Refugee access to labour markets and decent work sensitization workshop

According to latest estimates, 6.8 million refugees (UNHCR, 31 August 2019) are living in Ethiopia, and 2.8 million internally displaced populations have been forced to flee their homes due to recent unrest in the country.

News | 15 October 2019
Consultations with IDPs in Qoloji
From 23 to 24 September 2019, the International Labour Organization (ILO) organized a sensitization workshop on the issue of forced displacement to social partners in Jigjiga. Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU), Ethiopian Employers Confederation (EEC), Ethiopian Employers Federation (EEF),the Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs (BOLSA) and the Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) participated in the workshop. The workshop was facilitated by the Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV), Bureau for Employers' Activities (ACTEMP) and Jobs for Peace and Resilience (JPR) unit of the ILO.

This event came at a watershed moment, a year marked by a rapidly evolving context vis-à-vis refugee inclusion into national systems: starting with the adoption of the new Refugee Proclamation No. 1110/2019 (17 January 2019) “to improve, within available means, comprehensive protection and assistance to refugees”, the Kampala Declaration and its accompanying Plan of Action on Jobs, Livelihoods and Self-Reliance for Refugees, Returnees and Host Communities in the IGAD Region (28 March 2019) and finally the draft 10-year National Comprehensive Refugee Response Strategy (NRRS) (July 2019) to operationalize the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).

Social partners at work
In Ethiopia, social partners have not previously played a role in livelihoods interventions for refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs). However, social partners are increasingly expressing their desire to facilitate access to employment opportunities for these populations, especially since the adoption of the revised national law, which now allows refugees to work in Ethiopia. Responding to this imperative (refugee proclamation), the ILO embarked on a set of activities with the primary objectives of increasing workers’, employers’ and MOLSA’s engagement in and ownership of the issue of refugee access to labour markets and decent work. Hence, this workshop was a first step aimed at empowering ILO’s constituents on these issues and influence national and regional policies on forced displacement. It developed clear performance metrics, timeframes and activities.

The two-day workshop reviewed the magnitude of the refugee challenge and frameworks that govern responses at national and global levels. It included visits to Ethiopia’s oldest refugee camp (Kebrebiyah, 1991) and a recently opened IDP camp (Qoloji, 2017) to engage with local actors and immerse in their stories, building in the process a richer understanding of local realities. The workshop also had a session on best practices on employment policies and strategies in Turkey as well as reflections on capacity needs and service delivery. This led to the drafting of an action plan on the role workers and employers can exercise in meeting their obligations towards forced displacement.

Having visited Kebribeyah refugee camp and the Qoloji IDP camp, the experience, in a participant’s very own words, was quite an “eye opener” on the issue of forced displacement.