Commission 4 – Globalization, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – Hanoi 2009

    Part of the Hanoi Congress – XVII Congress of IADL, June 2009


    • Debt and the role of international financial institutions
    • Labor rights and migrant labor
    • Alternative trade regimes to WTO
    • Multiculturalism and the law
    • Gender Empowerment
    • Rights of children



    June 8, 2009

    My Dink National Convention Center Hanoi,

    Viet Nam

    Rapporteur: Micòl Savia

    The commission was chaired by Fabio Marcelli, researcher in the Institute for International Legal Studies of the National Research Council, Rome, deputy secretary of IADL and co-chaired by Jeanne Mirer, secretary general of IADL and by Prof. Le Hong Hanh.

    The work of the commission was introduced by Fabio Marcelli. He stated that the current economic crisis is not an accident but the consequence of the neoliberal doctrine and politics of so-called casino capitalism. He stressed on the indivisibility and interconnection among civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. He also affirmed that the underlying reasons for the crisis are based on two factors: 1. growing inequalities within and among different countries caused by globalization; 2. Lack of a normative framework governing financial capital which allowed the financial sphere to grow in an uncontrolled way totally disconnected from the production of real good and services. The spreading misery caused by globalization determined a shortage of demand which precipitated the crisis. The General Assembly of United Nations constitutes the only legitimate forum to discuss this crisis and configure solutions based on the redistribution of wealth. The problem of foreign dept also affects gravely the so-called developing countries and needs the elaboration of a normative framework based on principles of international laws and on general principles of law. Initiatives of enquiry on the origins of foreign debt, like that decided two and half years ago by the Government of Ecuador have to be supported and multiplied. This enquiry showed the illegitimacy and illegality of the most part of the debt, a situation which very probably could be verified also in many others countries. Also to be supported is the proposal of a resolution of the UN General Assembly asking for a consultative opinion of the International Court of Justice on the matter of foreign debt on the basis of article 86 of the United Nations Charter.

    The first portion of the commission was dedicated to the debt and the role of international financial institutions. Professor Nguyen Thi Van Anh, Director of the Center of Comparative Law of the Hanoi Law University pointed out how the international financial institutions seek to impose to indebted countries a model based on the containment of expenses and subordination of human rights to foreign capital.

    The next topic discussed in the commission was the impact of globalization on the rights of workers and migrant labour. The interventions stressed the fact that globalization and economic crisis affected workers and particularly the non-regular and migrant ones, which are less protected by law. The interventions also emphasized that misery is spreading, legislative protection is becoming weaker and the working conditions are worsening. In particular the right to strike is at stake denied.

    Many papers were presented by Japanese delegates which illustrated the problems of workers in their country, and gave notice of some specific struggles. In Japan like everywhere else millions of workers lost their jobs. However speakers explained how, in response to the crisis, workers are forming unions and citizens are supporting them forming strong movements of solidarity. Just as an example, in Tokyo was established a relief camp on the initiative of labor unions, lawyers, citizen’s groups and other volunteers in order to provide food and shelter and legal counseling to unemployed people.

    Vietnamese delegates illustrated the programs and planes of their government to protect workers especially vulnerable ones like non-regulars workers, temporary workers, women, young, old and disabled.

    As commission members discussed the issues, it appeared that the problems workers are facing in Japan are very similar to the problems workers are facing in Europe and other places in the world. Several speakers stressed that union representatives and legal professionals should collaborate and work together in order to ensure the protection of workers, especially migrant workers who are an important resource of humanity.

    A report have been presented on the International Commission for Labour Rights. Created at the initiative of the IADL, ICLR is a network of more then 300 hundreds lawyers active in the promotion and defense of labour rights. A major accomplishment of ICLR in the last year was ICLR’s support the work of UNI a Global Union Federation, in its organizing drive to organize the workers of the multinational corporation Group 4 Securicorp (G4S) which resulted in a global agreement to organize 500,000 workers.

    Another topic that was discussed was about cultural rights and the problems that arise in this subject connected with globalization. For example a participant underlined the bad influence of western countries through their television programs which are advertising consumerism and promoting their model of living causing cultural crisis in developing countries. Cultural crisis was touched on by another speaker from Cuba but from a different point of view. She called the attention on the cultural crisis provoked by the destruction of cultural heritage by wars as in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan.

    The last subject was gender empowerment. A Vietnamese delegate explained what her country is doing to improve the legislation concerning women and their participation in public life. Another delegate illustrated the protection and challenges for immigrant women in the United States pointing out how the rights of those women, and their children, depends on their husbands.

    IN total were presented 17 papers and the discussion was very lively. IN the view of the depth of the present crisis and the severe consequences that will have on the economic and social rights of the workers throughout the world the participants to the Commission Four make the following recommendations:

    1.      Lawyers should fight for the integration of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the national legislation of their countries, and even if is not integrated in the national constitutions and legislation, lawyers should fight to obtain that judiciary give prioritarian importance to them due to their superior legal value.

    2.      IADL should work more intensely to defend the rights of workers, labour rights, union rights by coordinating the efforts of the national members organizations, by developing its participation in the International Commission for Labour Rights (ICLR), by informing its members organizations about the activities of ICLR and by developing intense relations with trade unions on national and international level.

    3.      IADL should support the international conference convened by the General Assembly of the United Nations on the financial crisis, recognizing the GA as the only legitimate forum to discuss such a global issue. GA should also vote a resolution requesting International Court of Justice to give consultative opinion on the issue of foreign debt and its various reasons of illegitimacy.

    4.      Concerning migrant and non-regular workers IADL should elaborate strategies to implement legislations affirming the equality among all the workers and the unity of their rights and struggle.

    5.      On the gender issue IADL affiliates should interact with each other even to exchange best practices in the field, in order to elaborate and implement effective strategies for women empowerment and no discrimination.

    Download papers presented at Commission 4 (Hanoi 2009):