|Trade Unions in Conflict-Affected Countries: Experiences and Roles in Peace Negotiation, Social Healing, Reconstruction and Development (International Labour Organization, 1997, 30 p.)|
Welcoming statement of Mr. Giuseppe Querenghi, Director of the Bureau for Workers Activities at the Consultative Meeting for Workers Delegates attending the 85th Session of the International Labour Conference concerning the role of trade unions in peace negotiations, social healing, reconstruction and development in conflict-affected countries/emerging from armed conflict
Colleagues, brothers and sisters,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this important Consultative Meeting on the role of trade unions in peace negotiations, social healing, reconstruction and development in conflict-affected countries or in countries emerging from armed conflict. Among the objectives of the Meeting are to acquaint you with the objective, scope and expected outputs of the ILO Action Programme for countries emerging from armed conflict and to also exchange views on how best the ILO could help to enhance the institutional capacity of trade unions in responding to the challenges of peace, rehabilitation and reconstruction in post-conflict situations.
This morning Mr. Bill Brett listed the countries invited to this Meeting. The large number of conflict-affected countries in the world is a major impediment to development and a challenge to social progress. Not only do these wars have grave impacts on human and physical resources and the well-being of society, but they also weaken the various institutions, including trade union organizations. The process of building peace, reconciliation and reconstruction during and after war has to embrace all the relevant actors at the national and community levels. It is an urgent concern that needs to be given priority in current development thinking and action.
It is in this context that the International Labour Organization (ILO) is currently implementing an Action Programme on Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for Countries Emerging from Armed Conflict. The Coordinator of the Programme, Ms. Eugenia Date-Bah, will provide you with the necessary information about the activities of the Programme.
Within the framework of that Programme, the Bureau for Workers Activities plans to implement, in the future, activities for unions in this field and to carry out studies that will provide guidelines and assist unions in war-affected countries to develop initiatives for their participation in the resolution of civil conflicts in collaboration with the rest of the civil society.
Some trade unions are engaged in a number of peace and reconstruction initiatives, but their activities remain unpublicized, undocumented and are confined to restricted circles. Others are not yet involved in any activity mainly because of their undefined role in national conflict situations and the political negotiation process of peace agreements. Therefore, they lack information on how best to intervene as initiatives taken in one country cannot always be replicated in other countries owing to the nature of the different contexts. The lack of a monitoring mechanism to keep track of workers in distress and a defined framework to assist them, makes workers in conflict-affected countries feel deserted by their unions and find themselves and their families nurtured by other non-governmental organizations.
Some of the known union initiatives include the following:
1. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) promotes trade union policies on a non-sectarian, non-party political basis. It established a special Anti-intimidation/Anti-Sectarian Unit which is tackling the issue in the workplace and the community through appropriate policies, training for workers and managers, as well as research. It plans to establish a unit to address the issue of sectarianism among young workers and those engaged in government-sponsored training schemes; this will include training of trainers to undertake this work. The Irish Trade Union Congress has also been involved in shaping the terms of reference and procedures for the implementation of the European Unions Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Countries of the Republic of Ireland.
2. In Rwanda, the Federation of Trade Unions (CESTRAR) has started training for income generation as well as a credit programme for workers, especially for those in the informal sector: CESTRAR has a programme for financing income-earning activities linked to the National Social Action Programme (PNAS) of the World Bank. It undertakes studies and follow-up for projects requesting funding from the programme. It specially focuses on women who have been particularly affected by the armed conflict in that country.
3. The Italian Confederation of Trade Unions (CISL) supports the Organization of Mozambican Workers through its Institute for Cooperation (ISCOS). Programmes are run in several provinces of the country, covering a wide range of skills, and include arrangements for apprenticeships, for employment and self-employment.
4. A wide range of assistance to Cambodia is given by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) through the Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad (APHEDA). This institution is engaged in assistance to rebuild the educational system in Cambodia through teacher training, vocational training, literacy training, development of skills for women and women development centres.
A joint workshop by the Bureau for Workers Activities of the ILO and the Irish Confederation of Trade Unions held in Dublin in February of this year was the last trade union initiative on the subject. The discussions of the Meeting centred on the societies in civil conflict and the role of trade unions. It came up with useful recommendations that require follow-up action. Ms. Patricia ODonovan, who played a key role in the organization of the workshop will share with you the experiences gained from the workshop.
To respond to this new challenge, unions need to develop a peace-building vision, to redefine their structures/roles and contributions to the peace-making, conflict resolution and to the emergency, rehabilitation and development phases of post-conflict situations. Sharing experiences with each other and building links with other organizations in civil society are key instruments in establishing democratic values and social stability that are essential for sustainable development in countries emerging from armed conflict. Development of specialized workers education programs on peace, tolerance, reconciliation, consensus-building, conflict-resolution, reconstruction and the launching of other pertinent activities responding to the challenges posed by civil wars to unions would not only be imperative for bringing mass awareness to membership, but it could also make unions relevant to their communities.
Pertinent questions to be answered during the debate may include the following:
· What role can trade unions play in the emergency, rehabilitation and development phases of civil conflict?
· What contribution can trade unions make to the specific needs of war-affected workers and their families?
· What kind of initiatives can trade unions undertake in war and postwar situations?
· What kind of special services or training facilities can trade unions provide to war-affected people, in general, and to workers and their families, in particular?
· What type of cooperation can trade unions forge with other relevant social institutions in this context?
· What are the ways for strengthening the capacity of trade unions to respond to the challenge?
· What role can the ILO play to assist the unions in this context?
In conclusion, may I thank you, once again, for responding to our invitation positively and wish you a useful exchange of experiences on this important subject.