ILO Symposium at the 8th Regional Congress on Asia and the Pacific in Sri Lanka

The ILO is to hold a symposium on 21 August at the 8th Regional Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) in Colombo.

Press release | COLOMBO | 17 August 2007

COLOMBO (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) is to hold a symposium on 21 August at the8th Regional Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) in Colombo . The ILO will provide practical examples of workplace good practice and launch discussions on a major new initiative for an international labour standard on HIV/AIDS. 

The symposium will take place at 14h30 on the 21st at the BMICH Convention Centre in Colombo . A media briefing with Dr. Sophia Kisting, Head of the ILO Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work (ILO/AIDS), will also take place the day before on the 20th at 16:15.

Panellists at the symposium, entitled ‘an international legal initiative to strengthen national responses to HIV/AIDS through the workplace’, will be policy makers from national and regional governments as well as employers’ and workers’ organizations. They will include:

1.Dr. Sophia Kisting, Director, ILO/AIDS: Welcome and introduction
2. Mr. Oscar Fernandes, Minister of Labour , India ,
3. Mr. Athauda Seneviratne,,Minister of Labour , Sri Lanka
4.  Dr. Bounpheng Philavong, Senior Officer, Human Development, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)
5. Mr.Mohammad Khawaja, Employers’ Federation of Pakistan, representing the International Organisation of Employers
6. Dr. Syed Asif Altaf, International Transport Workers’ Federation, representing theInternational Trade Union Confederation

Businesses are increasingly recognising that the workplace can contribute to achieving universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support – the focus in Asia is on prevention in particular.

The new Sri Lankan Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, to be launched at ICAAP, is a case in point, the ILO said. The Coalition, which uses the ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS in the world of work as a guiding document, is spearheaded by the Standard Chartered Bank with partners that include other major companies as well as the ILO and UNAIDS. It iscommitted to increasing the number and diversity of companies responding to HIV/AIDS in the region, as well as to involving the trade unions.

ILO/AIDS Director Sophia Kisting welcomed the move and said that: “A workplace response is vital in the fight against the HIV pandemic. The ILO has shown that effective workplace policies and programmes can make our places of a work a key delivery point for prevention, treatment, & care and we welcome this latest initiative from the Sri Lankan business community. The ILO tripartite constituents - governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations – have made joint statements of commitment to collaborate on HIV/AIDS in a number of countries in the region, including Cambodia , Indonesia , Nepal , and Papua New Guinea . ”

The ILO is one of the ten cosponsors of UNAIDS, and lead agency for workplace programmes and private sector mobilization. The ground-breaking Code of Practice was approved in 2001 by the ILO’s constituents and endorsed by the UN as the international framework for action at the workplace. It has since become a reference point for laws and policies in over 70 countries, including Sri Lanka , as well as in regional bodies such as ASEAN whose labour ministers have endorsed the need for workplace responses to AIDS. The ILO has also been working in collaboration with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and at the International Labour Conference this June the labour ministers of the member States proposed establishing a SAARC Forum on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work.

The ILO workplace education programme SHARE (Strategic HIV/AIDS Responses by Enterprises) is operational in India , China , Sri Lanka , Cambodia , Indonesia and Nepal , where about 500 partner enterprises representing a workforce of 500,000 workers are currently receiving assistance. More than 3,800 government officials and key members of employers' and workers' organizations have received in-depth training on the development of HIV/AIDS workplace polices and programmes; 750 workers and managers have been trained to plan and implement behaviour change programmes; and 5000 peer educators have been trained in partner enterprises.

In March 2007 the ILO decided to strengthen the workplace response by developing an international labour instrument on HIV/AIDS. It is now conducting wide-ranging consultations with its constituents, with fellow UN agencies, and with others engaged in workplace action.As part of the consultative process, the ILO symposium on 21 August will provide a forum for key actors to present perspectives and prescriptions on issues related to the formulation of such an instrument.

For more information on the symposium and media briefing please contact Sandra Senaratne at the ILO Sri Lanka Office in Colombo on +941 1259 2525 or +941 1250 0539 or by e-mail at