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Dear Sisters and Brothers,

The General Confederation of Trade Unions (GCTU) affiliating national trade union centres in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and 38 industrial trade union internationals of the region extends its heartfelt greetings to all participants in the Forum and wishes them successful work.

In today's world, economic globalisation has become a major process affecting the course of world development. It has a tremendous direct impact not only on the labour relations and workers' social conditions, but also on the way of life of the Earth's population in general. Therefore, it is urgent that the public, and primarily the trade unions as a powerful force in civil society, determine their attitude towards this phenomenon.

The GCTU believes that the CIS countries should respond to the globalisation challenges by promoting regional integration and working out a common strategy centred on such values as decent work, human rights, social dialogue, and adequate social security schemes. Particular attention should be devoted to the issues of employment and labour migration, and to the quality of workforce, all of which have been aggravated by globalisation.

As the problems arising from the accession of CIS countries to the World Trade Organisation are increasingly topical today, the GCTU is of the opinion that they should be solved based on economic and social expediency rather than on political considerations. It is also essential that forestalling regional programmes are adopted in the social sphere.

The GCTU brought its point of view on these problems to the notice of CIS Parliaments and Heads of State and Government, as it summed up the outcome of a major international conference "Economic Globalisation and Regional Integration: Their Impact on the Workers' Conditions in the CIS Countries" held by our Confederation last February. The Conference approved our approach to these issues.

The GCTU demands that all transnational companies and finance-industrial groups operative in the CIS countries should both respect national legislation, and comply with the provisions of the international legal instruments regulating their conduct. The latter include, among other things, the Agreement on Regulating the Social and Labour Relations in TNCs Operative on the Territories of CIS States signed by six CIS countries in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, in 1997. This act was prepared and adopted on the initiative of the GCTU, and it contains a paragraph prescribing such TNCs to consult with the workers' representatives, namely «with the council of trade union committees of the enterprises or organisations affiliated to the corporation, or with the joint trade union committee if any».

Particularly important in the present-day conditions is the problem of strengthening the United Nations system, and strict observance of the social and labour standards it or its specialised agencies have elaborated, first of all the Conventions and Recommendations of the International Labour Organisation. As an organisation enjoying special status with the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (IPA), the GCTU addressed the IPA in 1996 urging it to call on the national parliaments in the Commonwealth countries to ratify a number of ILO conventions we consider crucial for the workers in our region. The result was that the ILO had since then received 83 new ratifications from CIS countries.

We intend to proceed with such activities. Measures for their realisation have been included in the Guidelines for GCTU Activity in 2002-2007, the main document adopted by the GCTU 4th Congress held last September in Moscow.

The GCTU is convinced that, at the current stage of globalisation, urgent and immediate measures must be taken to secure workers' rights and interests and attach a maximum priority to the social aspects of world development. It is particularly important for the international trade union movement to rally for the attainment of this worthy goal. We have consistently supported the idea that economic globalisation should be met with trade union globalisation. The GCTU reiterates its willingness to contribute towards a united world trade union movement based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and united action of all its components.

We are positive that the efforts being taken by trade unions to this effect could be more fruitful if combined with the efforts by other NGOs in the social sphere. We hope that both the 2nd World Trade Union Forum and the 3rd World Social Forum involving broad participation of union representatives from all over the world will be conducive to achieving this aim.

Wishing you a successful and fruitful Forum,

General Confederation of Trade Unions

Moscow, January 2003