• Road to Rio: Growth and employment need to be the heart of development | Magdy Martinez-Soliman

    15 May 2012

    Participants of UNDP's Cash-for-Work programme in Haiti
    Growth and employment are firmly back on the development agenda—and will be a key topic during the Rio+20 Conference next month. Photo: UNDP

    Growth and employment will be at the heart of a discussion taking place this week in Tokyo, organized by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the host Government of Japan on the ‘post-2015 development agenda’.

    The structural adjustment programmes that were common around the 1980-90’s, which sought to tackle intractable problems, ended up holding back development and growth—often  in a painful and insensitive way that exacerbated poverty and underdevelopment. Growth got a bad name. 

    But now growth and employment are firmly back on the development agenda—and will be a key topic during the Rio+20 Conference next month.

    The one Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target that relates to full, productive and decent work is unlikely to be met by 2015. The global financial and economic crisis have slowed growth, and led in turn to an employment crisis: Total global unemployment is expected to increase another 6 million over the next three years. to 206 million in 2016, up from 200 million today. 

    And this is not a challenge for developing countries only.  My own country, Spain, has nearly one in four working-age people out of work.  As a result, the growth agenda has currency with a large cross-section of countries.  The G20 is focusing on an agenda of strong and sustainable growth to rebuild after the crisis, and the Least Developed Countries recognized the importance of productive capacities for growth at a major conference last year.

    Growth and employment are important to the ‘future we want’ because they are not just about statistics. At their heart are issues of human dignity and a sense of worth.  They are about inclusion and fairness; issues that resonated through the uprisings in the Arab region last year, and whose echoes can be heard in the Occupy movements of the north.

    We have come to terms with the notion that Human Capital and Natural Capital are after all, much more important than Financial Capital.

    Talk to us: How can we generate growth and employment while protecting our planet?