OverviewOn 7-8 December 2009, the ILO, UNICEF, FAO and UNDP, hosted by the Government of Kazakhstan, will organize a Conference on the social impact of the global financial and economic crisis in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The Conference will bring together the Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs and senior officials from the Ministries of Labour, Finance/Economy and Agriculture of the 13 countries, as well as high-level representatives of the United Nations system, international and regional financial institutions (IFIs), regional organizations, bilateral cooperation agencies, international employers' and workers' organizations, civil society and regional academia. Taking into account the respective areas of expertise of each organization, the Conference will focus on the areas of employment and labour market development, social protection and food security and agricultural development. As many regional governments are reviewing their initial responses to the crisis, the Conference will provide a good opportunity to take stock of and share experience on effective anti-crisis polices, and the lessons learned. The Conference will also provide a platform for refocusing the debate onto how to stimulate recovery and shape longer-term strategies that can assist countries to move towards their optimal development paths.
There will be two parts to the Conference. The first will consist of a Ministerial Section, in which Labour Ministers from the region will share the latest developments and experience of national policy responses to the crisis and its effects on major thematic issues. During the second part, the Technical Section, panels will assess national policy responses to the social impact of the crisis against the background of the longer-term labour market and social challenges faced by the countries in the region. Reference will be made during the discussions to international experience of the application of anti-crisis policies in the fields of employment, social protection and food security, and policy options will be discussed to improve the efficiency of short- and longer-term national policies. A final panel of regional directors of United Nations agencies and IFIs will focus on the future partnership with national stakeholders with a view to supporting a speedy recovery and sustainable development.
Background informationThe global economic and financial crisis is leading to sharply reduced and in many countries negative economic growth rates, reduced income and employment, as well as increasing un- and underemployment and poverty. Exports of oil, gas and minerals, capital inflows and remittances have all declined sharply, thereby limiting the options available to governments in terms of both revenue and expenditure. This has occurred against the background of a food crisis which remains a problem for many countries. However, its relationship with the financial crisis is not yet well understood and, unless clarified, it may have a severe impact on vulnerable groups.
Although it is recognized that the global economy requires a stimulus for recovery, the room for manoeuvre of many countries is limited by the strong pressure to reduce deficits, which is in turn exacerbating pro-cyclical tendencies. Responses by governments have so far focused on stabilizing the banking system and the macro economy. Even though employment has been an area on which the attention of policy-makers has been focused, employment promotion measures have not addressed the weaknesses in the functioning of labour market institutions, or the absence of such institutions, and their links with economic and social policies. Another important aspect of recovery relates to social protection systems, which are crucial to the response to the crisis. The coverage and adequacy of these systems in the region have been shown to be lacking and they are often unresponsive to the needs of the population categories that are at greatest risk. Food prices remain high in real terms, affecting the poor disproportionately, and yet food security has rarely featured as a part of national crisis responses.
The extent to which policy responses have focused on employment, social protection and agricultural policies has varied. Under the pressure for immediate action, longer-term development goals may be further compromised. Many of the elements of appropriate responses are seen in individual countries, but they have rarely been brought together as a comprehensive and effective strategy designed to protect all of the categories concerned.
The Conference seeks to provide a forum for discussion and analysis that will lead to a better understanding of: the policy options available to governments and the social partners during and after the crisis, including trade-offs; forward-looking strategies in the key areas of employment, social protection and food security; and the manner in which the United Nations System and the IFIs can provide more effective support for national stakeholders.