President Ali calls for global prioritisation in promotion of social justice as three-day ILO meeting gets underway

As the Caribbean navigates the path to socioeconomic development, His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali has called for the global prioritisation of issues affecting the Caribbean, in the interest of promoting social justice.

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the Twelfth Subregional ILO Meeting of Caribbean Labour Ministers at the Marriott Hotel on Tuesday, the head of state stressed the need for social justice to permeate every fibre of the global tapestry.

His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali

“For social justice to exist, there must be some guiding principles that will allow us at the global level to understand that global social justice is not a theory, but a set of principles and values that we are all going to bound ourselves by,” he said.

Lamenting on the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Ali said this crisis saw an erasure of social justice.

 “It became a selfish enclave of protectionism. We must not forget that those who could not have afforded the vaccines are still waiting for them, and those who could were told that they were not a priority in the line. We understand that every nation must protect its citizens. But, if social justice is a global concept, then there should be global responsibilities.

 “Social justice cannot be an event, or it cannot be targeted, and that is what we have allowed it to be, a set of measurable targets that we aim to achieve. Social justice must be a culture through which societies, nations and policies are built,” the head of state asserted.

He identified three major crises affecting the world- energy, food and climate security, highlighting that these issues heavily impact the Caribbean nations.  

A section of the gathering at the ILO Meeting

Against this backdrop, it is crucial to build out systems that allow for people to be at the centre of the policies, and in so doing, recognise those regions that are particularly vulnerable to these challenges.

 How are we going to calculate the disparity that exists and the proportionate responsibility of what is required? Would the system allow us to have that conversation, or would we ensure that the system allows that conversation? We may be too small individually, but collectively, we have enough to question the system.

“We cannot continue in a world where we know that these three crises will affect us the worst without having answers now. It is time for us to use these forums to advance our cause as a people of this region,” Dr Ali told the regional officials.

Building a sustainable labour framework

Further, President Ali noted that in promoting social justice, the Caribbean region should seek to develop a framework that highlights the value of work, and one that promotes continuous upskilling and education to match the global technological transformation that is currently underway.

He explained, “Social justice for workers is accessibility to financing to ensure that the future generations of workers have access to education, healthcare and equal opportunities. It is not about creating the framework for existing workers alone. It is about how, globally, we are taking collective responsibility for the workforce now and in the future,”

The president noted that the strengthening of democratic institutions and the crafting of innovative technological platforms to train and upskill persons are important to building out a sustainable labour framework.

 “We have to create this understanding in the global system of our own circumstances and challenges. Today, in Guyana, we are building a system for the future; 20, 000 online scholarships, working towards making university education free, expansion of technical and vocational training…we are building out a framework of benefits and salary that will allow us to retain our workers,” President Ali outlined.

The meeting is being hosted by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO), Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, under the theme ‘Social justice – the foundation for sustainable Caribbean transformation’.