A Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work: Nibbling at the Edges

The Future of Work as a policy framework has been a fairly recurrent preoccupation of both scholars and policy makers. Whenever major changes have come along to disrupt how work is organized, we have typically been drawn to the adjustment challenges. Jobs are lost, and other jobs come along. Pessimists worry about the whole phenomenon of lost employability, while optimists focus on the new opportunities. All assume that sustainable livelihoods are dependent on full, productive and freely chosen employment. Without dwelling on past transitions, however, I am impressed by the surprising mix of pessimism and optimism about the major changes affecting employability that we are all dealing with today. In that context, the recent momentum for adopting a so-called human-centered approach to the future of work, as articulated in the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work at the International Labour Conference is a significant development. In this commentary I reflect on that odd mixture of pessimism and optimism about the future of work and conclude that the ILO’s Centenary Declaration only “nibbles at the edges” of what needs to be done.

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Changing Dynamics of European Leadership and Climate Change

Saving the day for the European Union may not entirely depend on the leadership of French President Emmanuel Macron, but I join many others who were encouraged by the overall election results for the European Parliament in May as the opening of a new approach to a vibrant European Union. The results do mean that President Macron could be the catalyst for a new pro-European coalition with a more progressive strategy for the EU’s future on certain key issues. The focus in this commentary is on a post-election assessment of the potential for a new approach within the EU. My personal interest in this potential is not only driven by hopefulness for a vibrant European Union but also and especially because of the ramifications of EU leadership for broader global collaboration on issues of shared common concern for the global community. In this particular commentary, I concentrate on the particular issue of climate change. It is the leading issue among many where the disregard for global dialogue under the Trump administration has been especially disconcerting. And thus, EU leadership is ever more pivotal for identifying the realistic parameters of collaborative global action. Continue reading “Changing Dynamics of European Leadership and Climate Change”

Looking to Macron to Save the Day

Official campaigning for the European Parliamentary elections started on Monday, 13 May 2019 for elections throughout the European Union (including the UK) to take place on 23 to 26 May 2019. These elections happen every five years for a European Parliament that has become increasingly significant in determining the direction of the European Union. The unusual dynamics in this particular election cycle include the Brexit turmoil, the rising strength and signs of unity among the anti-European populist parties of the extreme right, and the possibility that the two main political alignments that have dominated the EU through their strength in the European Parliament might have become so weakened that they will no longer be the major players. That is why this particular election cycle is more important than ever in saving the day for progressivism and European-wide collaboration for democratic values and fundamental human rights.  And the key for that happens to be the potential for the elections to produce a very different, centrally-driven alignment of political interests, something that fits very well with the strategy being pursued by President Emmanuel Macron.  Continue reading “Looking to Macron to Save the Day”

“Laicité” and Islam

French “laicité” has been around for over 100 years – or more. The current legal framework, dating from 1905, was inspired by a reaction to the Alfred Dreyfus affair that exposed the prevalence of anti-Semitism in the French military, Catholic Church and conservative political elites of the late nineteenth century. In this reflection, I share my thoughts about applying the idea of “absorptive” immigration (as opposed to “integrative” immigration) to the challenges of applying “laicité” today, involving a significantly more diverse population than existed back in 1905. Continue reading ““Laicité” and Islam”

Complications of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Europe and the US

Anti-Semitism seems so ridiculous that no one could rationally or even emotionally be attracted to it. And yet it has been described as “the longest hatred” stretching back, as the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism has pointed out, to long before the Christian era. Moses and the Sea of Galilee come to mind. Romans drove them out of Israel but also saw Jesus as a political threat. Why is it so entrenched? And what can we do about it? As an American living in France, I have been surprised that the phenomenon of anti-Semitism is so strong in France, and it has led me to learn more about the circumstances both here and throughout Europe. Continue reading “Complications of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Europe and the US”

The Future of Work and the ILO Centenary

The “future of work” as a means of achieving and maintaining sustainable livelihoods for all is being called into question these days. Technological change is typically identified as the main culprit, but there are plenty of other candidates to blame – globalization, climate change, demographic trends, human migration, and yes, even trade liberalization, just to name the more obvious ones. In this year 2019 of the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO), it is timely to reflect on what this means for the future of work – but also for the prospects of the ILO as the social pillar of our global architecture. The ILO, after all, was established in 1919 to mobilize the world’s capacity for sustainable livelihoods through a just and fair social order in the world of work. One hundred years later, the ILO is using this occasion to redefine its mission, including in the form of a “Centenary Declaration” on the future of work. Continue reading “The Future of Work and the ILO Centenary”

Changing Perspectives on Migration

The new year has started with a lot of political turmoil driven by a disintegration of stability in longstanding democracies – government shutdown in the US, defeat of a Brexit plan in the UK, week after week of the “Gilets Jaunes” in France, plus the vulnerability to terrorist attacks in so many places around the world (Afghanistan, Syria, Colombia, Kenya).  One could go on and on about the upsurge in populism as well as the fragility of democracies generally.  But none of this is new. It is just that they all seem to have an underlying and rather unsettled concern about or even a direct role in immigration flows. This might not be the only factor, but it is pretty amazing that it continues to appear in one way or another as a factor in almost all of these instances of political turmoil.  Certainly, the media coverage of these tumultuous events has frequently dwelt on the anti-immigrant platforms of radical groups and their growing electoral strength. So what can be the response to this turmoil? Continue reading “Changing Perspectives on Migration”

Lessons from the Gilets Jaunes on Climate Change and Migration

How to link the personal impact of the phenomenon of the “Gilets Jaunes” to the global developments on climate change and migration?  This has been in the forefront of my mind these past few weeks. The Gilets Jaunes movement is a very domestically French phenomenon, while my interests in both climate change and migration are very much at the global level. Both of these issues have gained momentum through significant global gatherings to move in new directions – the one in Katowice, Poland and the other in Marrakech, Morocco – both of them held in December. But the phenomenon of thousands of yellow-vested protesters has brought to the forefront in my thinking the localized nature of the global debates on these two very issues and how dependent we all are on enabling a genuine inclusiveness at both local and global levels. Continue reading “Lessons from the Gilets Jaunes on Climate Change and Migration”

Reminiscenses on Civil Rights and George H.W. Bush

On 21 November 1991, the US Congress passed the most comprehensive civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Surprisingly, President George H.W. Bush did not veto the bill, even though he had vetoed a previous bill with similar provisions in 1990. Timing seems to have been a factor. Clarence Thomas had just gone through a very controversial confirmation process in the US Senate, driven primarily by the sexual harassment charges brought against him by Anita Hill. But it may also have been that enough moderate Republicans had shifted to support the 1991 bill, such that it had become “veto-proof” (a 67-vote majority protecting the over-ride authority of two-thirds plus one). As a participant in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, however, I do have a few words to say about how it came about, triggered by reflections upon the passing of George H.W. Bush. Continue reading “Reminiscenses on Civil Rights and George H.W. Bush”

The French Impact on the Internet Governance Forum

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an annual event that has enabled participants from many different sectors to mobilize or at least maintain a modicum of a global consensus for a free global Internet ever since its inception in 2006. To me, the IGF serves as an excellent example of the kind of multi-stakeholder engagement that I believe needs to be promoted across the “globalizing” world. Although the IGF has gone through a number of “ups” and “downs” over the years, the 13th IGF, which met in Paris from 12 to 14 November 2018, is definitely one of the “ups”.  In fact, the French sponsorship of this latest IGF has stimulated a revived hope for the IGF and its commitment to a globally open and free Internet. Continue reading “The French Impact on the Internet Governance Forum”