KYOTO: Societies embracing Decent Work principles would not only minimise the losses from natural disaster but also bounce back more efficiently, Asean secretary general Surin Pitsuwan told the regional labour gathering Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Surin was referring to two contrast modalities between a smaller nation like New Zealand which had some good faith and strong trust between stakeholders in the society, in short better organised, showed they could sail through the crisis relatively well while a bigger country like Pakistan had little statistics of what and where the people and the workers were, on the other hand less efficient even before the crisis, could not respond effectively when crisis hit the country.

In Japan case, there were more than 15,000 losses during the Great Earthquake this year while Indonesia suffered as many as 300,000 casualties from the 2004 tsunami, Mr Surin said in the second day of the 15th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting.

When cyclone Nargis hit Burma in 2008, some 44,000 people were perished while Bangladesh’s fatality of 2007 cyclone was around 4,000, he said.

Above all other factors, part of the efficiency in dealing with emergencies and having a better-organised nature attributed to the sense of ownership within the society; “because majority of the people feel they are part of the system and ensure this society respect standards or principles that cherish dignified life as well as employment,” said the Asean secretary general.

“To prepare and be prepared with any crisis could come through a sense of ownership that they also have contribution to the society, without that it’s difficult to be an efficient society. Lack of such system (Decent Work) will fail the people,” he added.

Mr Surin also appeal that the Asean has gradually come along with the Decent Work standard, as they considered ideological-neutral compared with other “terminology” as human rights.

“The region which featuring the supremacy of governments rather than interesting in human rights or workers collective rights feel the concept of Decent Work free from ideological baggage and pragmatic. It’s a concept forward for more harmonious society that we agree for,” said the Jakarta-based Surin.

Decent Work implied quality of life, equitable compensation, and workable practical system of protection network or social safety nets, he said

While Asean has been embarking on mainstreaming the concept into the society, he noted that the model needed to be transformed to fit the historical context and diversity within the grouping.

“This region is not perfect but we’ve found a key to guide the process into the future to become competitive without many violent confrontation and conflicts or we will come across incidents like what Thailand is facing,” he said.

Mr Surin also called for similar standard within Asean for the migrant workers. “If Decent Work is not applied evenly to the migrant, it will become conflict and confrontation … if it’s decent for one (local workers), it’s got to be decent for all. Migrants need same dignity treatment if we want to achieve a harmonious society,” Mr Surin said.

He added even China realised that to maintain the sustainable growth they had to take decent care of the workers as well, and it was the first country to sign MoU with the ILO on Decent Work.

At a Monday forum on natural disaster, Jose M. Salazar-Xirinachs, ILO executive director for Employment Sector, said employment friendly investment was necessary in light of the natural disaster through labour intensive methods, procurement of local materials and local contracting.

Mr Salazar-Xirinachs said restoring capacity of local markets and enabling capacity of key economic actors were also needed. The ILO-conducted post disaster needs assessment (PDNA) with respective nations would also help not only address the emergency needs but help draw preventive measures.

Japan’s vice minister of health, labour, and welfare Yoshio Maki said while employment policy at the time of natural disasters should be implemented as soon as possible, most governments have not paid sufficient attention to the employment measures.

Japanese government, said Mr Maki, humbly hoped that lessons learned from Japan and elsewhere would help implement employment measures in a smooth and effective manner.

Brigadier Sajid Naeem, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, said the UN “humanitarian cluster” system was not best suited set up for catering to the employment recovery needs of the affected people.

Mr Naeem conceded that institutional linkages between disaster management authorities and labour and skill development entities have yet to be formalized and enforcement of the Decent Work standards which was already difficult in normal situations was even harder to observe in emergency situations.

Phil O’Reilly, chief executive of Business New Zealand, talked about a remarkable success of employment recovery through high trust and collaboration between the government and the business.

Mr O’Reilly said relief delivery through business operators, not directly to the individuals, was found to be effective as it helped business life and its employment cycles resumed since day one of the disaster. –Bangkok Post