CEB addressed the issue of employment and decent work both in an initial preparatory discussion at its fall 2006 session and on the basis of further preparation by the High-level Committee on Programmes at its spring 2007 session in the light of increasingly strong political support for addressing full employment and decent work for all. That support had been manifested at high-level international gatherings in various regions, such as the African Union Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Alleviation and the Fourth Summit of the Americas.

At the 2005 World Summit, heads of State had supported fair globalization and the goals of full and productive employment and decent work for all, and subsequently, the Economic and Social Council 2006 Ministerial Declaration had underscored the significance of full and productive employment and decent work for all as an end in itself and as a means to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, including poverty eradication. In addition, the Secretary-General, in his annual report to the General Assembly at its sixty-first session, proposed that full employment and decent work for all be formally included as a new target under Millennium Development Goal 1.

CEB addressed several aspects of the employment and decent work agenda during the reporting period, including the potential for small- and medium-sized enterprises, especially in rural areas, to generate employment; advancing entrepreneurship and supporting development of small- and medium-sized businesses; and technologies that enhance the productivity of youth. A coherent United Nations system working together on the issue was seen by CEB as contributing to operationalizing the concept of “One United Nations” around an objective that was increasingly emerging as a priority at both the national and the international levels.

The High-level Committee on Programmes undertook the development of a toolkit to mainstream employment and decent work objectives in United Nations system organizations. The intent was to generate reflection throughout the system on how policies and programmes of the United Nations could contribute to maximizing job creation in the most effective way possible.

The methodology used in constructing the toolkit was a collective process led by the International Labour Organization (ILO) under the guidance of the High-level Committee on Programmes. The toolkit had the practical purpose of providing a means to facilitate policy coherence around shared common objectives. It was conceived along the structure of the decent work agenda, which consisted of the following four pillars: employment creation and enterprise development; social protection; standards and rights at work; and governance and social dialogue.

The objective of the toolkit was to assist the system support countries in achieving their objectives for full and productive employment and decent work through: mainstreaming the issue in policies and programmes; identifying areas of common interest, as well as linkages and synergies; deepening, sharing and expanding knowledge and tools in areas of common interest, and improving and pooling capacity to respond to country priorities.

In the next phase, CEB members will carry out initial self-assessments, as proposed in the toolkit, to establish a baseline to mark progress in 2010 and 2015. Initial assessments would be reported back in September 2007 so that CEB could provide an input to the Commission for Social Development on the theme of employment and decent work in February 2008.

CEB strongly supported the initiative and considered that the methodology that had been developed for the toolkit could be replicated in other areas as an integral part of the effort to advance policy coherence within the system. Practical responses were needed for the system to support countries in order to derive concrete benefit from such initiatives. The recent joint ILO-World Trade Organization study on trade and employment was cited as an example in that regard. It was clear that Millennium Development Goal 1 could not be achieved without employment generation and that for every 10 children being born, only one job was being created. In 2007 for the first time, 50 per cent of the global population would be living in urban areas, and by 2030 two thirds of the world’s population would be living in urban areas with a majority in slums and squatter settlements.

In order to design appropriate interventions, it was important for all parts of the United Nations system to be well versed in the policy issues that were at the core of development. In that regard, ILO had provided training to resident coordinators on the decent work agenda in order to assist them in mainstreaming those objectives at the country level.

CEB gave its full endorsement to the toolkit and agreed to review progress in its operationalization at the forthcoming session of CEB, with a view to contributing to the work of the Commission for Social Development on employment and decent work.