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The role of social dialogue.

EFTA's Consultative Committee represents the social partners in the EFTA countries. Together with EFTA's other advisory body, the Parliamentary Committee, it remains actively engaged in EFTA's work.

The June 2010 EFTA Ministerial meeting in Reykjavik marked a turning point in the role of the Consultative Committee, as the importance of social dialogue and sustainable development came clearly into focus. Social dialogue is a fundamental element of the European social model and has often played a crucial role in world politics.

One can argue that, with growing frictions between social actors, the importance of social dialogue is now greater than ever before. For instance, in a recent statement. Public Services International--a global trade union federation representing 20 million workers worldwide--was highly critical of the proposed plurilateral Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which is being negotiated by a group of WTO members. In particular, it cautioned against the potential negative effects of deregulation on workers, farmers, service users and the environment.

The Consultative Committee must remain a platform for addressing these types of challenges through dialogue and consultation between the EFTA social partners and the EFTA authorities.

The EFTA States have contributed to the development and strengthening of global norms and must continue to do so. In particular, they have been traditional proponents of sustainable development. This concept has in time been internalised by development agencies, the United Nations, the European Union, nongovernmental organisations and the academic society alike. Sustainable development has thus become the dominant organising principle in global development policy.

The model text on sustainable development, which was endorsed by EFTA Ministers in 2010, has been used in all recent EFTA free trade negotiations. The agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina provides a good example of the model text being fully integrated in the final result of the negotiations, whereby the parties "recognise that economic development, social development and environmental protection are interdependent and mutually supportive components of sustainable development. They underline the benefit of cooperation on trade-related labour and environmental issues as part of a global approach to trade and sustainable development".

The EFTA Consultative Committee will continue to support the values that the Member States have stood for since EFTA's inception, including the promotion of the social dimension in European and world politics, protecting the environment and preserving equality between men and women.

"Social dialogue is a fundamental element of the European social model and has often played a crucial role 1 in world politics."

Helga Jonsdottir

General Manager, Federation of State and Municipal Employees

(BSRB), Iceland

Member of the EFTA Consultative Committee

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Author:Jonsdottir, Helga
Publication:EFTA Bulletin (Switzerland)
Geographic Code:4EXSI
Date:Dec 1, 2013
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