Let’s share our Pacific perspectives at the ILO’s Global Forum for a Human-centred Recovery

By Matin Karimli, Director, ILO Office for the Pacific Island Countries for the MPTF Informal Economies recovery project e-newsletter

Statement | Suva, Fiji | 16 February 2022
“I encourage you to join and engage in this very important forum on Human-centred Recovery, hosted by the ILO from 22-24 February 2022. Mr Matin Karimli, ILO Director for Pacific Island Countries.

Matin Karimli - Director ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries
It is almost two years since the outbreak of the global pandemic reaching the Pacific. Ironically, it also coincided with my arrival, to take up the post of Director of the ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries. Not to mention 11 Pacific member countries to serve and the pre-existing challenges such as the large geographical spread, limitations to communication with constituents, climatic conditions, and a relatively small team. It instantly struck me that this once in a 100-year global pandemic, would put my first ILO experience to the test.

In the middle of this global disruption, I was 15,000 km away from my home country Azerbaijan, trying to make a new home for my family in the Pacific for the next few years.

In the initial months, the cover of uncertainty brought by COVID-19 presented many challenges to decision making on ILO’s role, type of response and resources we should be planning for, in support of our member countries. It certainly was not the typical Pacific disruption such as a tropical cyclone, where we had carved out our niche and built up our technical expertise.

For instance, as early as 30th March 2020, the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) announced that 279 members had closed due to zero booking for next few months, 30 were operating in reduced scale and about 20,000 workers had been sent home.

To understand the impact of COVID-19 on employment and business, one of my first decisions was to deploy Rapid Assessments (RA) in 7 member countries.The first RA got off the ground in Fiji 2 months from the arrival of COVID-19. By July 9th 2020, and based on the RA, the Fijian Prime Minister, Honorable Frank Bainimarama reported to the ILO Global Summit on COVID-19, that “115,000 Fijians –– one third of our workforce –– have had their jobs lost or hours cut”.

It suddenly dawned on us, considering the first sets of results coming in from the RA, that even in the Pacific, the impact of COVID-19 on economies, health systems and the labour market, will be unprecedented.

One of the key findings of all the RAs was the huge impact of the pandemic on the informal sector micro enterprises and workers, in particular those that were linked to the Pacific wide economically important but hardest hit sector - Tourism.

ILO’s contribution to the UN Social & Economic Impact Assessment (UNSEIA), with the findings of the RAs, resulted in securing funding for this important joint UN project, that brings together technical expertise from four UN agencies, to support recovery for the informal sector.

There have been some impactful and key achievements in this project. I am sure we have had a lot of lessons and best practices, against the many challenges we faced, as workers or owners of micro enterprises. These need to be shared so that it can inform recovery policies, to be more effective, inclusive, and human-centred.

To capture such stories across the globe and call for actions, investments, and partnerships, ILO is to host the Global Forum for a Human-centred Recovery from 22-24 February. It will bring together heads of State and Government, heads of international organizations and multilateral development banks, and employers’ and workers’ leaders from around the world to propose concrete actions and strengthen the international community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. We are very pleased that Honorable Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, Prime Minister of Samoa will be among the global leaders to address this important event.

The Forum will examine, in particular the actions and investments needed to promote:
  • Decent jobs and inclusive economic growth
  • Universal Social Protection
  • Workers' protection and enterprises' sustainability
  • A just transition towards a carbon-neutral global economy

I am sure you can identify with many of the thematic areas mentioned above, through activities supported by the Informal Economies Recovery Project. I encourage you to join and engage in this very important forum on Human-centred Recovery, hosted by the ILO from 22-24 February 2022. You can also meet with your Minister for Labour/Employment, head of the Trades Union and head of the Employers Organizations to discuss your challenges and solutions so they can also support you amplify them at this forum.

Finally, I hope that you have enjoyed reading the last five editions of the project’s e-Newsletters and following us on social media. This is the 6th edition and will be the last e-Newsletter for the project.