germany) called for co-ordinated action to raise economic growth and to increase employment, while John Monks, General Secretary of the TUC (United Kingdom) raised the need for trade unions to be fully involved in skills development, and managing workplace change. Emilio Gabaglio, ETUC General Secretary raised the role of Europe in all of this, while Ken Georgetti, President of the CLC (Canada) set out the trade union vision for sustainable development and mitigating climate change, along with needed reforms to export credits. 

10. In his responses Silvio Berlusconi said that he would present only three messages to other heads of state, the written and oral messages of the trade unions, those of business, and those of the Catholic Church. Within that it was workers above all that continue to contribute to the world economy. He said he wanted to present to his counterparts a proposal for a Universal Charter on Good Governance that would include trade unions, civil society, and human rights, aimed at those countries in receipt of development assistance. He was hopeful that the proposed Global Health Fund would reach its target of raising $ 1.3 billion, but recognised that it would be insufficient to meet the health needs of developing countries. He said that it was his lack of time in office that had worked against a more institutionalised trade union input into the Genoa Summit, and that he would request that for the 2002 Canadian G8 meeting. As regards the economic situation he agreed that inflation was a “ghost”, and that the danger now was one of “stagnation”, further agreeing that stimulatory policies were needed. He said that measures to secure the environment were at the forefront of the G8 agenda, and that it was essential, including in Italy, that governments meet their commitments to raise their ODA levels to the agreed UN target of 0.7% of GDP.

11. At the conclusion of the meeting, the TUAC General Secretary requested that five points of apparent agreement be reflected in the Communiqué on the social dimension of the global economy: respect for core labour rights; the need for more resources for development; the current need to stimulate economic and employment growth; a widespread public debate on reforming the international governance and financial market architecture, including the WTO, IMF and World Bank; and a more institutionalised trade union input into the 2002 Summit.

 The G8 Communiqué

12. Few of these points of apparent agreement with the Summit host found their way into the Communiqué. A leading role in the Communiqué was given to “A Strategic Approach to Poverty Reduction”, including debt relief. However, what was disturbing was the failure to offer anything new beyond previously announced commitments and initiatives in the areas of implementing the OECD Bribery Convention, efforts to pursue an anti-corruption initiative at the UN, and to encourage Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to help recipient countries strengthen public expenditure and budget management. On debt relief, and despite the rhetoric of some G8 leaders, no new deal was offered to HIPC countries beyond that already on the table. The section entitled “beyond debt relief” concentrated on securing: a “greater participation by developing countries in the global trading system, increased private investment, and initiatives to promote health education and food security”. On the first point the G8 leaders pledged themselves to support the launch of a new trade Round but they were short on detail and have no reference to trade and labour standards. On the need for private investment, the Communiqué was pretty much biased towards a business as usual approach of privatisation, and “public private partnerships”, a concept which some G8 leaders are having problems with at home. On the last point, whilst the commitment of $ 1.3 billion to the new Global Fund to fight HIV-Aids and other health pandemics was a welcome step forward, it has to be set against Kofi Annan’s call for $ 10 billion. Moreover, the involvement of the private sector within this raises questions about their securing cheap publicity. At the same time the Communiqué is contradictory on the issue of the Trips agreement and its use by pharmaceutical multinationals to deny developing countries access to affordable drugs. On the one hand it recognised the “appropriateness of affected countries” to use the flexibility clauses within the agreement to ensure the availability of drugs for their citizens. On the other hand it recognised the need for “strong and effective intellectual property rights protection as a necessary incentive for research and development of life-saving drugs”.

13. The language on education as “a building block for growth and employment” centred on a reaffirmation of meeting past commitments contained in the “Dakar Framework” from last year’s UN Dakar Conference on Education. One new development that will require a global union follow-up is the establishment of a Task Force comprised of senior G8 officials to advise on how to pursue the Dakar goals “in co-operation with developing countries, relevant international organisations and other stakeholders”.

14. G8 leaders endorsed the Genoa Action Plan submitted by the “DOT Force” that was initiated at the Okinawa Summit to overcome the digital divide in access to ICT technology, and called for a progress report on its implementation at the 2002 Summit. Following a campaign by the TUAC, ICFTU and ITS’s, the Action Plan did recognise that trade unions should be encouraged as part of wider moves to foster “lifelong learning”. It is essential that trade unions follow up on that.

15. The Communiqué folded in language on the environment, and food safety into a section entitled “A Legacy for the Future”. Against the backdrop of concurrent developments in Bonn at the Sixth Conference of the Parties, it was to be expected that no new breakthroughs would come out of the G8 over the Kyoto Protocol. Although, the agreement in Bonn, against the odds, to proceed with a modified Kyoto protocol creates a new political dynamic. One new development was the proposal by Russia to host in 2003 a multistakeholder global conference on climate change, on which the ICFTU and TUAC will work to ensure a broad trade union presence as part of ‘civil society’.

16. Welcome language was included on the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development that linked the three dimensions of sustainable development: enhancing economic growth, promoting human and social development, and protecting the environment, as interdependent objectives. Welcome too was a reference on the need for civil society to be engaged on the development of a forward looking, substantive agenda along with action orientated results.

17. G8 leaders wasted an opportunity to review the OECD negotiations on export credits and the environment so as to make them compatible with sustainable development, including by calling for binding labour and wider human rights, and environmental standards. Rather, the Communiqué offered nothing new on the substance, and stuck to the line that implementation should be via voluntary commitments through a non-binding OECD recommendation. The joint trade union-NGO campaign will have to engage in further lobbying efforts around this, and for more unilateral action by governments to link the Guidelines to public subsidies, including export credits. On food safety, the G8 leaders recognised the need to achieve greater global consensus on the “precautionary principle”.

18. As noted a short and perfunctory paragraph on employment was included in a section entitled “Increasing Prosperity in a Socially-Inclusive Society” which commited the Heads of Government to implement policies in line with the recommendations of the 2000 Turin G8 Labour Ministers Conference. The Turin conclusions were close to trade union objectives, and we will seek to ensure that the current G8 governments stick to them, but the social dimension of globalisation cried out for a more strategic response.


19. The G8 leaders announced that they would aim for a smaller meeting in the future and at a site in 2002 in the Canadian Rockies, more easily “defendable”. The international trade union movement will need to continue to press the G8 leaders and other global fora on the action that is needed to establish global social justice. We need to follow up the Summit host’s remarks in favour of giving labour a seat at the Table and G8 unions are urged to press for this at meetings with their governments.

 (open PDF File)


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