United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Major Group: Workers & Trade

Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting (IPM)
17th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development
Rural Development ? 24th February 2009
Statement on behalf of the Workers and Trade Unions Major Group
Allow us first to congratulate the Secretariat for the very comprehensive report done on
this very broad and difficult issue. We agree with its approach, based among others on
enhancing human and social capital, promoting non-farming employment and improving
natural resources management.
We would like to highlight some of the policies suggested as key for achieving progress
in this area:
- Decent employment policies in rural areas have to be promoted, as they help
in increasing labor productivity and reducing poverty. New industries need to be
supported to create new jobs and income opportunities outside the agricultural
- Income generating and job-creating policies and measures should give
special attention to young people, who constitute the bulk of migrants to
urban areas. For example, employing rural dwellers to repair and protect the
natural environment could generate a large number of jobs. Terracing or
countouring land, building irrigation structures, conserving water and other
related activities are labour-intensive and will therefore provide employment, as
will the rehabilitation of dams, barrages and embankments. In South Africa for
example, a public programme has provided work for 25,000 previously
unemployed people around these activities.
- Dialogue with local stakeholders, including agricultural workers, can provide
with innovative ideas and opportunities for rural areas. Microcredit
programmes can help in financing these.
- Human and social capital is one of the most powerful tools in the fight against
rural poverty and the promotion of sustainable development in rural areas. Our
second recommendation will go to the promotion of education and vocational
training, as they are key in providing rural workers and communities with
the opportunities for improving their lives in the agriculture sector, as well as
in other areas.
- Policies aiming at building and reinforcing safety nets and social protection,
including the provision of employment insurances and health services are key
in reducing the vulnerability of rural communities to environmental and economic
- As the report points out, engaging with employers in social dialogue provides a
good opportunity for rural workers to address the concerns of often excluded
or marginalized groups such as smallholders, rural women and agricultural
laborers. Such dialogue will allow for a better adaptation of institutions to the
realities on the ground, as Ms. De la Rosa pointed out.
- Last but not least, Madame Chair, freedom of association, the right to collective
bargaining, elimination of discrimination at the workplace and the right to
information are all essential preconditions for the effective engagement of
vulnerable groups.