Discours à l’ONU (New York) le 18 juillet 2016

Discours prononcé par Benoît ROCH, le 18 juillet 2016 dans le cadre du second GFMD Business Mechanism Meeting





Ladies and Gentlemen,

The issue of the international skills mobility deserves your full attention for many reasons.

In the global competition that stirs our time, the question of strategic mobility is at the heart of reflections on the business development and consequently on the growth of national economies.

In the introduction of his seminal work « The Wealth of Nation, » Adam Smith tells us that there are two conditions for the prosperity of a people: the first depends on agility skills and the second in the employment rate. A country that facilitates the development of enterprises will have positive results, both on growth and on employment.

So why do companies look to develop? Capital, of course, but above all an ecosystem favorable to the realization of their project. The legal and political stability, quality of supplies and infrastructure, the ability to meet a growing number of customers are critical to the success of a business. But all of these are ineffective if the enterprise has not the first resource that Jean BODIN, a French economist had theorized in the Renaissance by the now famous formula: « There is no wealth, but men. »

Human resources are the strength of a team. Protagoras already taught us that « Human is the measure of all things. » Placing people at the heart of a project is the only condition for success. But the success of a human is never personal. It depends on ability, education, willingness, but also environment. It proceeds in part from others. The success of a business, too, is always dependent on others. It is primarily the success of a group of humans who want to move in the same direction. « Alone we go faster. Together we achieve more » says an African proverb. Neither humans nor business nor nations will perform in isolation.

Yet since 1991, more than 28,000 km of international borders were created in the world. This is not our role here to determine if the world needs more or fewer boundaries, but to ask what are the meaning and the implications. All borders in the world represent more than half a million kilometers. This is an important subject. So these new frontiers are they built as walls or rather as bridges? NEWTON already complained in these terms: « We build too many walls and not enough bridges. » Is this harmful to businesses and workers? In Europe, the issue of new boundaries is emerging. The creation of an area of free movement between states, free movement of people and goods, has given Europe a long period of peace and prosperity.

But this construction did not include enough social issue, reminded us Jean Claude Junker, President of the European Commission, during his speech at the last International Labour Conference in Geneva. The social question also includes the issue of free movement of workers between states. The complexity of social systems between countries, differences in the levels of protection, the multiplicity of advantages or disadvantages, but especially the ignorance of other systems are all risks and obstacles to freedom to circulate workers between states. So, despite all these obstacles, why hundreds of millions of men and women are going to work each year in a different country?

« Choose a job you love and you do not have to work a day in your life, » said Confucius. Can we think that migration remains a choice for the worker? It is appropriate here to distinguish between the situations. The private sector can never meet the consequences of the sustained migration. The issue of stateless persons and refugees are serious issues and humanly difficult to resolve, questions whose first responsibility is for states and NGOs. The private sector can not look away from these humanitarian tragedies, which are the most visible consequence of the imbalances of our world, but it is not competent to talk about it. We can strengthen, however, our commitment to all forms of chosen migration. Listen to Francisco de VITORIA: « At the beginning of the world, when all things were common, he was allowed to either go to the region and would cross it. This right does not seem to have been eliminated by the division of things, because it was never intended to suppress the people, for that division, mutual communication of men.  »

The issue of communication between people, and its corollary freedom of movement, is as old as humanity. “Mondialisation” was born with the world. The great ancient intercontinental empires testify. I think it’s important to dissociate globalization and “mondialisation”. Globalization is a fairly recent phenomenon, theorized by Theodore Levitt in 1983 to describe the strategy of international brands seeking to sell the same standardized products all over the world. As for “mondialisation”, which hope for a world without borders, or at least a world grid by borders that are no walls, but bridges, this is a hope as old as humanity. The earliest migrations are lost in the mists of human memory. Traditionally, families, clans, tribes, peoples migrated regardless of administrative boundaries. « Communication from the nations and provinces is derived for large profits for Republic.” still tells us Francisco de VITORIA, one of the founders of modern international law. In his book « Sobre el poder civil » in 1528, he considers that States are a people based on natural law community and the absolute respect of the right of people, what became the Human Right.

But why circulating workers and skills is important? One example, among the many companies I meet. A village in Normandy, Roman church, meadows, cows, the setting is bucolic. On leaving the village, a cottage industry employs 300 employees, most living within 10 kms. The business turns well, it was created by the grandfather. Everyone knows each other. We work in compliance with the old human values. The company manufactures stainless steel tanks for transporting milk. It receives orders from Europe and Africa. But it lacks human resources. Unable to satisfy all customers. They must urgently find welders and boilermakers. How should they do? There is no skill 30 kms around or in the employment agency or in training centers or in temporary employment agencies. Refuse orders? They take the risk of losing opportunities, customer so hard won after years of work. There is another solution: use strategic skills mobility and host a team of welders from other countries. The company is serious and has human values. It therefore intends to respect the law and pay these foreign workers in accordance with French social minima.

What is the moral of this story? It is more beneficial for the common good to move skills rather than production units. If the French plant is shipped to another country, the village will be dying, deprived of 300 direct jobs. One breaks a powerful ecosystem. It rips a strong social fabric, with the consequences that we can imagine. The mobility of skills, in this example, allows sustaining a balanced social environment, while inviting more remote workers, usually from countries with a lower standard of living, to take their share in this wealth creation. These workers will receive higher wages during the time of displacement. We can consider that this is a win-win, both for industries that maintain their historical locations and mobile workers. But also for both countries, the one who keeps the activity of the companies and the one which mobile citizens are enriched in financial terms, by skill level and openness.

In conclusion, it seems to me essential to open the world to SMEs and facilitate the mobility of skills. Companies of 10 employees account for over 90% of global companies. They are like a einkorn to the garden of jobs. They irrigate the economic ground. They are like the reed in Fable of Jean de La Fontaine, which bends under the storm but does not break. They are the embodiment of agility if necessary, not only to the success of the digital economy, but also the sustainability of classical economics. Let SMEs at the heart of development policies, fluid their actions, understand their needs, and we will have positive results for the development of our economies. The enterprise is perhaps the last form of adventure of the modern world. It allows women and men of all conditions to realize themselves and to surpass themselves for the common good. This is the meaning of the motto of the CGPME I represent today, and I invite you to ponder: « Our added value is the human. »


Thank you for your attention.