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Tackling the crisis

Arab Employment Forum endorses agenda for action in the region

The Arab Employment Forum closed with agreement between the government, employer and worker representatives of 22 countries on an Agenda for Action to apply the Global Jobs Pact in the region to mitigate the immediate impacts of the economic crisis on labour markets.

Press release | 21 October 2009

BEIRUT (ILO News) – The Arab Employment Forum closed here today with agreement between the government, employer and worker representatives of 22 countries on an Agenda for Action to apply the Global Jobs Pact in the region to mitigate the immediate impacts of the economic crisis on labour markets.

The Agenda emphasized the relevance of the portfolio of policy measures offered by the Global Jobs Pact for the region and highlighted the importance of dialogue and regional cooperation for a rapid recovery from the crisis that would help countries recover employment levels and put economies on a sustainable growth path with decent work opportunities.

International Labour Organization (ILO) Regional Office for the Arab States Director Nada Al-Nashif welcomed the conclusions and said that, “the Agenda for Action represents a real step forward in terms of tripartite convergence around our central priorities. We have a real mandate here.”

Ahmed Mohammed Luqman, Director-General of the Arab Labour Organization (ALO) expressed appreciation “that the outcomes of the Forum determine a common executive programme between the ILO and ALO, targeting the needs of the Arab region and are in line with the decisions of the Arab Economic Summit held in Kuwait in January and the priorities of the Arab Employment Decade (2010-2020).”

The three-day Forum, organized by the ILO and ALO, assessed the effects of the economic crisis on the diverse region and recognized that the crisis was exacerbating pre-existing levels of unemployment, underemployment, low productivity and limited access to decent work opportunities and social protection, as well as respect of rights at work.

On Monday, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia warned of “the consequences of increases in unemployment, informal and precarious work, and reduced enterprise capacities, postponed investments and youth unemployment,” citing ILO figures showing that “unemployment in the region will likely rise, to between 9 and 11 per cent for the region as a whole.”

The tripartite participants at the Forum agreed on a series of policy priorities for follow up at the national level, including placing employment at the heart of recovery strategies, improving management of labour migration, building adequate social protection systems, strengthening respect for international labour standards and workers rights, promoting a culture of social dialogue, and the promotion of sustainable enterprises.

The Agenda for Action also identifies an opportunity amidst the crisis for a new development paradigm that places employment as a central objective of economic strategies, strengthens the role of Ministries of Labour and reorients the financial sector to serve the needs of the real economy.

The tripartite constituents called for a joint mechanism for follow up to the Forum and emphasized the need for continued strong collaboration between the ILO and the ALO, with a common goal of achieving decent work in the region in line with the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization and the Arab Decade for employment (2010-2020).

Dr. Abdullah Dahlan, the employer’s representative said, “we welcome the fact that the Forum has given impetus to develop national initiatives to promote sustainable enterprises, development and the implementation of relevant policy priorities of employers, workers and governments in the Arab Region.”

The workers group expressed “concern over the impact of the global financial and economic crisis on workers, particularly in relation to social protection, social security, freedom of association and the increase in unemployment.” The group emphasized that “social dialogue is the only means for achieving agreements to prevent deterioration of economic activities and hence to overcome the continued structural crisis and achieve balanced and sustainable development and good governance.”

The Manpower and Migration Minister of Egypt, Her Excellency. Aisha Abdel Hadi Abdel Ghani, welcomed the conclusions and said “we have an Arab consensus on employment and work that shows the effectiveness of the social partners and governments in finding a way to address the global crisis and shows the good will to ensure international labour standards are implemented and respected.”

Mr Luqman concluded that, “as cooperation in the social spheres should be entirely different after the Kuwait Summit, I am sure the cooperation between the ILO and ALO and the Arab social partners will be more comprehensive and profound after this Forum.”

Ms. Al-Nashif emphasised that “the ILO and ALO will continue to work with and through the tripartite partners, consolidating social dialogue as a tool to implement the Agenda for Action and ensure any necessary follow up. This includes ILO Decent Work Country Programmes and technical cooperation in the region.”

Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.