The President of the ICFTU, Mr L. Trotman
The Secretary General of the ICFTU, Mr B. Jordan
The Director General of the ILO, Mr J. Somavia
The Secretary General of COSATU, Mr Z. Vavi
The President of COSATU, Mr W. Madisha
The Secretary General of NACTU, Mr C Ngcukana
The Secretary General of FEDUSA, Mr C. Milani
Presidents and Secretary Generals of other Trade Union Federations
Ladies and gentlemen

On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa let me extend a warm welcome to all the delegates who are assembled here today, in what is only the second time in the history of your organisation that you have gathered on the African continent. Your being here at this crucial period in the history of the African continent is a tremendous boost to the aspirations of our country and of our beloved continent.

The conference takes place at a time when we are poised between the old and the new, when, in South Africa, a new democratic order has been ushered in, and the people of the continent are keenly looking forward to the continued development of a more humane and socially just society on the continent, and the rest of the globe.

It is testimony to the tremendous strides our nation has made in the short period, since we took our place amongst the world of nations. I believe that it is appropriate to thank you on behalf of the people of this country for the great and selfless support you gave in our struggle against apartheid. International solidarity formed a key pillar in the quest for our liberation from the yoke of apartheid and remains a shining beacon of what united human action can achieve in the face of great adversity and the key challenges that lie ahead of us.

Today our world is going through far reaching changes that resonate throughout the very fabric of society. We are witnessing truly epochal shifts in the very rubric of society, including the technological advances which are reshaping our universe in such profound ways. The challenges posed by these new conditions demand that we adapt, as individuals and organisations.

The shift from industrialisation to the information age with the accompanying effects of globalisation has had profound implications for all of us, with particular reference to the changes in the workplace. The tools that have emerged as the new organising principle of the new age have superceded both national governments and individual corporations with far reaching implications for how societies function.

They hold potential for vast increases in productivity and fulfillment, but are also the creator of an immensely volatile and ruthless world where, at the mere touch of a button, nations can be put into serious financial crisis. Whilst, it is gernally agreed that a great many benefits have accrued to the developed nations as a result of these developments, the same is not true for the developing word. The income gaps between the richest and poorest nations continue to widen, particularly in the last fifteen years.

The number of people living in absolute poverty has increased over this same period, concomitantly with an increase in wealth of the developed nations and the astronomical fortunes accumulated by individuals. I have repeatedly argued that globalisation cannot be left to manifest itself through the globalising of poverty, instead of the spreading of wealth across the globe.

This is a state of events that is potentially disastrous not only for the poorer nations, but also for the rich nations. The side by side existence of extreme poverty and immense wealth, in the long term, in the "global village" means that instability will increase in society as the poor majority fight for better conditions rather than succumb to continuous poverty. This is a reality we cannot afford to ignore.

Of concern though is how our continent is consigned to the margins of the global "Network Society", which Professor Castells in his book "The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture", refers to as "informational black holes" that are extremely difficult to escape. This negative worldview that characterises Africa as a continent assailed by wars, disease and famine is uncritically endorsed by much of the developed world. Your positive influence is therefore greatly needed to counter the negative perceptions that dominate the news and pervade the boardrooms in the financial capital of the world.

Contrary to these perceptions, we are of the firm belief that our continent is poised for takeoff into the Information Age. We are committed to the tenets of the African Renaissance which proclaim boldly and optimistically that the 21st century will be an African Century. Africa will succeed in creating the conditions for the attainment of a prosperous and humane society, where a "Better Life For All" becomes a reality.

Our collective pride is slowly being restored. More African nations are joining the democratic collective of nations.

Our leaders and esteemed elders are tirelessly working to bring an end to situations of conflict and strife on the continent. While we acknowledge that Africa is plagued by too many conflicts that result in the displacement and impoverishment of our people, we remain confident that the steps taken will yield positive and fundamental results.

Similarly, urgent action is required to counter the effects of the spread of HIV?AIDS, particularly on the African continent. The Trade Unions assembled here have a duty to ensure that the pharmaceutical products that have been developed for the treatment of AIDS, are made affordable and their availability is not driven solely by the profit motive.

While we as Africans are taking these positive steps to lift themselves out of the spiral of poverty, conflict and underdevelopment, we believe that we cannot achieve this without the support of the developed world. The current global economic and financial environment is such that there are still insufficient flows of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the developing world. This flow of investment is vital to the economic prospects of Africa.

Another debilitating matter that continues to impact negatively on the development potential of our nations, is the issue of debt relief. I wish to draw the attention of the trade unionists from the developed world to the protectionist practices that continue to exist in many of the developed countries, despite calls to open up markets to the developing nations on favourable conditions.

As it has been historically national interest has meant that market access remains restricted to a host of developing nations, because of the mistaken view tht this will lead to job losses for the workers in the developed nations. This is in contradiction to the principle of global solidarity, fairness and social justice and is an area that must be incisively discussed by the delegates to this conference. Our view is that globalisation must not be allowed to be selective.

One of the concrete steps that can be taken, is for the investment, retirement and annuity funds of the trade nions from the developed world to channel a percentage of their funds towards direct investment in the developing world.

This should be for long term purposes, rather than the short term and speculative variety and should be channeled towards the retention and creation of new jobs. Jobless economic growth, which is one of the most challenging consequences of globalisation, remains one of the key problems for the trade union movement.

Similarly the international financial institutions require an overhaul, particularly in the light of the debilitating financial crisis experienced recently. Some positive developments, like increased accountability and transparency of these financial institutions have occurred, but more are required to prevent a recurrence of the crisis.

The establishment of a financial stability forum and the G-20 are welcome steps in the restructuring of the global financial architecture, but the remaining question is how to ensure that the views of the developing nations are sufficiently strong in these institutions. This, coupled with how development funding should be channeled to the developing nations by these institutions, should be vigorously discussed by this conference.

The crafting of fair, predictable and equitable multilateral trading systems is another area of constraint that trade union federations need to tackle for the benefit of the developing nations. This is an essential link to ensure that measures taken by the developing nations to reverse the trend of decline in their fortunes, and achieve commodity and product diversification, as well as international competitiveness, are rewarded.

Structural unemployment is one issue that we in South Africa are trying to find creative solutions to.

Last year we had a successful Job Summit, that incorporated government, labour and business and community representatives. This can be a mobilising initiative for the various federations present here that can mirror the solidarity action of the anti-apartheid era to the direct advantage of the developing world.

Employment patterns and the nature of the workplace have changed dramatically as a result of these global dynamics. Jobs have become more flexible and less secure. In the developed world there has been a marked shift from the manufacturing to the service industry.

The terms of employment are also different, resulting in increased casualisation, informalisation and outsourcing. These workers are invariably without any benefits or protection. The changing pattern of employment therefore necessitates new bargaining methods and organisational strategies.

All the above factors point squarely at the enormous challenges that face trade unions in the 21st century. These challenges are however, configured differently for trade unions in the developed world and the developing world. The challenges of globalisation that confront trade unions at this juncture relate to:

Transnational solidarity between the developed and developing world;
The Changing nature of production;
The Changing nature of work;
The relationship between the trade union movement and progressive versus repressive governments;
The Challenge of Unemployment and Job Retention;
How to enhance the solidarity of the developed and the developing nations, consistent with the principles of social justice and fairness.
We are firmly in favour of a strong, well-organised, visionary and independent trade union movement as this can only be to the advantage of the transformation project in our country.

We still have huge challenges ahead of us, in deepening and consolidating our democracy, improving service delivery, uplifting the poor and ensuring economic growth and redistribution.

In this regard, we have instituted one of the most progressive labour relations regimes in the world to assist with the advancement of workers rights in the context of a culture of human rights and improving the quality of people's lives. We are equally committed to the principles of consultation with all stakeholders, transparency and ensuring accountability in shaping the agenda of our country.

In the light of the changing global nature of societal change, unions therefore must defend the gains of their members and develop innovative strategies to deal with the new condditions across the globe. Your coming to our country is welcomed and we wish to reaffirm the values of solidarity, fairness and social justice as you deliberate on how to work together in a transnational fashion.

Let us recapture the global unity in opposition to apartheid and ensure that we preserve the best of humanity for future generations. We are also aware that conditions differ across the globe and what is in vogue in South Africa is not necessarily the case in other countries. Our struggle against apartheid has crafted this special set of circumstances and we have sought to build on these firm foundations for change and genuine transformation.

We wish you well in your deliberations over the next few days and look forward to a continued dialogue on the important issues that confront humanity in the 21st century. I know that the issue of global solidarity will be vigorously debated and given content for ultimate implementation. May your discussions lead to concrete solutions on the creation of a just and stable social order and inculcate the values of social justice and fairness across the globe in this epoch of human development so that the benefits of globalisation are extended to all.

In conclusion, I wish to urge all the ICFTU delegates to enjoy their stay in our beautiful country and we look forward to continuing dialogue in the aftermath of this important conference.

I Thank You.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa