Thank you Mr Chairman,
Asia and the Pacific is a region with a large population and much diversity. Even though several countries are growing rapidly economically, many people still live in poverty.
The document before you shows that the Asia and Pacific region has very large and various technical cooperation programmes. Today, rather than going over individual programmes and projects, I will focus my brief presentation on some of the highlights of our technical cooperation. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the government and social partners in the region for your support, cooperation and assistance in implementing ILO projects effectively and efficiently.
Without doubt, the most high profile component of our technical cooperation over this past year has been the response to the recent natural disasters in our region. In the case of the Asian Tsunami, we have implemented a number of technical cooperation projects in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. At present, we have 29 on-going projects. Including the projects in the pipeline or pledged, we got more than US$ 40 million extra-budgetary resources from many donor governments, UNDP, trade-unions and a private company.
Our projects cover emergency employment services, skills development and vocational training, local economic development and “cash for work” projects. All projects give special attention to protection of the most vulnerable groups in the shattered communities- women, orphaned children and persons with disabilities.
Let me briefly touch upon some of the lessons learned from the tsunami disaster. First, although the needs for ILO assistance would be bigger during the
recovery and reconstruction phase, the ILO has to be on the ground right from the very start. Livelihoods and income recovery should start from day one. We have applied this lesson in response to the earthquake in Pakistan. Two weeks after the disaster struck, we already started with our “cash for work” pilot project for debris removal in Balakot, one of the most devastated areas. We will show you a short video on this after my speech.
Second, we should realise the fact that many donors and public in general still do not understand the role the ILO can play in disaster crisis response. We therefore should raise our visibility in this regard. Drawing attention to the impact of the disasters on employment in the affected areas is essential. In Sri Lanka and Pakistan we participated in the UN common assessment on the livelihood and employment impact of the disasters. This helps to ensure that the ILO is present in the strategy for early recovery and reconstruction.
Our comparative advantage is clearly in labour-based employment creation both as short-term livelihood support and for longer term rehabilitation and reconstruction of communities and sustainable employment.
I also stress the needs of strengthening our capacity and expertise. Flexible use of our internal resources, both financially and in terms of human resources, and getting external support in time are key to providing support to the affected communities.
Employment continues to be the key priority area for our member States in the region, as was very evident during the China Employment Forum held in April 2004 The Office has been receiving increasing requests from our constituents to help them address the implications of globalization and macroeconomic policies in order to create more and better jobs. In the Office paper we have mentioned a range of our programmes relating to employment, including Youth Employment Project, Start Your Business Programme and labour-based and employment intensive approaches for community infrastructure rehabilitation. There is also urgent need in this region for our continuous technical assistance to promote better functioning of labour markets that would help redirect the demand for labour away from children and towards youth. Interlinked issues such as productivity, job quality and workplace relations have also been identified by our constituents as key areas at national and enterprise level, requiring our technical assistance.
The role of donors and national government
Before I end my remarks, I would like to make special mention of the role of donors and national governments in our technical cooperation. In the tsunami response, it was because some of our major donors were flexible in allowing us to shift resources from ongoing projects that we were able to very quickly mobilize resources to assist vulnerable groups in the affected communities. It has also been because we have had strong support from national governments that our child labour programmes in the region have been so large and successful. Let me cite here the case of India where the Government provided US$20 million to match the US$20 million of TC funds for the elimination of child labour.
The Governments of Japan and Korea have also been very generous in providing the Office with extra-budgetary resources that allow us to promote regional programmes, such as on Skills and Employability.
In future, we will focus our TC activities on priorities chosen in each DWCP country. If we look at priorities at the regional level, these include skills and employability, labour migration and youth employment. We will also be focusing on helping crisis and disaster affected countries to rebuild. I am looking forward to receiving your guidance and support to help us pave the way for better technical cooperation to make decent work an Asian goal.