The sixth ILO committee on solidarity, chaired by Jasmine Benlechhab, Shirel Nakache, and Dahlia Djelouah, had the honour to debate in an ILO assembly room the 10th, 11th and 12th of January 2024.The bilingual tripartite committee was made up of 42 delegates representing the workers, employers and governments of 14 delegations. The delegates dedicated their time to debate two issues : ‘What solidarity policies should be adopted to reduce unemployment?’ and ‘How can the Social and Solidarity Economy be developed on a global scale?’

The debate started with a lobbying session on the first issue. Delegates were required to discuss informally, to form alliances and begin to write their resolutions. Two resolutions emerged by the end of the first day. The first to be debated was submitted by the Brazilian Government and co-submitted by various delegations of workers, governments and employers representing Brazil, Cameroon, China, Guatemala, India, Kiribati, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia. The second resolution was submitted by the UK government and was co-submitted by the remaining delegations present. 

The debates opened on Thursday with several relevant speeches delivered by delegations which showed their passion and investment as delegates who came from all around the world, united in adopting policies to fight unemployment. “Reducing unemployment is much more than a statistic” affirmed the UK government delegation as it presented it’s resolution.The resolutions submitted by the two groups had unique solutions designed to reduce unemployment, such as encouraging exchanges between universities and firms to create better opportunities for students, urging the creation of a commission based around the informal sector. 

Several important amendments emerged as delegates debated passionately, such as the Brazilian Government proposing a subclause which called upon the creation of an innovative program that has been explicitly designed to educate and train elderly and disabled individuals which would equip them with necessary skills to integrate into the workforce and reduce unemployment. 

The debate became especially heated as the delegations discussed how to proceed with financial subventions destined towards unemployed individuals. Many delegates such as the USA workers, pointed out that overly generous financial subventions and systems, could be exploited and could possibly lead to disencouragement of the unemployed towards looking for work. Despite these striking arguments, many delegations fiercely defended these systems and subventions, notably because of possible stigmatization and social exclusion that may occur if the mention of these systems were to be striked from the resolution. Morocco workers notably said “Nous ne pouvons pas laisser des humains, même s’ ils exploitent le système, à la misére”.

The second issue, concerning the development of the Social and Solidarity Economy on a global scale, began to be discussed on Thursday evening as delegates excitedly lobbied and awaited the formal debate the next day. Two resolutions appeared by the end of the evening. The debate was even more gripping than the previous, with dozens of compelling amendments, speeches and arguments pronounced all throughout the debate. 

Despite many fascinating amendments, one in particular served as a catalyst to propel a riveting debate: the delegation of Mexico employers proposed to strike the words “humanitarian aid” from a clause in the resolution, arguing that they had no place in such a resolution as “the social and solidarity economy model is not a question of life or death”. This argument was  largely contested by diverse delegations such as China’s employers, Cameroon governments and even Russia workers as they insisted that humanitarian aid is an important aspect of this economic strategy and that it would be against the principles of the ILO 6 committee, focused on solidarity, to neglect it. Therefore, the amendment did not pass.

Indeed, delegations faced heated discussions as major questions arose: should the emphasis be put on individual nations implementing policies and exercising their sovereignty, or should countries use multilateralism and work together? Several hours of fierce speeches, avid points of information and intense discussions passed on the last day between several delegations, but most notably the USA’s employers, Mexico’s workers, Brazilian government, Russian workers and Cameroon’s employers. 

As the debates concluded, delegates took to the assembly floor for moving concluding speeches. Concerning the first resolution, the delegate of the USA’s workers invited it’s fellow delegations to vote in favour of the resolution by affirming that “Our decision is not solely an economic decision, it is also a moral choice. We are making the choice to build a world where the economy serves humanity, and not the contrary.”

The hard work of the delegates paid off as all four resolutions debated passed the assembly vote by a large majority.

Marta Prokopchuk and Malo Lesprit