Peacebuilding and employment

Peacebuilding as one: UN launches new policy on generating employment in post-conflict environments

Promoting employment is difficult in peacetime, and significantly more so in post-conflict situations. A major new effort by 20 UN agencies, funds and programmes now aims to scale up and maximize the impact, coherence and efficiency of employment support to post-conflict countries. ILO Online spoke with José-Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director of the ILO Employment Sector which oversees the ILO Programme on Crisis Response and Reconstruction about the “United Nations Policy for Post-Conflict Employment Creation, Income Generation and Reintegration” to be launched in Geneva on 4 November.

Article | 03 November 2009

ILO Online: Why is it so important to create jobs in post-conflict countries?

José-Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs: In post-conflict situations, employment and income generation are vital to short-term stability, reintegration, socio-economic growth and sustainable peace. Job creation and self-employment opportunities provide to communities and individuals the means for survival and recovery. The number of jobs that must be created in post-crisis settings is staggering. Demobilizing Iraq’s military left 350,000 former soldiers in need of jobs, while the conflict in Afghanistan has resulted in over two million displaced people requiring reintegration and employment. Worldwide, in 2007 conflict created 28,514,000 internal displaced, 4,685,000 refugees Note 2 , and programmes are seeking to reintegrate over one million ex-combatants.

ILO Online: In addition to former combatants, who else is included in this new policy?

José-Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs: Specific attention is given to the needs and capacities of conflict-affected groups, particularly unemployed or under-employed women and youth. Creating employment that taps into the positive energy and skills of young people is a particularly difficult challenge, as these groups often find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of violence, poverty, illiteracy and social exclusion. There should be a balance between the priority of security concerns and equity considerations, especially when targeting specific individuals or groups, such as ex-combatants.

ILO Online: What are some of the other benefits to society from the policy?

José-Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs: The end of conflict in a country creates a window of opportunity for social and economic reform. The root causes of conflict are often associated to the world of world, including discrimination, social exclusion, forced labour and restrictions on freedom and rights, among others. ILO core standards and an extended social dialogue will contribute to addressee some of these causes, facilitating a more inclusive socio-economic transformation and then facilitating long-term reconciliation.

ILO Online: Can you tell us more about this new effort to rebuild societies in post-conflict situations?

José-Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs: The new policy represents a UN-wide effort to scale up and maximize the effectiveness of employment and reintegration programmes in post-conflict settings. It was jointly developed by the 20 UN agencies and international financial institutions (IFIs) that constitute the Inter-Agency Working Group Note 3 on Post-Conflict Employment Creation and Reintegration. The crucial link between (self-) employment and peace-building has received full recognition of a three-year interagency consultation process, co-led by the ILO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The process culminated in May 2008 with the UN Secretary-General’s approval of the new policy. The Policy underlines the necessity of coherent and comprehensive strategies for post- conflict employment creation and reintegration and includes three sets of programmes, defined as programming tracks.

ILO Online: What are these three sets of programmes?

José-Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs: They are first stabilization, second, return and reintegration and third, sustainable employment creation and decent work. All of them promote self-employment but their focus is different. A fast-track programme includes emergency temporary jobs and aims to consolidate security and stability with programmes providing quick peace dividends to targeted female headed households, ex-combatants, youth, returnees, displaced people and others at risk high risk of exploitation or abuse, particularly women. Programmes in the second track include capacity development of local governments and other local authorities, and providers of business services; community driven development programmes comprising participatory investments in local socio-economic infrastructure; and local economic recovery programmes. Programmes in the third track include support to macroeconomic and fiscal policies, to active labour market, labour law and investment policies; support for financial sector and business development services; and promotion of labour-related institutions that enhance employability, social protection and other aspects of labour administration.

ILO Online: How do you make sure that all the relevant stakeholders become involved in the reconstruction process?

José-Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs: Programmes should be supported and vetted by social dialogue between tripartite constituents (government, employers and workers) and other relevant stakeholders, to promote consensus on labour market policy, as well as legal and institutional reforms. The ultimate goal is to promote sustainable long-term development that supports productive employment and decent work, while respecting fundamental human rights, promoting gender equality and attention for marginalized groups.

ILO Online: What is the role of the ILO in this joint effort?

José-Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs: As a result of these new developments, the Decent Work Agenda has become a key instrument for post-conflict recovery and peace-building at country level, within the UN system and beyond. Through this achievement, the ILO will gain an increased policy and advisory role and will influence recovery and reconstruction operations, ensuring improved UN coherence. As highlighted in the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization and the Organization’s Strategic Policy Framework 2010–15, the world of work is a major contributor to socio-economic progress and political stability. The implementation of this Policy will contribute effectively to achieving decent work outcomes in countries emerging from conflict.

ILO Online: What are the next steps?

José-Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs: The UN Secretary-General has asked the ILO and UNDP to develop internal capacity to support the implementation of decent work programmes in post-conflict settings. With a subsequent decision accompanying the approval of policy, ILO and UNDP were mandated to establish a “time-bound” Joint Support Team, hosted in ILO headquarters, which will focus on rolling-out the policy and addressing the remaining gaps in the implementation process at the country level. After the policy launch, programme rollout will be initiated in five countries with the support of the joint support team and an interagency Task Force involving the operational partners of the UN working group plus new associated members such as UNIDO and UNEP. The initial roll-out will concentrate on Timor-Leste, Nepal, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, and Sierra Leone. Additional support is envisaged to new countries upon availability of resources.


Note 1 Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, will chair the launch of the United Nations Policy for Post-Conflict Employment Creation, Income Generation and Reintegration on 4 November 2009 at 3:00 p.m. at the Palais des Nations (Room XII, 3rd floor).
Note 2 IDP and refugee numbers calculated based on “Internally Displaced Monitoring Centre Report”, 2008, UNHCR, and the UNDP 2007 Human Development Report.
Note 3 Asian Development Bank (ADB), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Department of Political Affairs (DPA), Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Office of the Special Advisor on Africa (OSAA), Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and World Bank.