ILO and SPARK promote Entrepreneurship in Fragile and Conflict-affected States

The ILO signs a partnership agreement with SPARK to promote decent work through entrepreneurship in fragile and conflict-affected settings at SPARK ’ s second annual IGNITE! Conference. Both parties plan to expand their collaboration through expert meetings and a joint training programme.

News | 01 December 2014
The ILO and SPARK, an NGO promoting higher education and entrepreneurship in conflict-affected countries, have been strengthening their collaboration over the past year on a number of issues, including the collaboration with the ILO’s Enterprise department, the use of the Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) tool in Myanmar and as members of the Thematic Group “Engaging the Private Sector in Finding Solutions for Displacement” of the Solutions Alliance initiative.

To build upon these successful activities, the ILO and SPARK have formalised their cooperation through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for “The Promotion of Decent Work through Entrepreneurship in Fragile Settings.” The MoU provides the institutional framework to expand collaborative activities, including the development of a joint-traineeship programme.

The ILO featured also prominently on the agenda of SPARK’s 2014 conference on “Entrepreneurship Development for Stability in Fragile and Conflict-affected States". Stephen Marshall (ILO’s Liaison Officer in Myanmar) delivered a keynote address and Donato Kiniger-Passigli (Coordinator of the ILO’s Fragile States and Disaster Response Group in Geneva) moderated a breakout session titled “Handle with Care Job Creation in Fragile Situations” .

Reflecting upon his experience in Myanmar, Steven Marshall emphasised that child labour is a pressing issue and that international actors need to be sensitive to local realities and promote adherence to international labour standards progressively. Steven remarked that it is important not to aggravate the situation of under-aged working children and that a gradual improvement of the conditions at work is usually the better option.

During the breakout session Donato Kiniger engaged a panel of four speakers and the audience into a discussion to explore the nexus between employment, decent work and fragility. Representing a diversity of personal expertise and country cases, the panel speakers included: Michel Richter (SPARK, co-Director, the Netherlands), Steven Marshall (ILO, Liaison Officer, Myanmar), Alexandra Sindahera (Brarudi - Heineken subsidiary, Secretary General, Burundi) and Ange Muyubira (Kaz O’zah Art, Entrepreneur, Burundi).

Key discussion points included the specific challenges and opportunities for employment and income generation in fragile settings as well as the role of international organisations in promoting micro-enterprises, cooperatives and microfinance services.

Ange Muyubira, who founded a social enterprise that employs more than 100 artisans, emphasised that “social entrepreneurs play an important role in local employment creation.” Whilst it is important to provide employment opportunities to women, we should not overlook the role of men. Men, she said, “should be considered as vulnerable too; especially young men who are able to work but cannot provide for their families pose a huge risk in terms of fragility”.

Michel Richter discussed the importance of “creating quality jobs through quality enterprises.“ Studies carried out by SPARK indicate that it is often times more feasible to support and expand already existing enterprises, rather than relying on start-ups. Michel stressed that “in fragile environments it is especially important to create a rapid impact that is felt by local stakeholders to quickly improve stability.” International actors therefore need to strike the right balance between designing effective and inclusive interventions and at the same time avoid “over-researching” local contexts.