|In talks with Palestinian officials, UN labour agency advances jobs plan for Middle East
12 July – The head of the United Nations labour agency held talks in Geneva today with a senior Palestinian delegation aimed at advancing plans to create jobs in the Occupied Arab Territories, which have seen skyrocketing rates of unemployment amid the current tense security situation.
Urgent plans for technical assistance, especially the establishment of a Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection, were high on the agenda during discussions among the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Juan Somavia, the Palestinian Minister of Labour, as well as officials representing employers and workers.
Samir Radwan, Mr. Somavia's Special Adviser on Development Policies and the Arab World, said today's meeting was the culmination of the agency's long commitment to improving conditions for workers in the region. "The ILO has been giving a lot of priority to this issue - we've been doing an annual report on the situation for 18 years - but this year the situation is very special," he told the UN News Service, noting that the unemployment rate among Palestinian adults hovers around 78 per cent.
In addition to agreeing to create the Fund, the officials also concurred on the need for "some emergency schemes, because the situation cannot wait until the Fund is set up," explained Mr. Radwan.
He added that today's discussions also addressed fostering a dialogue aimed at helping Palestinians return to work in Israel. The ILO has also taken this matter up with the Israeli side, including with the country's Ministry for Foreign Affairs. "If the situation calms down, their preference is to employ Palestinian workers," he said, adding, "They basically come 'just across the street'" to work.
Explaining the ILO's motivation in focusing on the region, Mr. Radwan said, "It is in nobody's interest that the situation continues - neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis nor the region as a whole."
Mr. Somavia met today with Ghassan El-Khateeb, Minister of Labour in the Palestinian National Authority, Shaher Sa'ed, Secretary-General of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, Ma'az Nabulsi, President of the Nablus Chamber of Commerce, and Ambassador Nabil Ramlawi, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine in Geneva.