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ILO delegates lay groundwork for African summit on poverty and employment

Xth African Regional Meeting.

Press release | 03 December 2003

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (ILO News) – To fight poverty, African nations must reorganize their development priorities around the challenge of creating jobs, Burkina Faso President H.E. Blaise Compaore told delegates to the to the International Labour Organization's Xth African Regional Meeting.

President Compaore's address opened a special session of the meeting devoted to creating a platform of ILO 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. It was President Compaore who initially proposed the Summit, and the ILO's critical role in organizing it, as a way of promoting the vital role of employment creation in efforts to reduce poverty.

In his speech to the delegates, President Compaore noted the failure of the present form of globalization to raise living standards in Africa, and he called for the placing of employment at the center of the fight against poverty.

"Africa has significant assets … and a population with great capacity for adaptation and resilience", said President Compaore. "Employment, in ensuring income for people, plays a positive role in growth as this income contributes to stimulating consumption and production, thereby ensuring the viability and expansion of the domestic market. This is why the fight against poverty and the assurance of sustainable human development in Africa requires economic and social policies that aim to create jobs and increase the income of the men and women of Africa."

President Compaore announced that next year's Extraordinary Summit would be immediately preceded by a Social Forum, in order to help ensure that the fight against poverty is "based on consultations with those directly affected by poverty, unemployment and underemployment", as well as social partners and political actors. He also praised the ILO for its work in preparing for the Summit.

"With its values, its vision and its integrated approach, the International Labour Organization today remains one of the few institutions … which still supports the ‘dreams' of the poor – who constitute the huge majority of humanity – for a better world", he said. "We think that the International Labour Office should be involved in the approaches and policies initiated by the Bretton Woods institutions to ensure due consideration for the social dimension of development."

"We are hopeful that the results and the follow-up of the African Union's Extraordinary Summit will enable the exceptional strength of Africa to efficiently contribute to its own global development and growth", said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia, in an address introducing the Burkina Faso President. "For the ILO, Africa is leading the way in putting the Decent Work agenda at the heart of new policies and approaches that ensure a globalization process that benefits all."

Following Mr. Campaore's speech, Showkutally Soodhun, Minister of Labour and Industrial Relations for Mauritius and President of the African Union's Tripartite Commission on Employment and Work, expressed support for the ILO's efforts to pursue a Decent Work agenda in Africa, noting the importance of social dialogue to the process of making difficult choices over social and economic policy decisions.

In addition to laying the groundwork for ILO participation in the 2004 Summit, delegates to the meeting today discussed the ILO Director-General's Thematic Report entitled " Decent Work for Africa's Development", which outlines the challenges present in breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty that exists in much of the continent. They also held a discussion on the challenges related to youth employment in Africa, where joblessness among young people in the highest in the world.

Tomorrow, delegates will take up the issue of social dialogue and its relevance to the alleviation of poverty in Africa. The meeting runs until Friday.

Media note: Journalists are cordially invited to attend the Regional Meeting. Facilities to assist print, radio, and TV journalists will be provided. For more information, contact David St John or Corinne Perthuis in Addis Ababa: Tel.: +2519/21.82.83 or +2519/21.74.84, or the ILO Department of Communication in Geneva: Tel.: +4122/799-6298, e-mail: