Co-funded by the European Union

IOE Centenary Summit: “Achieving a multilateralism reset: Business contribution”

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, addressed the business community during the IOE Centenary Summit. 
  • The meeting focused on the role of social partners within the multilateral system, the importance of social dialogue and the private sector led economic growth recovery from the pandemic 

IOE celebrated its Centenary of business action "Achieving a multilateralism reset: Business contribution". 

IOE President, Erol Kiresepi, opened the meeting by underlining the strength of IOE throughout its century of existence: “IOE strength relies in its global network of organisations that represent and constitute the legitimate voice of business. The national business and employers’ organisations play a key role at national level in policy making and social dialogue. They have a huge convening power and bring together not only the larger companies but also small and medium enterprises that are the backbone of our economy” and continued: “the IOE and its global network are fully committed to work with the UN and all stakeholders to do whatever it takes to address the impact of the pandemic.” 

During their interventions, IOE Vice-Presidents from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America highlighted how important is the role of the private sector in society and within the multilateral system. “Private sector is a source of employment creation and innovation allowing to boost our economies. For that reason strengthening the role of IOE is key. Private sector should be more engaged in policy coordination at the UN level.” 

IOE Vice Presidents also emphasised the high expectations of business in the multilateral system, especially during the current crisis,: 

  • The United Nations is key to meeting actual and future challenges and therefore a multilateral system that is transparent and inclusive is needed.  
  • The United Nations deliver more and more policy work and frameworks which impact employers and workers directly but they are only government based. Social partners should be able to participate, but also to take responsibility for their commitments and their agreements  
  • Recovery from the social and economic effects of Covid-19 requires multilateral cooperation with the engagement of all stakeholders and improvement of social dialogue.  
  • Multilateralism has never been so challenged as today. The involvement of social partners should be a motivation for those governments who are less committed to play their part. 

UN Secretary General's intervention referred to four actions that the private sector can undertake:  

At a time when multilateralism is under severe strains, it is especially important that the IOE carries the commitment that it always had into its second century.  […] 

The pandemic has reminded us of both the power and imperative of global cooperation.  

The private sector is essential to all these efforts. So, what can businesses do?   

First, continue to engage with the multilateral system, through representative organizations, to create a conducive global environment for decent work, investment, and sustainability.    

Second, engage with the United Nations at the national level to help secure that multilateralism works on the ground.    

Third, businesses and employers’ organizations must actively participate in national and global public-private dialogue and initiatives - and there must be space for them to do so.   

Fourth, do what you do best: invest in businesses, jobs and people, especially now when hundreds of millions of people have lost their livelihoods.  […] 

To build a better future, we need a global multilateral system that answers the real anxieties of people with practical responses.   

This requires a more inclusive multilateralism. Governments today are far from being the only players in terms of politics and power. The business community, trade unions, local authorities, cities and regional governments and so many others must assume more and more leadership roles in today’s world. And they are doing it. 

The private sector, and employers’ organizations and those they represent have a real capacity to make a meaningful difference and ensure a more effective multilateralism. But they must be given the space to do so. […]”  

When questioned on the role of the social partners within the UN, the UN Secretary-General expressed his desire to build the institutional framework that would allow the participation of employers, workers, civil society and regional institutions into the multilateral system. He referred to his experience as Prime Minister of Portugal where social dialogue was institutionalised by means of a Council and considered this as a good option to achieve a more inclusive multilateralism.  

With regards to the informal sector of the economy, he strongly expressed his concern that countries try to repress it and mostly ignore it. Considering that informality in many countries is the basis of the economy and the only source of income for a great number of families, this should become a priority at national and international level. As a form of redress, he proposed to establish a partnership between governments and social partners at the national level and to involve global partners, such as the international financial institutions, to build a roadmap of measures towards the formalisation. These measures could include training, mechanisms to extend social protection coverage, reduced bureaucracy, etc. He emphasized that “Investing in this progressive integration in the mainstream economy is the best way to achieve more inclusivity, more equality, better social cohesion, and more effective economies and societies.” 

Sharon Burrow, the Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation, underlined the need to rebuild trust in multilateralism, to be achieved with the participation of social partners. She stated that “Achieving for us the Sustainable Development Goals, working hand in hand with businesses to rebuild our economies, with the resilience in the right base is fundamental to rebuilding a social contract and a secure