HOW INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS UNDERMINE WORKER RIGHTS

Author(s): Adaba, Gemma

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Abstract The new guidelines on governance adopted by the IMF and the World Bank at this year's Annual Meetings are to be welcomed. It is a positive step that these institutions are now explicit about their contention that corruption on a large scale can be a factor seriously affecting economic development and are willing to apply conditionality in this area. However, good governance needs to be defined more broadly so as to incorporate respect for human rights, including trade union rights. The existence of vibrant civil society institutions, including trade unions, provides one of the best guarantees for maintaining transparent accountable government. There is clear evidence from around the world of a correlation between undemocratic, repressive regimes and the incidence of graft and corruption. For that reason, the G8 Denver Declaration covering "Democracy and Human Rights" emphasized the joint importance of "good governance and the rule of law, strengthening civil society, expanding women's political participation, and boosting business and labor support for democracy." As an important component of governance, the observance of core labor standards should also be part of the framework agreements and consultations between the Bretton Woods institutions and member states. The debate on good governance has been carried forward quite significantly with the publication of the World Bank's World Development Report (WDR) for 1997, entitled The State in a Changing World. The WDR constitutes a significant change of heart by the Bank from its severely critical stand in the 1980s, when it frequently recommended stringent policies for public deficit reduction which resulted in the paring down of government, the civil service and education and health services. Instead, the WDR stresses the need for a strong, effective, accountable state which facilitates the provision of core services, gives civil society a voice in development and safeguards workers' rights "to organize, to gain access to information and to engage in contracts." Adequate pay, compensation and conditions for public sector workers, as well as negotiated settlements, are flagged as important. The State is called upon to establish and consistently apply an effective rule of law, with formal checks and balances to minimize corrupt behavior and practices. In this regard, the ICFTU and ITS would stress that governments do not have the monopoly over corrupt practices and that investors and multinational enterprises also need to be held accountable for violations of ethical standards and fair labor practices. In addition, the HIPC Initiative is caught up in the same paralysis of declining development assistance that is plaguing other intergovernmental development efforts. The declarations of the Denver G7 Summit concerning the G7 commitment to "full partnership with developing countries," "eradicating deep-seated poverty" and "adequate development assistance," as well as their "Partnership for Development" with Africa, will be empty promises unless matched by sufficient real financial commitment. The ICFTU and associated ITSs insist that in a one-world economic system, countries cannot be left to stagnate in debt and negative growth without dire consequences for the rest of the global economy. If nothing else, enlightened self-interest should dictate a coordinated effort of solidarity with the world's poorest countries and the provision of adequate funding to give this much needed debt relief. The credibility of the international community is at stake if the international financial institutions and the G7 are unable to deliver after the considerable work and publicity generated over the HIPC Initiative.
Publication Title Guild Practitioner
Publisher Guild Practitioner
Publication Date 10/1997
URIs http://search.proquest.com/docview/224751912
Keywords Civil rights
International relations
International trade
Labor force
Labor relations
Trade relations
Workers
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