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        Economic and Social Council
27 June 1996

Original: ENGLISH


Memorandum submitted by the International Labour Office



5. Since 1978, ILO has been monitoring the situation of Palestinian workers and has all along maintained that it can best serve their interests and those of Palestinian employers through the provision of adequate and appropriate technical assistance. The complex and sensitive environment that affected the occupied Arab territories during the past two and a half decades prevented the realization of this objective. Although the developments that took place in the last quarter of 1993 on the Palestinian/Israeli scene, as well as the subsequent developments, had appeared to herald the start of a new era of cooperation, and therefore a climate propitious to the future ILO role in these territories, the Director-General's 1996 report on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories reflected a tragic downturn in developments.

6. The report was based on information collected during a mission the Director-General sent to Israel and the occupied Arab territories - the nineteenth consecutive one - with a view to analysing the situation of Arab workers of the occupied Arab territories, taking account of the move towards autonomy, with free elections, in these territories. The mission was carried out from 2 to 14 March 1996 and was preceded by a short preparatory mission to the Syrian Arab Republic in order to hold consultations with Government authorities, and with employers' and workers' organizations. The report also examined any measures taken by the Israeli authorities following the recommendations made in previous reports. Taking into account the transition situation in which the problems were examined, and in the light of the recent political developments which have taken place, the report considered the various aspects of equality of opportunity and treatment for workers of the occupied Arab territories with regard to the economy and the labour market, including education and training and employment opportunities, conditions of work, including the social insurance system, the trade union situation, the situation in the Golan, the establishment of Israeli settlements and their impact on living and working conditions, and more particularly the ILO programme of technical cooperation. The report on this subject appeared in an appendix to the Report of the Director-General submitted to the International Labour Conference at its eighty-third session, in June 1996.

7. The report concludes that, in spite of the efforts that the political leaders are making to advance the peace process, much remains to be done to ensure for Palestinian workers enhanced employment opportunities, economic security and conditions of work that are consistent with international principles and standards. The report therefore stresses the technical cooperation being undertaken in full partnership with the Palestinian authorities and the social partners in the territories, as a means of contributing in a practical and effective way to the development of institutions and of a Palestinian employment policy. However, whatever achievements can be claimed by the organizations actively involved in assistance programmes for the occupied territories, the regrettable conclusion drawn in the report is that there has as yet been little, if any, beneficial economic impact on the lives of ordinary Palestinians, who continue to live in poor conditions with declining job opportunities. In addition to the lack of follow-through of donor pledges, the lack of foreign direct investment and the slow domestic economy, the constant partial or total closure of the territories by the Israeli authorities aggravates the precarious economic situation, particularly in the Gaza Strip. The report suggests that other ways could be found to deal with the actions which often motivate the closures.

8. Recognizing that responsibility for the success of the peace process, and in particular for creating economic conditions that will facilitate progress towards peace, lies with the Palestinian Authority, with Israel and with the international community as a whole, the report notes that ILO can play a critical role in guaranteeing order and social stability; it thus calls on the donor countries and financial institutions to support ILO programmes that are designed to enhance this endeavour.


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