Together we're better - sharing for sustainability

Blog by
27 May 2010

The spotlight was on transparency and sustainability at yesterday’s Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) meeting in Amsterdam. The organisation, which works on sustainability reporting frameworks, was holding its annual conference with a focus on this dual issue, and speakers included media representatives from the UK-based Guardian  and others from the United Nations and International Finance Corporation (IFC)

The thrust of the GRI’s message is that ‘transparent communication changes perceptions, builds trust, and motivates action towards greater sustainability.’ And sustainability is key as we emerge bleary-eyed from years of ‘bubble’ thinking and the global economic meltdown that triggered.

But where was the International Monetary Fund at the GRI conference? The IMF is one of the most important financial organisations in the world.

Yet not all its policies are sustainable. In last week’s Due South blog focusing on the Greece bailout (‘Greece bailout — a familiar fate?’), we saw how IMF loan policies can hurt the poor. That makes them unsustainable, potentially at least, and could be a reason why some countries are repeat borrowers.

If people such as the local poor, with a stake in the challenge at hand, were more involved, negative impacts on them could be lessened and the loans could be made sustainable.

When knowledge is dispersed among various actors, sound policies must manage uncertainty through stakeholder engagement. It is clear that stakeholder engagement can help foster the transparency that is necessary for sustainability, as the GRI conference pointed out.

But all this begs the question of how to manage it.

Real engagement

One key way in, is through jobs. Whereas many IMF policies deal with cutting government spending, which in many policies includes job loss, pay cuts, and benefit reductions in the public sector, the International Labour Organization (ILO) offers a counterweight.

On a per country basis it may be difficult to gather all affected employment stakeholders to incorporate their opinions and needs into a nationwide policy. Fortunately, there is an international agenda already in place to that has done just that — and it’s the ILO’s Global Job Pact.

The Global Jobs Pact was created due to the global increase in unemployment, poverty and inequality following the worldwide recession. It includes a set of 11 principles for generating employment, extending social protection, respecting labour standards, and shaping fair globalisation.

It attempts to address the impact of the international financial and economic crisis by promoting productive recovery through an internationally agreed basis for policy making.

The policies of the Global Jobs Pact are to be applied by nations and international organisations as well. Such application can ensure the baseline concerns for labour stakeholders are included in the policies.

Unfortunately, according to a paper by social justice NGOs -SOLIDAR, the Global Network, and Eurodad- the IMF has yet to fully implement these policies as the lack of social protection of public service priorities may have added to El Salvador’s current situation of high unemployment among public works and social service providers.

Additionally, Principle 9 of the Global Jobs Pacts calls for environmental sustainability. And it’s here that the IMF could play a key role — through its Access Initiative.

Getting access

The Access Initiative is the world’s largest network of civil society organisers working to ensure that people have the right and ability to influence decisions about the natural resources that sustain their communities.

The initiative provides a platform for stakeholder engagement. If incorporated into IMF procedures, policies such as its elimination of the kerosene energy subsidy in Ethiopia could have been reformulated into a more sustainable solution that did not adversely affect the poor.

In moving toward a more sustainable state, major players such as the Global Reporting Initiative and the United Nations have learned the need for stakeholder engagement. When will the IMF catch up?

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