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Source: International Labour Office (ILO)
12 June 2009




Seventh sitting
Thursday, 11 June 2009, 10 a.m.
Presidents: Mr Allam and Mr Palma Caicedo


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REPORTS OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE GOVERNING BODY AND OF THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL: DISCUSSION (CONT.)

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Ms SUNDNES (Worker, Norway)...

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Earlier this year, the war in the Middle East shook the whole world. The international community witnessed the remorseless bombing of Gaza, during which nearly 1,400 people were killed and more than 5,000 Palestinians were injured. The Israeli splitting of the West Bank, with over 500 military checkpoints and the wall, is undermining a future peace agreement in Middle East. The checkpoints make it difficult for thousands of workers working in Israel. The workers have to get up in the middle of the night to be able to pass the checkpoints in time to reach their work. Ambulances with sick people are stopped and delayed; pregnant women do not reach hospitals on time to give birth. This violence must stop.

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Original Arabic: Ms ARIF (Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, Syrian Arab Republic) ...

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Peace be upon you, and the mercy and blessings of God. This is the traditional Arabic greeting used when beginning or ending a conversation. In fact these words mean one thing: we are a people who believe in peace, for us and for others. We are a people who call for mercy, for us and for others. We are a people who wish for blessings, for us and for others.

We always hold out the olive branch, except when we exchange it for the weapon of legitimacy when the principles that are at the root of our values, our civilization and our history are violated.

This is why Syria – both its people and its Government – has always objected to the deprivations suffered by the Palestinian people in the occupied Arab territories and the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan.

This is also why we have consistently refused to give up an inch of our land or to waive our rights and those of the Palestinian people, which are laid down in the norms of international law, covenants and instruments. We have agreed to participate in discussions within this global framework over the years as member States of the United Nations agencies, showing the world that we are a nation that advocates a just peace, and wants to recover what was stolen from us and from our people.

We want to create a secure environment.

Accordingly, all Syrian citizens, wherever they may be, cannot but denounce the practices perpetrated by the Israeli entity in Gaza and all occupied Arab territories, and call on the ILO and other UN agencies to play an effective role on the ground, at the very least to implement the decisions that have been taken. Mere words and descriptions, such as those contained in the Report of the Director-General of the ILO – which, although it is a step forward compared to the past, is far from what is demanded or hoped for – are not sufficient: the situation of our workers, their families and their children in the occupied Arab territories and the occupied Syrian Golan are subjected to the law of the jungle, with all the adjectives that can be used to describe it: brutal, barbaric and coercive.

If we are talking about peace or security, first there must be security in the home, including shelter, food and drink, without which there can be no economic or social progress or peaceful coexistence.

And so the question arises: can this go on? Is there no alternative to resistance and confrontation?

Our position is clear and firm. We will not depart from it. These are the principles we have always stated and upheld. We request assistance through legitimate means. That is why we have censured the United Nations agencies and the ILO, referring in particular to the successive Reports of the Director-General, which point to the perpetrator without making it bear responsibility for its criminal acts. We constantly ask for detailed descriptions of the arbitrary practices perpetrated by Israel, and that Al-Quds be returned to its Arab inhabitants. The ILO has also disregarded the simplest requests by Syria, such as the provision of technical assistance to Syrian workers and employers in the occupied Syrian Golan, who face arbitrary treatment and humiliation, as the Israeli occupier has always refused to act humanely or abide by the applicable international law.

Despite all our attempts to mitigate the problems suffered by the social partners and their families in this occupied part of our territory, we have achieved little, compared to what the Director-General advocates in his Report this year, which sets out proposals to deal with the global jobs crisis through decent work policies. We cannot help comparing what is advocated in the Report and the situation in our occupied territories, where violations are a daily occurrence.

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Original Arabic: Mr CHAOUCH (Minister of Social Affairs, Solidarity and Tunisians Abroad, Tunisia) ...

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The Director-General’s annual Report has focused on the notable deterioration of the situation of the workers in Palestine and in the other occupied Arab territories. This is a constant source of concern and is in contradiction with the most fundamental human rights.

Given the latest developments in the region following the unjust attack in the Gaza strip that led to the creation of hundreds of innocent martyrs and caused enormous damage to vital institutions of the Palestinian people, Tunisia condemns this barbaric attack and renews its solidarity with the Palestinian people in their just fight to recover all their rights and create an independent State.

Tunisia reiterates its attachment to peace, which it regards as a strategic choice, and also reiterates its support for all efforts aimed at finding a fair and long-term global solution to the Palestinian question based on the process of international peace and the Arab peace initiative.

This prestigious Organization has achieved various and numerous results in the context of achieving the noble goals for which it was created, including in particular the achievement of social justice and strengthening fundamental rights and decent work.

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Original Arabic: Mr DJILANI (Employer, Tunisia) ...

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More than 60 years have passed, and our brothers, the Palestinian people, are still waiting to exercise their right to build an independent State and to live in peace like the other peoples in the region.

We reiterate our support for this just cause, and call upon the international community to support the Palestinian people in recovering their legitimate rights.

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Original Arabic: Mr MAJDALANI (representative, Palestinian Authority) ...

I should like first of all to greet you on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority. I should also like to greet you on behalf of our Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, and to convey their best wishes for the success of this Conference.
You are all familiar with the current difficult situation of the Palestinian people, notably in the Gaza Strip where, a few months ago, citizens were victims of the most atrocious attacks, which claimed more than 1,400 victims, more than half of whom were women and children. About 5,000 innocent civilians were wounded and most of them were also women and children. Five thousand homes were completely destroyed, as well as dozens of schools, hospitals and Government and other public buildings. Hundreds of factories and enterprises were destroyed, and the agricultural land of thousands of farms was devastated. One and a half million Palestinians, half of whom were children, lived through the terror of the Israeli war machine for three long weeks.

This war, this attack, has left behind wounds that cannot heal. Furthermore, following the attack, the occupying forces continued their unjust blockade and prevented humanitarian aid from reaching the region. They did not allow building materials and equipment to enter, thus preventing citizens from rebuilding their houses, and preventing government institutions and vital public services from being repaired. As a result, tens of thousands of citizens are living in critical conditions, in temporary shelters or tents that they have set up near their destroyed homes.

We demand that Israel be sanctioned for the crimes it has committed against my people. We call on you not to treat Israel as a State like any other. We call on all States to speak out in condemnation of the perpetrators of these barbaric acts in Palestine and to bring them to justice before international courts. We also call on the international community to take steps with a view to preventing similar crimes being committed in the future.

East Jerusalem is being subjected to a wave of settlement activity, aimed at erasing the Palestinian presence and extending Israeli settlements in the area. Some of the most flagrant aspects of this policy include attacking Muslim places of worship, such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque, violating the freedom of religion, enclosing the area and implementing a policy of ethnic cleansing and discrimination against the Palestinians of Jerusalem. We can also highlight the campaigns of persecution and imprisonment against Palestinians, the destruction of houses or their confiscation, refusal to grant construction permits and the confiscation and destruction of agricultural land, the extension of settlements and the building of the separation barrier.

In the West Bank, the Israeli attack takes a number of different forms. The Israeli authorities are continuing to build a barrier to separate Jerusalem and its surrounding areas from the rest of the West Bank, depriving Palestinians of water resources and preventing tens of thousands of inhabitants from accessing the agricultural land on which they subsist. The occupying authorities, since 2002, have continued to apply a policy of enclosing the region and on the roads of the West Bank there are more than 600 military roadblocks, and a series of measures which impede the free movement of inhabitants and goods are in place.
Unemployment is a natural consequence of the policies applied by the Israeli authorities, which have reduced the possibilities of creating new jobs. As a result, our workers are forced to seek work in the Israeli market. However, following the incidents of September 2000, the occupying authorities have driven out more than 160,000 workers who were working in that market. This system of closure and collective punishment has been imposed in order to restrict the Palestinian job market, and the proliferation of roadblocks has become an obstacle to trade and the circulation of individuals.

As you know, the key to solving, or at least scaling down, the unemployment crisis cannot be found without pulling the Palestinian economy out of the recession in which it finds itself, which will only happen through investment. Today, there are about 227,000 unemployed, and 40,000 new workers are added to the available workforce every year.

The aim of the Israeli policies against the Palestinian people is to consolidate the occupation, to take what remains of the Palestinian territory and to prevent the creation of an independent State with Al-Quds as its capital.

With respect to employment, we should like to re-state the need to organize an international conference on labour in Palestine in order to generate support for the Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection and to help Palestinians overcome unemployment. We would like to reiterate our call to the ILO to intensify its monitoring of the situation of the social partners in the occupied territories and to continue to seek out the most effective means to help the Palestinians cope with the problems in the business and employment sectors in order to withstand the Israeli marginalization policies and the measures applied by the occupying authorities to take their land and houses from them.

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Original Arabic: Mr SHIMI (Worker, Tunisia) ...

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For global development we require peace, and this means we must act urgently to eradicate the causes fuelling violence, in particular occupation in the Arab world. We call on the conscience of the international community to condemn Israel and its recent aggression against Gaza affecting numerous civilians. We would call on the ILO to consider these practices as war crimes, which requires the prosecution of the perpetrators. Pressure should be exercised on Israel to bring to an end its occupation of the Palestinian Arab territories and give Palestinians the right to establish an independent State with Al-Quds as its capital. ...

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Mr AHMED (Worker, Pakistan) ...

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We fully support the legitimate right to independence of the Palestinian people in accordance with the relevant UN General Assembly resolutions and urge the ILO to enhance its technical assistance to the Palestinian people and to the working classes to mitigate their day-to-day economic and social hardships in an occupied land, and to restore and fully support their fundamental rights.

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(The Conference adjourned at 1 p.m.)


Eighth sitting
Thursday, 11 June 2009, 2.30 a.m.
Presidents: Mr Zellhoefer, Mr Allam and Mr Palma Caicedo




REPORTS OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE GOVERNING BODY AND OF THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL: DISCUSSION (CONT.)

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Mr KAPUYA (Minister of Labour, Employment and Youth Development, United Republic of Tanzania) ...

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Last but not least, the United Republic of Tanzania supports recent initiatives by President Obama of the United States to bring lasting peace to the Middle East. We therefore urge both parties to the conflict to engage in constructive dialogue in order to achieve a permanent and lasting peace in the region.

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Original Arabic: Mr MEGAWER (Worker, Egypt) ...

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As regards the Report of the Director-General concerning the implementation of the resolutions adopted by the Conference in 1974 and 1980, we commend his efforts, but hope that future Reports will truly reflect what is happening on the ground: the continued Israeli violations, the latest of which was the savage aggression perpetrated on Gaza. We also hope that the facts will be reported to the international community in a neutral and objective way so that it will face up to its responsibilities in regard to the sufferings of the Palestinian people. The Report must yield specific results and recommendations that will be put into practice for the benefit of the social partners in Palestine and the other occupied Arab territories. We also ask your Conference to condemn the attempts to Judaize the city of Al-Quds and establish the idea of the Jewish identity of Israel, which means that Palestinians living in Israel will then be compelled to leave the country, as if the Palestinian people were condemned to live as displaced persons in their own land.

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Mr SUNMONU (Representative, Organization of African Trade Union Unity) ...

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On the situation of workers in Palestine and the occupied Arab territories, African workers and trade unions are dissatisfied with the continuous violations of the fundamental rights of the workers and peoples of Palestine and the occupied Arab territories by the Israeli occupation forces. The illegal seizure of Palestinian lands, the strangulation of the Palestinian economy and the recent war on the people of Gaza, with the killing of over 1,300 people and the wounding of over 20,000 others, as well as the destruction of over 4,000 buildings including houses, schools, hospitals, UN installations and industries, amount to genocide, which we join the whole world in condemning. It is our hope that the international community will support the inalienable rights of Palestinians to statehood, living in freedom and peace with their Israeli cousins with their capital in East Jerusalem, and the return of exiled Palestinians to their homeland.

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Original Arabic: Mr GHOSN (Worker, Lebanon) ...

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As regards occupied Palestine, the Director-General indicated in his Report that the situation was very serious indeed from a human, social and economic standpoint and that it “has all the ingredients of a humanitarian catastrophe”. However, he did not mention the war that has been conducted against the inhabitants of Gaza. You are all aware of the genocide that has taken place and of the wall that was erected. I think that the Director-General’s Report should have mentioned everything that has happened in Gaza and the fact that Israel does not, in any way, respect international resolutions requiring Israel to withdraw from the Golan, including Security Council resolution 242.

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Original Arabic: Mr ABDESALEM JERAD (Representative, Union of Workers of the Arab Maghreb) ...

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We undeniably appreciate the follow-up on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories in the Director-General’s Report, and his concern to take stock of the situation of the social partners in Palestine. However, we believe that in order to put an end to the Palestinian people’s suffering, pressure must be put on Israel to open the border crossings, put an end to its settlements policy, pull down the separation wall and restore to the Palestinian people their legitimate right to establish their independent State with Al Quds as its capital.

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Original Arabic: Mr AHMMED (Employer, Iraq) ...

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We note with satisfaction the attention given by the Director-General to the question of Palestine and the sending of an annual high-level mission to Palestine and the occupied Arab territories. We support the remarks that have been made by the Drafting Group and the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

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(The Conference adjourned at 6.50 p.m.)

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