GENEVA (ILO News) – The Xth African Regional Meeting of the International Labour Organization (ILO) is to hammer out priorities for action for the 53 ILO African member States and create a platform of support for the Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in Africa to be convened by African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in Burkina Faso in 2004.
"The tripartite constituents of the ILO in Africa are meeting at a time when the nations of the continent are creating institutions that promise to set in motion a dynamic process of development founded on their own collective endeavours," says ILO Director-General Juan Somavia in his report "Decent Work for Africa's Development" 1 prepared for the Addis meeting. "We need to make sure that a decisive step is taken in Africa's struggle to gain control of its own destiny, realize the full potential of its people and natural resources and break out of the trap of widespread and debilitating poverty."
Three eminent guests will honour the Meeting with their participation: H.E. President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, H.E. Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré, the Chairman of the African Union Commission
The Meeting, which gets underway at 10 a.m., Tuesday 2 December, comes at a time when close to half of Africa's population, over 300 million people, live in extreme poverty on the equivalent of US$1 a day or less – the highest intra-regional poverty level and the widest gap between rich and poor in the world. Strategies for reducing such poverty and closing this gap through a job centred development agenda will be the main items on the table at the Meeting.
"Africa today is a continent in search of decent work" the ILO says."It is shouldering a huge poverty burden and battling the barriers of an unfair system of international economic rules while tackling the massive challenges of job creation and poverty reduction. And yet, there are signs of hope."
The report notes that Africa's nations are forging a new dynamic development process founded on their own collective endeavours.The launching of the African Union (AU) in 2002 and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) in 2001 are among such dynamic new initiatives.
In addition, community-based projects are improving skills, spawning small enterprises, extending micro-insurance and micro-finance, eliminating child labour and ending gender and other forms of discrimination. In manufacturing, inroads are being made against discrimination that shuts women out of the workplace. Moreover, ratifications of the eight fundamental Conventions of the ILO are remarkably high.
The ILO report notes that the decision by the AU Heads of State and Government in Maputo in July to convene an Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in 2004 in Burkina Faso holds the promise of connecting the new regional initiatives to the daily experience of Africa's working families.
In addition to a review of ILO activities for poverty reduction and job creation in Africa since the Organization's last African Regional Meeting in Abidjan in December 1999, the meeting will also involve the following activities:
A Special Session on the AU Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in Africa to be held in Burkina Faso in 2004;
Debate on two new ILO reports on Africa, including "Working Out of Poverty: Views From Africa" prepared on the basis of discussions held in October by senior representatives of governments, worker and employer organizations, as well as diverse national development actors such as universities, NGOs, community organizations, cooperatives, women's groups and youth leaders under the auspices of the ILO, and "Decent Work For Africa's Development" which provides a detailed overview of the poverty situation in Africa today and a series of measures that can be considered for the march toward an African decent work strategy for development;
A Plenary Session to focus on decent work for African youth;
An in-depth discussion on role of social dialogue and tripartism in enhancing the capacity of African countries to choose their own path towards growth and development;
The launch of a Global Campaign on Social Security in Africa – where 90 per cent of the working population lack such social protection – as part of the ILO's Global Campaign on Social Security and Coverage for All announced during the International Labour Conference in June.
Delegates will also consider elements of a strategic plan whose objectives are based around three directions: 1) the elimination of barriers restraining the productive potential of Africa; 2) the promotion of investments for the creation of a sound framework for the governance of labour markets, based on the ILO's fundamental principles and rights at work; and 3) the creation of opportunities for people and their families living and working in rural areas as well as the informal economy to make their way out of poverty.
"Africans have confirmed the fundamental point that employment and empowerment are the best ways to break out of the poverty trap and promote dignity for all", the ILO says. "The challenge before us now is to translate the growing awareness of the vital role of employment for poverty eradication into policies, programmes and investments that have a tangible impact on people, their families and the communities where they live and work."
1 - "Decent Work for Africa's Development", Xth African Regional Meeting, Addis Ababa, 2-5 December 2003, Report of the Director-General, ISBN 92-2-114841-6. For a full copy of the report, contact the ILO Department of Communication.