Promoting Social Dialogue and Decent Work in the ECOWAS Sub-Region

ILO - through the “Support to the Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa" Projects - supported the ECOWAS Tripartite Social Dialogue Forum focusing on Labour Migration, Mobility and Protection of the migrant workers’ rights.

Press release | 27 October 2017
ABUJA - (ILO News) The General Assembly of the ECOWAS Tripartite Social Dialogue Forum (SDF) was held in Conakry, Guinea, from 25 - 27 October 2017 with the support of key innovative projects of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Under the theme ‘Labour Migration, Mobility and Protection of the migrant workers’ rights in the region’, the 2017 Assembly addressed topical issues related to effective implementation of the migrant workers’ rights through the adoption of a number of administrative, programmatic and legal measures to better ensure the applicability of the labour laws.

The interactive platform also provided an opportunity to present new innovations in regional policy, share national experiences in collective bargaining, and revise the Forum's action plans.

H.E. Mr Mamady Youla, Prime Minister of the Republic of Guinea opened the conference in the presence of Ms Fatimata DIA SOW, ECOWAS Commissioner for Gender and Social Affairs, Mr Dennis Zulu, Director of the ILO Country Office Abuja and Liaison to the ECOWAS, and Mr Geardus Gielen, Ambassador, Head of the European Union Delegation to Guinea.

In his remarks, ILO Abuja Director, Mr Zulu noted that the theme for this year's stated that various studies show that West Africa is the sub region with the highest mobility rates on the continent of Africa, with labour migration flows in West Africa being predominantly intra-regional.

“It has thus become critical that ECOWAS takes the leadership in the protection of migrant workers’ rights by proactively taking steps such as the adoption of various administrative, programmatic and legal measures to ensure the applicability and enforcement of workers’ rights within the region” he said.

Furthermore, Mr Zulu commended ECOWAS on their continued work towards putting into place various initiatives not only aimed at facilitating free movement of its people but in taking the appropriate measures to ensure that various protections are put in place to safeguard the rights and the pursuit of the Decent Work Program for the sub-region.

He noted that the ECOWAS Commission with support from the ILO CO Abuja, and the ILO DWT Dakar, started working to develop a Decent Work Sub-Regional Programme for ECOWAS in 2016. The process started with a diagnostic report to provide the socio-economic and political context of the decent work situation in the region to aid in the identification of priority areas and preparation of the (SRDWP).
He stated that the report was presented to staff of the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, Nigeria for review at a workshop in September 2017 and used to identify areas of priority, and outcomes for the SRDWP.

Strategic partnerships

Following the presentation of both the diagnostic result and proposed priorities and results for the Sub-Regional Decent Work Program, the SDF commended ECOWAS and ILO for the initiative to develop the Sub-regional Decent Work programme and expressed enthusiasm to work on the draft document when developed.

With over 70 participants representing Governments, Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations from all the 15 ECOWAS Member states attended the forum, the ECOWAS Commission represented mainly through the Commission of Social Affairs and Gender and other Directorates; the representatives of the Regional Social Partner Organizations (West African Workers 'Organization (OTUWA) and the Federation of West African Employers Organizations (FWAEO); as well as regional and international organizations such as ILO, IOM and ICMPD; the workshop was representational and conducive for social dialogue.

The main outcomes of the meeting held in Conakry, Guinea, include:
● Review of both the diagnostic result and the proposed priorities area, outcomes and outputs for the ECOWAS Sub-Regional Decent Work Program
● The adoption of a draft Directive on harmonization of labour laws in ECOWAS region following a study carried out by ILO on the Harmonization of labour Laws in ECOWAS region. To that regard, it was asked Member states to share their last suggestions and recommendations on the document before its approval by the ECOWAS Commission through its internal procedures;
● The adoption of the draft Guide for Policymakers on the strengthening of the protection of migrant workers’ rights. The guidelines would be published soon following the recommendations by the Forum;
● Establishment of two Working Groups: on labour migration and on social protection following the validation of the respective terms of reference. Each working group is composed of three tripartite members;
● Adoption of a Declaration called “Conakry Declaration” in which the Forum calls the ECOWAS Member States to take account the migration phenomena, ratification and implementation of ILO main Conventions on migration for employment, particularly Conventions 97 and 143 guaranteeing equality of treatment to migrant workers in the development of their policies. the declaration recognized and appreciated the EU support, through the FMM Project while requesting for consistent and additional funds to the ECOWAS Member States for the fight against irregular migration through the promotion of youth employment and development of technical and vocational training;

The 2017 ECOWAS SDF was driven by the ECOWAS Commission, with the Support of the ILO through the project "Support to the Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa". This is a project co-financed by European Union and ECOWAS Commission.

For more information: please contact Mr Aly Cisse (cissealy@ilo.org), Agatha Kolawole (kolawole@ilo.org,)