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Asia Pacific Employers Conference Endorses the Global Compact

5th Asia-Pacific High-Level Employers Conference

Singapore, 9-10 October 2000

NOTE: See sections 8, 9, and 10 in this newly released report for an endorsement of the U.N. Global Compact, as well as sections 7 and 11 for International Labor Organization references. Section 10 discusses the idea
of country-level meetings and national Global Compact committees.

CONCLUSIONS

The Presidents and Chief Executive Officers of 19 national employers' organisations from the Asia-Pacific region, having met in Singapore on 9 and 10 October 2000 for their fifth conference, conclude as follows:

  1. The financial crisis in the region has proven to be relatively short-lived, and most affected countries have emerged from it with differing degrees of success. Though traumatic to go through, the crisis has resulted in encouraging greater transparency, competitiveness and liberalisation. It has forced enterprises to restructure and re-focus, and many are thus in a better position to deal with the new economic environment driven by globalisation and rapid technological change. The situation varies across the region, but on the whole Asian and Pacific countries have achieved better growth than the global average.
  2. The emerging global economy provides opportunities to improve standards of living and reduce poverty and unemployment, but it also presents several challenges. It calls for greater investment in human capital and increased partnership by employers and their organisations with governments, employees and trade unions. It also calls for enhanced efforts to promote the policy environment which is necessary for greater prosperity everywhere.

Human resources development for competitiveness: issues for the Asia-Pacific region, and the role of employers' organisations

  1. In the emerging global marketplace human capital will matter more to enterprises than physical capital, and human capabilities will determine the value of enterprises. With the rise of the knowledge economy there is a global war for talent. Some developing countries in the region have demonstrated an ability to develop their talent in information technology, and this is promising. However, this represents only a small part of their formal sectors, and the informal sector remains a major source of concern. Human resource development strategies should target everybody, in order that all might contribute to general prosperity and share in it.
  2. Manufacturing remained an area where Asia is very strong, and should continue to be given high priority. However, there is a need to move from competitiveness based on cost-reduction to one based on value to the customer. Competitiveness should be based on a human resources strategy that equips people with capabilities that provide them with a range of choices. Human resources development at the enterprise level should lead to value added to the employee as well as to the enterprise. People and enterprises should then take the responsibility for the choices they make.
  3.  HRD has the purpose to improve the capability of people to adapt to the world of work in a comprehensive manner, and thus should be promoted with the emphasis on employability. Today, information technology is a great tool for business development, especially in the manufacturing sector that is a priority area for most of the countries in the region. In this sense, training to catch up with the evolving information technology should be given an appropriate place within the whole scheme of HRD.
  4. Human resources development is thus an important responsibility for employers. However, significant areas of it are primarily the responsibility of governments, and should remain so, especially with regard to the infrastructure necessary. There is also a role for others. Dialogue between employer organisations and educational institutions is essential to ensure curricula are relevent to emerging market needs. Partnerships between government, employers' and workers' organisations unions have proved to be crucial in promoting and implementing human resources development strategies. Equally important is the role of individual workers. It is important to demarcate the respective roles of each stakeholder. Employers have a particular role in changing organisational culture, promoting individual responsibility and attitudes.
  5. The employers of the Asia-Pacific region endorse the conclusions of the 88th Session of the International Labour Conference on human resources training and development, which reflected a good example of tripartite understanding on a matter of crucial importance. They recall in particular the proposal to revise the ILO Human Resources Development Recommendation, 1975 (No. 150), and hope it would be given a greater urgency than other matters currently being given consideration in the context of ILO standard-setting.

Responsible business: the Global Compact

  1. The reduction of trade barriers and the spread of the market economy have opened opportunities to people everywhere, but there have also been problems that have generated a backlash against globalisation in developed and developing countries. There is presently a gap between the market and society, which needs to be closed. The alienation of groups from technology
    and the absence of the skills and knowledge required to connect with the global economy have resulted in widening income gaps between people and between countries. Perceptions of unfairness in the setting of global rules and in the outcomes of trade regimes have also fostered animosity towards the way liberalisation of trade has developed. Globalisation remains fragile, and if it is stopped or reversed the prospects for growth and development everywhere will be considerably diminished. Although a major part of the measures that should be taken are the responsibility of governments, employers have an important role in developing a market economy with a human face in response to some of the problems associated with globalisation.
  2. The Global Compact initiated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations is a welcome initiative in this respect. It identifies universally shared values in the areas of human rights, labour and the environment which business is in a position to promote. It is an open plan, which provides a framework for enterprises to voluntarily take action to contribute to objectives of the world community through private initiatives. The Global Compact does not envisage a monitoring mechanism or any other means of
    compulsion.
  3. The Asian and Pacific employers organisations endorse the Global Compact and encourage their members to participate in pursuing its goals. In doing so they support the position of the International Organisation of Employersand encourage it to take further steps to promote the initiative internationally. There was also the need to promote the Global Compact within the national level through an action plan involving organising programmes at the country level on the Global Compact and creating awareness by getting the media involved in publicising the Global Compact. Employers' organisations should take initiatives in this respect, and the multilateral system should provide support where appropriate. It may be useful to develop a common agenda for country-level meetings, to form national committees and make awards to recognise and encourage companies that take initiatives and post their experiences on the internet site of the Global Compact. Employers should take action to give substance to the Global Compact, and not leave it to others to do so in their place. In order to be effective, the values of the Global Compact need to be reflected at the work place.
  4. The Asian and Pacific employers organisations also endorse the position of the International Organisation of Employers on international labour standards, and underline the urgency of reforming the standards policy of the International Labour Organisation.

New Dimensions in Forging Stronger Partnerships with Government and Unions

  1. Relationships between the government and the social partners can play a critical role in the competitiveness of enterprises and economies. Where the relationship is based on mutual trust and understanding, it is possible to build partnerships and cooperation that take account of the needs of each party and produce outcomes beneficial to all. It can foster industrial harmony and help to create an environment in which responsible unionism and enlightened management can work together to generate and share prosperity in a mutually satisfactory way. It facilitates the introduction of measures that permit the flexibility and change necessary in the new economy, in particular with respect to new employment relationships and training needs. The Asia-Pacific region has examples of how tripartism and social dialogue effectively works in this manner.
  2. Social dialogue should lead to shared values and goals, and the partners to it should engage in it in good faith. However, the search for compromise and accommodation should not result in the undermining of basic policy positions or interests.
  3. The critical relationship is between workers and employers at the work place, and bipartism should help to foster that. Both bipartism and tripartism are important as each contributes in different spheres to the overall goals of enterprise and national competitiveness.
  4. However, tripartism and bipartism do not function effectively in many countries in the region. The lack of representative and responsible unions has in some countries compromised the relevance of the dialogue. In other countries the multiplicity of trade unions and rivalries between them have rendered the dialogue difficult and unproductive. The lack of sufficient trust and understanding between unions and employers has prevented social dialogue from delivering on its promise. The lack of a sufficient enabling environment is often an obstacle to successful tripartism and bipartism.
  5. In several countries in the region, government needs to create the regulatory and policy environment that would lead to improving the partnership between employers and workers. The measures to be taken might include the creation of institutions for dialogue, social safety nets and flexibility in labour legislation. Employers and workers also need to make the effort to build the mutual trust and understanding necessary for their partnership to work

Strengthening Cooperation Amongst Employers Organisations in the Region

  1. It was agreed that employers organisations in the region should have their own form of cooperation appropriate to them to meet the challenges and requirements of the region. Such cooperation should be within a framework and should be continuous and sustainable.
  2. The High/Level Conference is held every three years and the participants felt the need for continuous interaction. It was suggested that there should be a loose confederation of employer organisations in the region to accommodate this need under the umbrella of the parent organisation, which is the IOE. It was agreed to have a working group to study this suggestion and provide a paper on such an arrangement by June 2001. Mr Toshio Suzuki was appointed the convenor of this working group and will work out the modalities of communications and meetings amongst the members of the group.The other members of the group are Mr I.P Anand, Mr Cho Nam-hong, Mr C.K. Hyder, Mr Ancheta Tan and Mr S.R. de Silva.
  3. Nikkeiren offered to extend coordination services to obtain information and data needed for the work. They will also use sub-regional group meetings before June 2001, as well as direct communication, as opportunities for the working group to gather information and furnish its report.