It is an honour for the Building and Woodworkers’ International or BWI, to address this very important gathering of political parties, trade unions, progressive institutions, and other social movements to discuss decent work and migration.
BWI is a global union federation covering building-construction, building materials, and wood and forestry sectors.
We represent 12-million members in almost 130 countries and they are organised under 326 national trade unions – and some of them are members of your political parties.
Construction workers are the poster people of what is wrong with labour migration. Therefore BWI operates in 3 tracks to achieve our strategic objectives: ORGANISING, to build our constituency and organisational power; NEGOTIATING, to make binding agreements to enhance the terms and conditions of workers and their families; and INFLUENCING, to make changes in policies and legislations at the global, regional and national levels.
In the previous century, a general belief in the optimality of nuclear technology (as a source of power generation) and deep anxieties over energy security (in light of precarious fluctuations in hydrocarbon-supply) encouraged many countries to aggressively invest in and pursue nuclear option. Shortly after U.S.’ President Eisenhower ‘Atom for Peace’ speech (1953), marking the beginning of a global nuclear era, major countries embraced the technology as a supposedly reliable, safe, and clean source of energy -- a trend that was followed across the developing world as well as a number of communist countries in Europe and Asia. The ‘oil shocks’ in the 1970s and the 1980s further raised concerns over the stability and predictability of the global supply of oil, which, in turn, reinforced the imperative, at least in the minds of the leaders at the time, to rely on supposedly sound source of energy, i.e. nuclear technology – despite all its negative association with weapons of mass destruction and military adventurism. As a result, there was an element of ‘nuclear renaissance’ in the late-1970s and 1980s, with 233 reactors under construction globally and 50 in the U.S. alone in that specific period.
However, a series of tragic nuclear accidents, notably the ‘three mile island’ incident (1979) and the Chernobyl meltdown (1986), tarnished this relentless push for nuclear technology – forcing many countries to reconsider the wisdom of their pro-nuclear policy paradigm. Soon, Asian countries such as the Philippines began to revisit their large-scale nuclear projects, quickly discovering the myriad of safety, technical, and financial burdens inherent to the nuclear industry. As a result, from a high of 233 reactors under construction in the 1970s and 1980s, recent years have seen only 64 reactors under construction. Historically, only a few countries, namely Japan, South Korea, Russia, USA, France, and Germany, have actually dominated the usage, development, and export of the technology, for due to its inherently difficult financial configuration -- ranging fro the lack of economies of scale, the huge front-up, operating and maintenance costs, as well as the costs of nuclear phase-out, and other associated complications with waste disposal and safety -- the nuclear industry has by necessity been a primarily state-dominated industry, artificially sustained by subsidies – a fact that puts its feasibility and operational rationale under question. In spite of the huge strides in technology, nuclear waste disposal remains to be an unsolved challenge, a huge financial burden and environmental risk to this day, while a comprehensive measure of the estimated overall emissions of a ‘full nuclear cycle’ -- from mining uranium, to nuclear enrichment, and conversion of the enriched stockpile into fuel, followed by the disposal of radioactive waste – proves that the technology has been far from ‘carbon-neutral’.
There is almost a universal consensus among experts, civil society organizations, governments and global institutions with respect to Education’s crucial role in fostering individual empowerment collective cohesion, and national as well as regional development. Also, throughout the long history of the emergence and development of social democrats and progressive movements, from labour unions, to civil society groups, and reform-minded intellectuals, Education has remained as a central advocacy. Education is a primary mechanism for empowering members and the broader citizenry, enabling organizational consolidation and coalition-building, fostering vibrant and informed debates around pressing issues in the society, and advancing socio-political consciousness against ignorance and political passivity. Despite the rapid changes in the fortunes and circumstances of progressive movements and workers groups, with many social democratic parties enmeshed in direct day-to-day governance issues, Education still continues to serve as a pillar of public advocacy and outreach -- inspiring new generations of leaders with cutting-edge ideas, guiding political mobilizations, and shaping a socially-conscious citizenry.
The 21st century – marked by the advent of information technology, simultaneous political integration-fragmentation, and intense competition -- has further underlined the significance of achieving universal literacy, promoting functional education, and pushing for cutting-edge research and innovation to not only ensure social mobility and consciousness among citizens and individuals, but also facilitate sustainable national development and international cooperation. With the Asia-Pacific region emerging as a new center of global economic activity and social dynamism, the issue of Education is of paramount importance, especially vis-à-vis sustaining a strong momentum for growth, tackling poverty, fighting corruption, and harnessing civic engagement and democratic practices. Along health and income, education is one of the key pillars of human development and security – and a pivotal element of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) under the United Nations.