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The ILO launches its compendium on “Employment and decent work in refugee and other forced displacement contexts”

News | 04 May 2021
On 29 April 2021 the ILO and its International Training Centre organized an on-line event to launch the Compendium of lessons learned, emerging good practices and policy guidance, entitled “Employment and decent work in refugee and other forced displacement context”. The document is the result of collaboration between the ILO’s Labour Migration Branch (MIGRANT), Development and Investment Branch (DEVINVEST) and the Office of the Director General for Policy.

The event, offered in English, French and Spanish and attended by some 140 participants, was an occasion to remind that the ILO has been engaged in the employment and labour aspect of refugees since 1919 as an aftermath of WWI. Its response has been adapted to meet the ever-increasing scale, duration, and complexity of the global migration crisis. The Compendium takes stock of its century-long experience in promoting decent work and sustainable development in areas hosting refugees, in partnership with governments, employers and workers, which is now guided by Guiding principles on the access of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons to the labour market and Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience Recommendation, 2017 (No. 205).

Click here to read the Compendium
Tine Staermose, Special Adviser, Labour Market Institutions and Governance, Office of the Deputy Director-General for Policy (DDG/P) opened the webinar by highlighting how for refugees, the opportunity to access decent work is fundamental to their protection and well-being, and to restoring their sense of dignity and life purpose.

The event saw the participation of panellists from ILO’s Headquarters, the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, the Regional Office for Arab States and from the country offices in Colombia, Mauritania, and Turkey as well as the Deputy Representative of UNHCR in Mauritania.

The discussion focused on good practices through inter-agency collaboration in the context of forced displacement and on how productive employment and decent work can address some of the inequalities and difficult situations that many forcibly displaced persons face.
Speakers highlighted the need for the following actions:
  • Increase labour market access, formalization and protection of labour rights of refugees: this includes the creation of employment-intensive opportunities for refugees and the creation of job opportunities for unaccompanied youth through a ready for business approach with a focus on entrepreneurship. Addressing existing labour market challenges and the refugee crisis through an integrated approach that responds with immediate results but with a longer-term vision is fundamental.
  • Strengthen local institutions by replicating good practices and sharing lessons learned through South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) mechanisms, which can benefit all contributing parties, and by building local capacities for employability.
  • Shift from the humanitarian perspective and focus on long-term interventions, highlighting how an emergency intervention can actually have longer and more sustainable impacts – for example by piloting visible demonstration activities in the context of Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus. This could include the construction of much needed assets such as schools and the offer of vocational training.
  • Understand the role of different agencies and the importance of inter-agency collaboration, as well as the benefit of bringing the refugees within the host communities to enhance social cohesion. An increasing number of government and social partners now recognize that refugees are not mare recipients of long-term aid; they are proactive agents of development.

Ms. Mito Tsukamoto, Chief of DEVINVEST Branch, concluded the event with three key messages:
  1. The ILO’s normative framework includes the protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own. Hence, in principle, all ILO Conventions and Recommendations apply to working refugees to the extent that they are workers. Particularly, R205 not only gives guidance to member states, organizations and practitioners dealing with employment and decent work in fragile settings, but it also serves to ensure that attention is paid to groups and individuals who have been made particularly vulnerable, including IDP, migrants, refugees and other persons forcibly displaced across borders.
  2. Depending on the type of employment and the activities that are undertaken to offer paid job opportunities, decent work can also address structural challenges in the labour market, reinforce the normative mandate, and in some cases, also contribute to building needed assets and services that increase diversification and productivity growth.
  3. All actors should look beyond the short-term interventions, and focus on a long-term vision, achieving the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus with conflict-sensitive design and programming, and possibly making a positive contribution to peace. Employment and Decent Work initiatives are key to tackling the need for innovative socio-economic responses in any recovery, especially in fragile and refugees’ settings.
The meeting reaffirmed the importance of multilateralism and called for reinforced coordination and coherence both internally across different technical areas, as well as externally with partner organizations in operationalizing access to decent work for refugees and other forcibly displaced people. The Compendium provides an opportunity to detail why the world of work and especially decent work has to be so central to the comprehensive response in the multilateral system.