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Germany

G8 Aims to Link Aid, Social Standards in Developing World

Labor and employment ministers from the world's richest nations appealed to developing countries and emerging economies to improve social standards.

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Müntefering (giving 'thumbs up' sign) appears to have had high hopes going into the meeting

Wrapping up three days of meetings in Dresden, labor ministers from the Group of Eight nations said they support stronger ties between financial aid and social standards in developing countries.

Years of effort have failed to produce any meaningful social protection in these countries, the G8 ministers acknowledged in a statement at the end of the conference.

Recommendations from the meeting were being prepared for the summit hosted by Germany next month in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm.

Müntefering

Social responsability should be partly compulsory, Müntefering said

"Strengthening and broadening of social protection (is) one of the most important tasks in the context of globalization processes," the statement said, pointing out the value of such standards in combating poverty and promoting economic and social development.

Little leverage

German Labor Minister Franz Müntefering said the G8 as a group was unable to present concrete demands because setting minimum standards for social protection falls under the jurisdiction of individual states.

Müntefering said the only possibility was to make agreements "and then canvas support for them to be adhered to ... You have to appeal to reason."

To best adapt to the changes in the era of globalization, "it is crucial to enhance flexibility and adequate labor market security for individuals," the statement said.

"In a globally competitive world, individual countries need to be innovative. But every successful package requires well-designed employment regulations and contractual arrangements as well as adequate employment-oriented social protection," the statement said.

Representatives from the European Commission, the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the World Bank also took part in the conference.

Call for social responsibility

The conference said that industry could make a contribution to shaping the social dimension of the world economy by taking on a greater social responsibility.

Heiligendamm wird Tagungsort des G8-Gipfels 2007

The Dresden talks were ahead of an upcoming summit in Heiligendamm

"Companies should recognize their responsibility to their workers through the promotion of the rule of law, transparency, good governance, the ending of corruption and implementing sound industrial relations," the ministers said.

Müntefering acknowledged that corporate social responsibility will remain voluntary, but that the issue needs to be addressed by a mixture of "compulsory and non-compulsory" actions. Adequate work protections should be compulsory, he said.

'People shouldn't live in fear'

"Social protection means people shouldn't live in fear and misery. Aside from needing food and drink, they need social protection for the difficult periods in life," he said.

Brazilian Social Welfare Minister Luís Marinho addressed the group on Tuesday, and made a few jabs at the G8 countries. He said developing countries were doing all they could to improve conditions, but the G8 needed to do its part, as well.

The ministers officially asked the International Labor Organization to explain why minimum work standards that were agreed to years ago "have not been meaningfully put into place up to now."

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia acknowledged that it was difficult to put any meaningful pressure on world governments. There is no body that can issue motivating sanctions that would apply to member countries, he said.

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