Jordan Ryan, UN Resident Coordinator in Liberia. Speech to the High-Level Forum on "Working Out of Poverty: Decent Work Approach to Development and Growth in Africa" in Monrovia on 8-9 September 2008

Statement | 14 November 2008

Working Out of Poverty

A Decent Work Approach to Development and Growth in Africa

Monday 8 September 2008

    I am delighted to be here today with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Realizing Rights President Mary Robinson.

    Let me recognize the representation by workers, employers, private sector, civil society…

    Distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen – and observing all other protocols …

    On behalf of the United Nations in Liberia I congratulate the organizers of this important High-Level Forum. I think it is especially relevant to host this Forum in Liberia, a country that has recognized the interdependence on issues such as conflict and recovery, natural resource management, livelihoods, governance and economy, youth – and, of course – employment.


    As we all know, in a post-conflict situation, providing gainful employment is vital to short-term stability, reintegration, economic growth and sustainable peace. When a nation is emerging from conflict, there is an enormous imperative to offer alternatives to combat. Having a reasonable chance, an opportunity for a job, is the fundamental alternative to toting guns.

    Employment not only supports ex-combatants and returnees but it also brings home a peace dividend, it generates income, helps stabilize families, frees up children to resume school, and it provides the foundation for longer-term development strategies.

    But rapid job growth does not just happen. Promoting employment growth is difficult in peacetime, and doubly so in post conflict situations. The main difficulty is that employment creation is derived from economic stability and the prospect of economic growth. It is never easy in the aftermath of conflict to get everyone to believe that peace will hold so that they can put the uncertainties of the past behind them.

    I think the first thing that a nation must do, immediately post-conflict, is to get people out there working, even if it is emergency type jobs. The Government of Liberia made “Jobs, jobs, jobs” its mantra in 2006. They recognized the importance of employment early on and have kept that focus since.

    The transition from humanitarian phase to longer-term development needs a coherent approach to employment creation. A useful reference point for Liberia and other post-conflict countries is the “three-track approach” developed in the recently adopted “UN system-wide Policy Paper for “Employment Creation, Income Generation and Reintegration in Post-Conflict Settings”.

    It outlines 3 tracks:

Track A (short-term): Stabilizing income generation and emergency employment, with the aim to consolidate security and stability, including through emergency temporary jobs;

Track B (medium-term): Local economic recovery for employment and reintegration, on promoting employment opportunities at the local level, including through community-driven programmes;

Track C (longer-term): Sustainable employment creation and decent work, involving macro-economic and sectoral policies, institutional capacity building and creating a framework for social dialogue.

    This approach mirrors closely the one adopted by the Liberian Government since 2006, especially through its LEEP/LEAP strategy. When the LEEP (emergency) phase ended in December 2007 83,000 short-term jobs had been created across the country.


    Let me talk a little about the specific challenges we have in Liberia. But when I talk of challenges – let us also remember the enormous flip side: OPPORTUNITIES.

    It will take time to bear results and it is with this realization that the PRS still provides for emergency short-term measures to create incomes through labour-intensive infrastructure projects, urban sanitation and clean-up projects.

    The use of labour based methods can help much in the immediate creation of jobs but this must of course be combined with programmes that lay the foundation for economic growth by developing human resources, expanding the private sector and improving labour market information systems.