Devising the Development Assistance for achieving the SDG 8 and other relevant targets and SDGs

According to the recent estimates, half of the world’s population has no social protection and access to healthcare (ILO, 2019); 300 million workers in developing countries earn less than 1.9 US dollars a day; less than 60 percent of workers have formal contracts and 81 percent of all countries have violated the right to collective bargaining.

Official Development Assistance providers (ODA providers) and donors have started to recognize their role in addressing these burning issues to advance the implementation of the Decent Work Agenda  (DWA), developed by ILO in 1999 that is built around four pillars: employment creation, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue. DWA became an integral component of the 2030 Agenda and SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’,  includes targets related to labor rights, labor markets policies, occupational health and safety, policies on wages, climate justice,

and just transition. and corresponding targets and cuts across other SDGs fostering achievement of SDG 8.

Several important stakeholders including ILO, OECD, G20, Overseas Development Institute, the EU considered how development assistance and development cooperation can be devised to support Decent Work and other relevant SDGs and targets.

In 2017 Overseas Development Institute published a research paper "How do donors support the Decent Work Agenda? A review of five donors" where came to the conclusions that (i) there is limited evidence on how a vague declaration of supporting a Decent Work component of 2030 Agenda translates into actual allocation of resources; (ii) some DWA's pillars (except for jobs creation), in particular social dialogue and, to a certain extent, social protection, are not among the main donors’ priorities. As a result, resources might not be targeted towards these pillars as much as they should. Based on the analysis and the interviews made among the donors, the ODI recommended: (1) start tracking allocation of the resources for each pillar separately in order to avoid the gaps in financing of one pillar at the expense of another; (2) position the DWA more centrally in agencies’ statements, particularly for countries that prioritise SDG 8 in their national sustainable development strategies and plans; (3) develop methodologies and measurements of the progress in supporting DWA; (4) improve the reporting system.  

In 2018 ILO has issued the Report "Towards 2030: Effective development cooperation in support of the Sustainable Development Goals" dedicated to the strategies of ILO development cooperation with the aim to advance the support of DWA in the context of implementing four global agendas:  the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The Report underscored the increased opportunities and benefits of working with "multitude of actors" as well as challenges related to the changing context of the global development cooperation. "The implementation of the 2030 Agenda, reforming the UN to be fit for that purpose, and the emergence of the financing for development paradigm, are core issues influencing this general discussion on what should be the ILO’s effective development cooperation in support of the SDGs", - says the Report.  


The EU in its concept note "Employment in EC development cooperation"​ also acknowledges the room to improve the support of the decent work and employment through official development assistance. According to the concept note, decent work and employment "need to increasingly be seen as intermediate or specific objectives within other areas of development policy such as infrastructure, private sector development, and rural development". It can be achieved in the following ways: (1) improving the design of programmes and projects by (a) taking employment objectives explicitly into consideration, for example by strengthening the use of employment-intensive approaches within infrastructure programmes, (b) outsourcing the parts of the projects to local smaller private sector actors, and (c) building the dialogue with local stakeholders, inviting social partners or other interest organisations of workers into policy discussions and programme design; (2) improving social protection to promote long-term income stability that results in local economic development, reduces inequality, which both contributes to inclusive and sustainable growth and promotes social cohesion.

It is important to admit that there is progress in action taken by the donors in order to advance and support DWA in line with the 2030 Agenda. France and Sweden have increased commitments to social dialogue, and the UK has expressed strong support for social protection. Japan funded the ILO for technical cooperation activities to support the Decent Work Agenda; Sida started tracking contributions to the Decent Work Agenda and the pillar of social dialogue in particular, at least internally; AFDILO work programme focuses on SDG indicators related to decent work. Last year, OECD updated the CRS purpose codes to improve the tracking of the Decent Work Agenda. In 2017 the EU has released the ‘New European Consensus on Development’ that sought to align the EU’s development policy with the 2030 Agenda and commit to the use the EU's development assistance for supporting global transformative change. In 2018 Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (European Commission) has published the first volume of its new manual – Promoting Employment and Decent Work in Development Cooperation: Concepts and Foundations.  


In 2019 World Bank has published a new flagship World Development Report on the changing nature of work, focused on the new factors that impact the nature of work such as rapid digitization of our economies, globally diverging demographic trends, climate change create new risks. These new factors create new opportunities and challenges both for developed and developing countries. The World Bank underscores the importance of enhanced attention, coordination, and collaboration in the context of the rapid digitalization of work. Trade Unions underscored the need to factor these risks and opportunities in the OECD's policies on development assistance. "The new development narrative must take into consideration the new global challenges, such as the issues related to the future of work:  addressing the skills challenge raised by the changing nature of work; creating Decent jobs, based on solid industrial relations; ensuring adequate universal coverage and protection; supporting institutions, policies and strategies that will support people through future of work transitions".

All these recent developments require an analysis of their impact on achieving the SDGs and further guidance and policy recommendations to improve. The topic should be of particular interest for the students choosing Human Rights Curriculum of our LLM and for those who are thinking of dedicating their careers to development cooperation. 

By Katsiaryna Serada



SDWatch.org is an independent, non-profit and student-led project initiated and managed by students and alumni of the LL.M in Sustainable Development at the University of Milan. It is supported by the Department of Italian and Supranational Public Law of the University.