Danish Government convenes major international conference on social cohesion

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The Danish Government organised a major conference on social cohesion in October 1997, seeking to give an international focus to the increasingly important issue of the social responsibility of companies.

On the initiative of the Danish Government, more than 250 delegates from international companies and organisations, along with ministers and representatives of 17 governments were invited to discuss new partnerships for social cohesion at a conference, entitled New partnership for social cohesion, on 16-18 October 1997

With a view to meeting the growing challenge of "unemployment, disintegration and polarisation", the Danish Government has taken the initiative in setting an international focus for the increasingly important area of the social responsibility of industry. "The time has come for society's partners to discuss new ways of cooperating in order to ensure global social welfare," says Denmark's Minister for Social Affairs, Karen Jespersen, who has heeded international calls to convene the conference as a follow-up to the March 1995 United Nations Social Summit.

The aim of the conference is to locate and focus on the practice and potential of the social initiatives of enterprises in partnership with public authorities and others. The conference will be an opportunity for: business-to-business dialogue; direct contacts between business executives and senior policy-makers; and exchanging and promoting business best practices.

The conference will discuss the following central questions:

  • why should enterprises involve themselves more in social commitment?
  • why are the social initiatives of enterprises and partnerships important to business, to governments and to society as a whole?
  • what are successful models of the social commitment of enterprises and partnership?
  • how may social initiatives and partnerships be enhanced?
  • how can we ensure that the greatest added value is achieved and that cost effective programmes are identified and replicated?

The conference is part of a long-term process. It will contribute to giving this process direction and making it visible.

In 1994, the Danish Minister of Social Affairs launched a campaign for the increased social commitment of enterprises. Many Danish enterprises are now participating in experiments and in the establishment of networks and local partnerships. The initiatives are taken in close collaboration with the social partners.

In 1996, the Minister of Social Affairs appointed a board of prominent business executives who are to provide inspiration for the campaign. As part of the Minister's campaign, a "Danish Network of Business Executives" was established in May 1996, with the task of: contributing to the continuing debate on the social responsibility of enterprises; acting as an advisory body to the Minister for Social Affairs; and encouraging businesses to take initiatives which will increase the social well-being both of their own staff and the local community in which they are located.

In order to explore the experiences, principles and potential of a new partnership, Ms Jespersen has invited prominent business executives and highly reputed researchers as well as distinguished members of the European Commission, theInternational Institute for Labour Studies (ILO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) the Japan Institute of Labour, representatives of Danish labour market organisations, and a number of representatives of international business to form a "think-tank".

The government plan is to create 40,000 "flexi-jobs" by the year 2005. Some 8,000 of these are intended to be created within the public sector.

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