Local Solutions for a Global Economy

The Decent Work Agenda

In 2004, working with key partners in U.S. civil society, multilateral institutions, and the academic community, GFI spearheaded a dialog around the simple notion that, since employment – jobs – is the single most important economic factor for the vast majority of the world’s population, widespread sustainable employment needs to be a part of the global development agenda. We believe that sustainable job creation – not wealth creation that leads to the creation of new jobs – should be central to globalization.

The Challenge

In 2004, GFI facilitated five seminars involving key partners within civil society, multilateral institutions, government, and academia to discuss the concept of a Decent Work Agenda. The results of these meetings were so well received they became part of the 2004 World Commission Report on the Social Dimensions of Globalization, endorsed by all the members of the International Labor Organization GFI moved the debate from an academic theme to an accessible policy dialog that includes a carefully-constructed consensus among civil society partners and opinion leaders from around the world.

We view the decent work agenda as one of the most exciting and economically empowering policy challenges for the development community.

The Opportunity

Beginning in 2007 and as an ongoing initiative today, GFI is moving the decent work agenda from consensus building to implementation, and will develop a pragmatic yet sweeping set of policy prescriptions and arguments for a progressive employment and development agenda.

How will do this this? First, we will coordinate research and activities that have developed in various forms and institutions, including the International Labor Organization, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for American Progress, the Economic Policy Institute, the Ethical Globalization Initiative, the Brookings Institute, the International Institute for Economics, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Center for Global Development.

Second, GFI will produce an accessible document—a “white paper” -- for use by the general public and political leaders. The white paper will describe the basic, non-technical concepts and public policy rationale for the decent work agenda. The “white paper” will also outline the arguments for employment lead growth to policy makers, the media, opinion leaders and civil society.

Creating a movement and set of policy prescriptions around the decent work agenda requires a long-term commitment. It may take another decade before we fully realize the economic policy reform necessary to promote workers' interests and inspire real changes in the lives of the poor, the unemployed or under-employed. Starting from a very modest intellectual base, GFI has made an important and clearly defined impact on the early growth of this movement. Looking to the future, the policy generation and implementation phases are not far off.

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