Promotion of social dialogue and freedom of association in Sudan– SDN/20/02/USA

Article | 10 November 2020
In Sudan, a popular uprising in 2019 paved the way for the emergence of a civilian government. Until new elections are organized, the supreme power in the country lies with the Transitional Sovereign Council, a combination of military and civilian representatives. This new era in the history of Sudan is also a transformation within the country to democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

One of the pillars of the ILO is tripartism, in which governments, trade unions and employer’s organizations are coming together in full freedom to discuss and take decisions on an equal footing. Previously in Sudan, the labour laws allowed for the existence of only one trade union federation and one employer’s federation. This means that a basic principle of the ILO, that all workers and employers have the right to establish and join an organization of his or her own choosing, was never realized in Sudan.

The transformation from a totalitarian towards a democratic regime however did take its toll on the existing employer’s and worker’s federations which were dissolved by a special law.

ILO principles on freedom of association however specify that such dissolution is the prerogative of a court of justice. To overcome this impasse, the worker’s federation filed a complaint with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association , emphasizing the need for finding an amicable settlement and pave the way for effective social dialogue.

With the financial support of the US government, the ILO is now embarking on a project that aims to facilitate progress towards respect for freedom of association principles and a new era of social dialogue, fully in conformity with the Organization’s unique tripartite mandate in the world of work. It entails a number of interventions at different levels. Most relevant is the project’s strong emphasis on capacity building of tripartite constituents which will pave the way for an influential and inclusive tripartite social dialogue system. 

This social dialogue will be founded on simple, effective, straightforward and transparent labour laws. The government committed to amending its current labour legislation, and to ratify international labour conventions which underpin these laws. Most importantly the fundamental ILO Convention No. 87 on freedom of association, and the governance ILO Convention No. 144 on Tripartite Consultations.

Once new legislation is in place, organizations of workers and employers can be formally established in full freedom, registered and organize elections to make their voices heard. The project foresees in the establishment of a Tripartite Labour Advisory Council as an institutional guarantee these voices will resonate with the government encouraging tripartite decision-making processes. The increased institutional capacity of ILO constituents resulting from this project will be a first step toward the creation of harmonious and constructive labour relations in Sudan.