World must not ‘sleepwalk’ into war; Macron warns on ‘capitalism gone mad’ in ILO speech

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced “capitalism gone mad” in an address to the UN’s International Labour Organization, while urging enhanced social protections in a global economy plagued by inequality.

Macron made the comments at a conference marking the ILO’s 100th anniversary, which has drawn dozens of heads of state and government.

In a 45-minute address, the French president nodded to the founding principles of the ILO — the only international body created under the League of Nations, the forerunner to the UN, that survived the rise of fascism and World War II.

“Built on the still smouldering embers of the First World War,” the ILO was founded on the belief that securing future peace required “social justice … (and) respect for workers,” Macron said.

Warning that these principles were under threat, Macron called for a return to the “social market economy where everyone finds their share”, rather than a system that sees “the capture of wealth by a few”.

When people feel cut off from the hope of prosperity they can be drawn to authoritarianism and the belief that “democracy no longer protects them against the inequalities of capitalism gone mad,” Macron said.

At the ILO conference that runs through to June 21, delegates are due to agree a resolution on the Future of Work which is expected to address risks to workers rights ranging from automation to the gig economy.

Macron called for “universal social protections,” and renewed his appeal for a European minimum wage, warning that the consequences of intensifying inequality would be grave.

“I believe that the crisis we are experiencing can lead to war and the disintegration of democracies. I am deeply convinced of it,” he said.

Addressing the ILO conference before Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also said that “securing decent working conditions” was an urgent global priority.

– Anti-harassment convention –

The French leader offered support to another key initiative at the ILO conference: a new convention on harassment and violence in the workplace that would enhance protections for workers, especially those vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

“We fully support the adoption of this convention,” Macron said.

The ILO’s work, including on the anti-harassment text, is often complicated by its tripartite structure that includes government officials, union leaders and private sector employer representatives.

Employers have voiced concern about the harassment convention, especially whether an enterprise should be responsible for abuses that happen away from the workplace.

The world is going through a profound crisis and could be on the brink of a time of war, French President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech on Tuesday, calling for a global effort to address the dangers of inequality, unchecked technology and climate change.

Macron called for universal social protection and compensation for people whose livelihoods were threatened by technological and environmental change.

“I think that chaos is here. And I think it is our generation’s responsibility not to wait for a new war but to look at the world as it is,” Macron said.

“I believe that today we are on the brink, if we don’t take care, of a time of war. And that war is present in our democracies – it’s the profound crisis we’re going through. We can choose to be sleepwalkers. But if we want true progress we need to make some serious commitments,” he said.

Rising inequality was feeding “authoritarianism”, he said. Voters “say democracy doesn’t protect us from inequality caused by capitalism gone mad, so let’s close our borders, build walls and get out of multilateralism,” he said in an apparent criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump.