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Source: International Labour Office (ILO)
24 November 2000
ILO Urges Support for Workers in Palestinian territories

Friday 24 November 2000
( ILO/00/46 )

GENEVA (ILO News) - The ILO Director-General, Mr. Juan Somavia, warned today of an "evolving humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories resulting from the closure of frontiers, the explosive growth of unemployment and the inability of many workers to meet their families' basic needs".

He said that "beyond the obvious need for Palestinians and Israelis to stop the violence and to restart the peace process, international organizations had to address urgently, in their spheres of technical competence, the rapidly deteriorating living conditions". He called on them to work together with the ILO to mobilize their resources and expertise behind an emergency employment programme.

His remarks followed a meeting, held at the ILO's invitation, with a delegation, which included the Minister of Labour of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Rafiq Al Natsche, and Mr. Hashem Al-Sughayer President of the Palestinian Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture. The Secretary General, Mr. Shaher Saed, of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions was unable to leave the territories to attend the meeting.

The Palestinian delegation warned in particular of the increasingly serious employment situation created by the violence in the West Bank and Gaza where normal economic activity was grinding to a halt.

The Minister of Labour, Mr. Al Natsche, said that "unemployment was affecting more than 360,000 workers and that the situation could lead to starvation and famine." The Minister called for the support of the International Labour Office on behalf of the increasingly large number of workers prevented by the current troubles from earning a living wage.

It was agreed that, on an emergency basis, the ILO would implement projects on micro-finance for self-employment, with the support of the Government of France, and on rehabilitation for disabled people, for which backing from the Government of the United Arab Emirates was under consideration.

At today's meeting, the Ambassador of Italy to the UN in Geneva, His Excellency Mr. Negrotto Cambiaso, signed an agreement with the ILO to provide US$ 500,000 in support of an ongoing technical cooperation project for the development of vocational training in the Palestinian territories.

The Ambassador said that in light of the circumstances, today's signing was "a symbolic contribution but also a sign that we are not giving up hope for peace and development in the region."

Prior to the current situation, the ILO had drawn up a programme composed of 18 projects addressing various social and labour issues in the territories. Although some projects have received support from donors, the progressive unravelling of the peace process throughout the year has prevented their effective implementation, the ILO said.

The meeting was followed by a visit from H.E. Mrs. Fayza Aboulnaga, Ambassador of Egypt, H.E. Abdulwahab Attar, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia and Mr. Majid Abugrara, representative of the Arab Labour Organisation, who expressed support for Palestinian workers and urged the ILO to take steps to continue implementing technical cooperation activities.

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