Press Release

Belgium joins Global Coalition for Social Justice

Belgium will join the Global Coalition for Social Justice, a flagship initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO). It brings together workers, employers and governments and aims to promote labour rights, better working conditions, social protection, and social dialogue worldwide. This was announced today by Minister of Development Cooperation, Caroline Gennez, at an event on decent work in Brussels, in the presence of Gilbert F. Houngbo, Director-General of the ILO.

"The goal of the Global Coalition is to put social justice at the heart of all policies, at all levels – global, national and local – as well as in trade agreements and development cooperation. Socials justice is about the right to a safe workplace, fair wages, social safety nets, trade unions – things we take for granted here in Belgium but are not accessible to workers in many places in the world," Gennez explains.  

The challenges are still great. Nearly 4 billion people do not have any form of social protection. They are one setback away from extreme poverty. The ILO estimates that there are some 27.6 million people worldwide who are forced to work in a system of modern slavery – 3.3 million of whom are children. The climate crisis, the aftermath of the pandemic, the rapid emergence of new technologies such as AI and increasing geopolitical instability make it even more difficult for governments, especially in poorer countries, to build social safety nets or to put labour rights high on the agenda. The Coalition is meant to change that. 

"In Belgium, we have a strong welfare state. Labour rights, social protection and social dialogue are anchored in our society – after a long struggle. This has also led to more equality, prosperity and, above all, resilience. Solidarity works. The fact that Belgium has weathered the past crises relatively well is proof of this. Our country also has a leading role on these issues at the international level. By joining the Coalition, we will increase our efforts to promote decent work and social justice – including through our International Solidarity. For example, we will share our expertise and experience with governments that are still in the early stages of setting up, among other things, national or regional health insurance schemes or systems for parental leave," says Gennez. 

Countries, as well as trade unions, employers' organisations, and academic institutions, can join voluntarily. In doing so, they commit themselves to helping to achieve the goals put forward by the Global Coalition. This is done through consultation, the exchanging of information and knowledge, the support of research conducted by the International Labour Organisation, or concrete policy initiatives. 

The announcement came during a launch event in Brussels for a new strategy paper of the Belgian development cooperation on decent work. This strategy will ensure that all current and future cooperation programmes, partnerships, and projects of the Belgian development cooperation contribute to strengthening social protection systems in our partner countries, endorsing living wages, encouraging employment for young people and women, and respecting fundamental labour rights - all objectives of the Global Coalition and the ILO.  

"This strategy paper is the first of many future efforts by Belgium to make a concrete contribution to the Coalition. Promoting social justice worldwide should be a top priority for the international community. Inequality leads to instability. All over the world, where there is great inequality and no socio-economic progress, volatility and violence take over – that is true from the Sahel to Ecuador to the Middle East," Gennez adds.  

In addition to ILO Director Houngbo, Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Luc Triangle, Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Irina Meeusen, Representative of the Coordination Platform for Decent Work (civil society), were also present to discuss the new strategy paper and possible concrete actions under the Coalition.