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PSI tells Habitat III: no inclusive cities without decent work, public services and tax justice!

05 August 2016
Trade Unions and Workers group and PSI delegation led by General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli at the PrepCom3 of Habitat III on 26 September 2015 in Surabaya, Indonesia

A delegation of PSI Municipal affiliates from the Asia-Pacific region headed by General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli took part in the Third Preparatory Committee (PrepCom3) of Habitat III held on 25-27 July 2016 in Surabaya, Indonesia. This work is part of PSI’s continued advocacy within the Habitat III process – the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development - that will issue the ‘New Urban Agenda’, the official UN guidance on urban policies for the next 20 years. Habitat IV will take place in 2036.

PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli sends a clear message to HIII negotiators

Trade Unions and Workers group and PSI delegation led by General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli at the PrepCom3 of Habitat III on 26 July 2016 in Surabaya, Indonesia

During PrepCom3, speaking on behalf of the Trade Union and Workers Group and addressing negotiators in the plenary meeting on 26 July, PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli said:

“We note with extreme concern that the critical language on the inclusion of labour standard clauses in public procurement has disappeared, as is the case of taxation-related language. Their full reintegration is a crucial demand of our constituency, and the pre-condition for the operationalization of decent work, and of local government capacity to sustainably finance essential public services for all urban dwellers”.

She also highlighted with disconcert that that ‘Collective bargaining’ and ‘labour market policies’ – eminent levers of socio-economic inclusion and sustainable development – continue to be absent in the Draft:

This undermines the legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness of the New Urban Agenda. The New Urban Agenda will have to be implemented by city workers and cannot succeed unless it meets and addresses their challenges, needs and aspirations” said Pavanelli.

Video statement of Rosa Pavanelli to Habitat III PrepCom3, Surabaya, Indonesia, 26 July 2016:

The full trade union and workers’ position on the Draft of the New Urban Agenda (18 July 2016) had been shared with Habitat III and its main points – in line with the PSI Position on Habitat III approved by the PSI Executive Body in May 2016 -  highlighted in informal meetings with many national delegations and negotiators.

PSI and ICRICT side event on tax justice for local communities a success

PSI and ICRICT side event on tax justice for local communities a success












On 26 July PSI held a side event in collaboration with the International Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) that gathered over 80 participants and spurred a lively discussion. The event was about "Financing and Investing in Urban Public Services: the Key to Inclusive cities" and meant to highlight the fact that equitable access to essential local public services is inextricably linked to social urban inclusion and to the enjoyment of human rights.

The event was a high level panel, which featured the following speakers:

Speakers at the high-level panel

Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary, Public Services International (PSI)

Dr. Govinda Rao, Commissioner, ICRICT

Dr. Jane Lethbridge, Director, PSI Research Unit, University of Greenwich

Abigail Almeria, General Secretary, AGWWAS (PSI affiliated union in the water sector in the Philippines)

Teguh Handoyo, SP PJB (PSI affiliated union in the electricity sector of Indonesia)

Edmundo Werna, Head of Unit, Sectoral Policies Dept., International Labour Organization (ILO)


Highlights and key messages delivered in the event included:         

  • PPPs and privatization are not the best way to deliver essential urban public services and pursue social, environmental and development objectives: in fact public investment can be much better suited for these purposes as it does not answer to private interest logics. 
  • Taxation is one of the three key levers we have to beat inequality, along with the creation of decent employment opportunities through proactive labour market policies; collective bargaining with trade unions and access to essential public services. However, the amount of global tax evasion and tax avoidance is mind-bogging: 10 trillion USD, 10 trillion USD of which in the Least Developed Countries, which are the most adversely affected countries.
  • Cities and urban areas are the engines of global growth and development, but in order to fully unleash their economic and social inclusion potential they need sufficient resources to finance and invest in their urban and local public services. Central government has a responsibility to ensure that this happens, and to secure that corporate and private wealth – especially MNEs – do not free ride on local communities and pay their fair share of tax, as local government cannot deal with a mobile tax basis.
  • Adil Shariff (left), General Secretary of PSI affiliate Andhra Pradesh Municipal Contract Workers Union (INMLBWF), raised the issue of the inclusion of the need to include the Decent Work agenda of ILO, including health and occupational safety if we the New Urban Agenda wants to truly deliver sustainable development in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) event on Sustainable and Resilient Housing And Urban InfrastructureHighly effective, viable and democratically accountable public options for investing in essential urban public services and infrastructures instead of privatization and PPPs exist and need to be disseminated and fully included in the toolkit of the New Urban Agenda: these are re-municipalization, public-public partnerships and inter-municipal cooperation.
  • Decent work, workers and especially public sector workers, and active labour market policies are critical to the success of the New Urban Agenda but have been largely omitted in the HIII discussions and texts. This is a gap that needs to be urgently redressed and emphasized. Local government is not an abstract entity, it is made of people, public sector workers who need themselves decent employment and decent working conditions to best serve their communities and successfully meet the challenges posed by rapid urbanization.


PSI Municipal affiliates tell their government representatives to address city workers' concerns

Raman Kannan, PSI Sub Regional Secretary for South Asia (left) and Hafizul Hossain, PGCB Workers & Employees Union of Bangladesh (right) with Jan van Zane, Mayor of Utrecht, The Netherlands (center)

PSI municipal affiliates from Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Korea and New Zealand were very active during the Habitat III PrepCom3 sessions and events bringing the voice of workers and trade unions to national HIII delegation and mayors.

PSI’s advocacy in Habitat III continues with the presence of a global PSI delegation at the final conference 17-20 October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador.

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