Orientation at NOTU Leadership Forum on Achieving Social Protection through the Sustainable Development Goals: Unmasking the SDGs as trade union struggle!

July 2019 Masaka, UGANDA
Keywords : Activities Uganda Reports ATUDN

It is no doubt that at political level, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 2030) has been universally adopted. African nations too have already committed to achieving the goals of the SDG 2030 and the Africa Union Agenda 2063. However, there remains a huge gap between what the successful implementation of the agenda requires and what is actually happening on the ground. For the goals to be reached, it is clear that everyone has to do their part: governments, private sector, trade union and CSOs - basically everyone! This multi-stakeholder approach means that the civil society in general and the trade unions in particular can no longer stand on the side-lines: they ought to stand up, get involved and be counted as development actors in their own right! The reality in Africa however is that trade union involvement in the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs is not up to speed!

September 26

Social Protection targets in SDGs

Unlike the Millennium development goals that preceded the 2030 agenda, the current development framework is an “all things to all people”! In it you find all the trade union struggle raison d’etre like just transition, decent work, gender equality etcetera. Pleasingly, the issue of social protection is adequately covered in a number of goals as highlighted in the targets below:
  Target 1.3: Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable
  Target 3.8: Achieve universal health coverage (UHC), including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services, and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all
  Target 5.4: Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.
  Target 8.5: By 2030 achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
  Target 10.4: Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality

What role can trade unions play in this?

Contrary to some perceptions that the SDGs are destructionist for trade unions and that they do not address the fundamental neoliberal developmental paradigm that entrenches and reproduces poverty and inequality, I am of the view that SDGs proffer trade unions with extra tools and spaces for engaging their national governments and holding them to accountable on their commitments.
In this regard, there is a lot that can be done in mobilising the workers’ support for social protection. Developing tools and practical guides for workers’ groups on social protection education, advocacy and good governance is one sure way of strengthening the struggle for improved working and living conditions. Fostering national dialogues to encourage tripartite discussions on national social protection situations and expansion ambitions while advocating for the improvement of the national legislation is another role that trade unions can champion!
Regarding the generic role that the trade unions can play in implementing and monitoring the SDGs in Africa, the Africa Trade Union Development Network (ATUDN) promulgates a three-pronged strategy. Number one, trade unions ought to mobile and engage. By this, I mean that the trade union movement should familiarise itself with agenda 2030 and also isolate the goals that resonate with their specific struggles. Number two, trade unions should advocate and be involved in implementation. Through social dialogue, trade unions can influence the planning and implementation of agenda 2030. Number three and finally, trade unions should monitor and report on the progress of the implementation. The ATUDN has already showed the way on how to do this. Through the production of the shadow reports, the unions can also feed into the progress report on how specific countries are faring in implementing the 2030 agenda.

by Alex R. NKOSI

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