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close this bookTrade Unions in Conflict-Affected Countries: Experiences and Roles in Peace Negotiation, Social Healing, Reconstruction and Development (International Labour Organization, 1997, 30 p.)
close this folderAnnexes
View the documentI. Participants
View the documentII. Welcoming statement
View the documentIII. Overview of the ILO Action Program on Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for Countries Emerging from Armed Conflict
View the documentIV. Programme of the Meeting
View the documentV. Outputs of the Action Programme on Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for Countries Emerging from Armed Conflict, as at July 1997

III. Overview of the ILO Action Program on Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for Countries Emerging from Armed Conflict


Eugenia Date-Bah

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Action Programme is delighted to have this opportunity to gather your views on the alarming rate of armed conflicts around the world, its grave impact on every facet of society and the kind of roles and initiatives required of trade unions and other relevant bodies at the national and international levels for conflict prevention, resolution, post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building.

My presentation will specifically focus on the current ILO Action Programme on countries emerging from armed conflict. It will highlight briefly: its background; objective, scope and outputs; and its possible follow-up. I shall pose a number of questions at the end in an attempt to gather your insights which we think will be critical for our work within the Programme.


Almost a third of the ILO’s member States are currently conflict-affected - that is either at war, emerging from war, re-entering into war or suffering from the impact of conflict in a neighbouring country. These conflicts threaten livelihoods, survival, cohesion, security, societal governance; and aggravate other ILO concerns, such as the labour market, employment situation, capacity of relevant labour-related institutions, poverty, inequality and observance of human rights and other international labour standards. This unfortunate trend makes conflict prevention and resolution, post-conflict reconstruction and sustainable peace-building an urgent priority requiring the involvement, support and action of all the relevant organs of civil society and also partnerships between these actors for greater synergy and impact of their activities.

Conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building constitute a complex process and a daunting task demanding adoption of innovative strategies, new skills and serious planning. The exigencies of the situation sometimes require moving outside “habitual tracks” and approaches. It is with this background that the ILO, since 1996, has been implementing a multidisciplinary Action Programme in this area to help the Organization to carefully prepare and plan its contribution to assist its constituents in this area.

Another relevant aspect of the Programme’s background is the current emphasis on post-conflict reconstruction within the UN system as reflected in the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Peace and recent decisions of the relevant inter-agency structures. As stressed recently by the UN Secretary-General, conflicts constitute a major feature of the current changing global environment in which the UN system organizations work. The organizations therefore have a duty to respond to them to mitigate the impact of the crisis and to create the best possible conditions for victims to rebuild their livelihoods and societies. A similar observation could be made of the trade unions that conflicts now form an important feature of the societal environment in which they operate and they have to respond to them to assist the conflict-affected people and to promote peace, reconciliation and reconstruction.

The ILO in particular has a comparative advantage in conflict resolution, building peace and reconstruction after war. Its origins under the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as well as the discussions in the International Labour Conference during the Second World War underscored employment promotion and skills training as critical for reintegration of the conflict-affected groups - demobilized soldiers, war-affected youth and children, women who suffer disproportionately from war, and the disabled including many who are maimed by landmines and other acts of warfare.

Other elements of the ILO’s comparative advantage are its tripartite constituent membership and therefore its capacity to mobilize social dialogue which is indispensable for reconciliation. The ILO also has rich experience of assisting conflict-affected groups such as victims of apartheid, workers in the former occupied Arab territories and currently some of the post-conflict countries such as Cambodia, Mozambique, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina. These are reviewed in a document “ILO and conflict-affected peoples and countries” which the ILO Action Programme has recently produced for wide-scale distribution.

Despite this comparative advantage, the Organization has not fully realized its potential in post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building nor provided relevant guidance to its constituents regarding their roles and the initiatives they could embark upon in this important field. It has no visible coherent policy framework, guidelines and training materials on the issue to demonstrate unequivocally its commitment to this major problem of our present world and its readiness, capacity, role and means to respond to the challenge. The policy framework, guidelines and training materials form an important component of the enabling environment for the Organization and its social partners’ effective action in this area.

The only international labour standard specifically dealing with post-conflict reconstruction, namely Recommendation No. 71, concerning employment organization in the transition from war to peace (1944), remains unknown. Its contents however are still valid, especially its recognition that “the character and magnitude of the employment adjustments required during the transition from war to peace necessitate special action to facilitate the reintegration and re-employment of the diverse groups. It furthermore calls on governments in dealing with this issue to plan the various programmes in cooperation with workers ‘and employers’ organizations and to provide training and retraining and vocational guidance. The nature, technology and conduct of warfare have, however, changed in recent decades and, therefore, make it essential for this standard to be revisited to make it reflect the new reality of conflict and its challenges including those of the constituents.

The trade unions have considerable potential and a comparative advantage in peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction. Their membership sometimes cuts across different political factions. They can, therefore, facilitate dialogue between the different groups, consensus-building and social healing. While some of the unions are playing an active role here, others are weakened by the war and need support and capacity-building to enable them assume this role. On the whole what is required of trade unions in the conflict-affected context entails going beyond traditional industrial relations roles of unions.

Opportunities, like this forum and an earlier seminar convened by the ICTU and the ILO in Dublin, for exchange of experiences between the different unions could contribute to stimulate action by more unions in this area. Documenting the experiences and initiatives, in addition to preparing guidelines on the issue, for wide-scale dissemination and training of unions and the other relevant stakeholders could also galvanize further action. Furthermore, they could contribute to draw attention of governments and other actors to the need for trade unions’ involvement in the peace negotiation process as well as in planning and implementing reintegration and reconstruction programmes during and after conflict. Perhaps the limited coverage of labour-related issues in peace agreements and the reintegration programmes so far is explicable in terms of the limited involvement of the ILO’s social partners in these exercises.

The current Action Programme then tries to generate insights to address these and other issues with a view to equipping the ILO and its constituents to strengthen their capacity and role in this field. Other specifics of the Programme are as follows.

Overall objective

· To enhance the capacity of countries emerging from war in planning and implementing programmes for the effective reintegration of all war-affected groups and for building sustainable peace.

Regional coverage

· The Programme is being implemented in a global manner. Its investigations have therefore covered a number of the conflict and post-conflict countries in the different regions of the world, such as Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Central America.

ILO units involved in the Programme

· ACTRAV, ACTEMP, ADMITRA, EMPFORM, ENTERPRISE, ENTMAN and COOP, POLDEV, EGALITE, the MDTs, the Turin Centre and some of the project staff in some of the post-conflict countries. LEGREL and other technical units have also been associated with the Programme’s work to ensure coverage of all the relevant issues. The Programme is coordinated by the Training Policies and Systems Branch (POLFORM), specifically under our chief, Mrs. Ducci.

Specific subjects covered

To facilitate division of labour between the different ILO technical units at headquarters and in the field in the implementation of the Programme, our investigations cover specific subjects while recognizing that they are interrelated. Regular brainstorming sessions among the Programme’s staff are organized to ensure that we do not lose sight of this. The subjects being covered include the following:

· workers’ and employers’ roles and initiatives in the conflict and post-conflict context;

· small-scale enterprise promotion, cooperatives and credit schemes to enhance employment absorption of the internally displaced people, refugees returning after war, ex-combatants and war-affected youth;

· labour-intensive public works to create opportunities for employment;

· the role of labour administration in the post-conflict context;

· vocational training, especially targeted training to render some of the war-affected employable and to strengthen their capacity to embark on self-employment to enhance their self-reliance. Training in life and peace skills have also been considered as critical components of such vocational training;

· privatization process and other macroeconomic changes in the post-conflict context and their impact on the labour market;

· consensus-building and community participation;

· war-affected women;

· child soldiers and war-affected youth;

· the disabled;

· increased drug abuse as part of the growing criminalized economic activities in the conflict and post-conflict context and how to reorient the participants in these activities to legal economic activities.

It is recognized within the Programme that, despite the division of labour, the trade unions and the other social partners can make valuable contributions in all these areas. For example the Liberian and Sierra Leonean trade unions, observing the escalation of drug use and peddling among their refugees in camps in Guinea, have requested the ILO’s assistance in this area. REHAB is preparing to respond to it.

Methodologies employed

· Field-level investigations in several countries to identify problems, successful initiatives and the support needed for the economic and social reintegration of the displaced and other war-affected populations;

· assessments of ongoing ILO projects and other technical assistance activities in the conflict-affected countries, covering ex-combatants and other groups to gather lessons. This also demonstrates that the Programme is not implemented in isolation from past and ongoing ILO activities in the area;

· collection of insights and other experiences of our constituents (such as what we are doing today), international agencies and local and other actors operating in the war-affected countries;

· analysis of secondary data;

· an interregional technical seminar (November 1997) to pretest and fine-tune the outputs and the major findings of this Action Programme before wide-scale dissemination and use to benefit the conflict-affected countries.

Outputs of the Programme

(a) Key products

· A draft conceptual and comprehensive policy framework on employment promotion and skills training in the conflict-affected context;

· guidelines for capacity-building of our constituents in planning, designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating programmes for the training and employment of conflict-affected groups;

· training materials and courses to build institutional capacity (at the community, provincial and national levels);

· a database set up on relevant institutions, reintegration experiences and programmes for war-affected groups;

· compilation of a compendium of major training and employment-related initiatives in countries emerging from armed conflict.

(b) Intermediate

· A number of country reports have been generated in the course of collecting insights and other relevant data for the preparation of the key products. Some of the reports are available in the room for your collection.

What should be the follow-up to this Action Programme?

There must be a follow-up to the Programme to translate the outputs into coherent technical assistance to enable the member States and the social partners that have been covered in the Programme to actually benefit from them. While thinking of follow-up action, one may also need to consider how to mobilize resources to ensure its implementation. The follow-up could be country-level interventions as well as regional and international action which could all be closely linked within the framework of a coherent multifaceted programme. It can for example include: training courses to enhance national capacity and also that of the national trade unions and the other bodies, provision of policy advisory services using the insights assembled by the Programme; organization of information-sharing experiences between the various relevant actors; discussions on the post-conflict issue in the Governing Body, at the International Labour Conference and other relevant ILO meetings and seminars organized by the unions and the other social partners outside the ILO. The social partners have the potential to contribute to the Programme’s follow-up.

We would welcome your insights on the following questions

· What experiences have you gathered in relation to the trade unions’ involvement in the peace negotiation and implementation process and in the planning and implementation of reintegration programmes for the conflict-affected groups, such as ex-combatants, war-affected women, child soldiers, youth whose education and training were interrupted by conflict; the people disabled by war and the legacies of war such as landmines and psychological traumas?

· How can the trade unions that have been successful in this area and in contributing to peace-building assist their counterparts in other conflict-affected contexts to strengthen the latter’s capacity and role in this field?

· What kind of solidarity measures can be adopted by the trade unions in non-conflict countries and also by the international trade union secretariats and regional trade union bodies to enhance the trade unions’ role and involvement in peace negotiation, peace-building, reintegration and reconstruction programmes?

· What in your view are the effective ways of promoting skills training and employment promotion in the post-conflict context?

· What do you want to see as follow-up to the Action Programme so that its products benefit the social partners and the conflict-affected countries and to have a snowball effect?

· What special contribution can the trade unions make to this follow-up?

· What are the effective contributions the ILO can make and the strategies it can adopt towards post-conflict reconstruction, reintegration and peace-building?

In conclusion, I would like to stress that we have a lot to learn from your rich experience in the conflict and post-conflict context. We are sure the ideas you share with us this morning will contribute greatly to improve upon the content of the Action Programme’s outputs to make them respond to your needs and what our Organization should be doing in this area.

The post-conflict reconstruction, reintegration and peace-building process is just as important as the conflict prevention and resolution process to avoid recurrence of conflict and to create the enabling environment for economic development and human and social welfare. The ILO’s intensified action in this area as a key player will greatly contribute to enhance its relevance and the external perception of this relevance in the current turbulent world.