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10 June 2002
ILO calls for urgent support for occupied territories,
urges social dialogue

Monday 10 June 2002

( ILO/02/28 )

GENEVA (ILO News) - The Director-General of the International Labour Office (ILO) said today the ILO would establish an urgent plan for creating jobs in the occupied Arab territories and appealed to Palestinians and Israelis to "take the risk of embarking on social dialogue" to achieve peace.

"The present situation cannot continue and only dialogue can lead to peace," Juan Somavia said in his address to the 90th International Labour Conference. "I appeal to Palestinian and Israeli constituents to take the risk of embarking on social dialogue across the present divide in their specific areas of competence. We shall assist and support you in all possible ways."

Speaking directly to delegates from the 175 ILO member States, which include representatives of governments as well as worker and employer organizations, the Director-General then said, "With your backing, I commit the Office to urgently put in place an expanded technical cooperation programme for Arab workers and other constituents of the occupied territories" to address "the humiliation and frustration felt by Palestinians as a result of the combination of closures and military action by Israel."

"The whole of the ILO has a responsibility and we cannot shirk it," ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said. "Beyond the ILO, the international community must respond to the aspirations of all families in the region: parents at work, children at school, security in the streets and peace in the community."

"This remains the deepest hope of the large majority of Palestinians and Israelis," Mr. Somavia said. "The world must help them to get there."

In a new report*, the ILO documents the "socio-economic meltdown in the occupied territories resulting from the present stage of the conflict and the deep humanitarian crisis which Palestinian families are living through," as well as "the sense of insecurity in Israel due to suicide bombings and the economic crisis." The report is based on the findings of an ILO mission to the occupied territories of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan on 27 April-6 May and to Syria Arab Republic and Cairo - including a meeting with the Governing Body of the Arab Labour Organization.

In addition to calling for an easing of border closures, the report cites two major policy measures for immediate consideration - increased technical assistance to the occupied territories and the promotion of social dialogue. Regarding technical assistance, the report calls for an enlarged programme of technical cooperation, creating a Palestinian Employment and Social Fund and providing assistance to the Palestinian National Authority and local authorities as well as trade unions and employers to help ease unemployment, protect workers' rights and promote social protection and social dialogue.


Speaking on globalization, the Director-General said, the world was experiencing a "yawning decent work deficit," with more than a billion women and men unemployed, some 120 million migrants seeking work abroad and with some 500 million news jobs needed over the next decade to absorb new entrants to the labour market, largely youth and women.

"The present form of globalization has not produced enough jobs for all who seek them or in the places where they are most needed," he said. "This is probably its biggest failure."

The Director-General proposed a five-point plan aimed at combining public and private policies to address this deficit, including: promoting local development, markets, entrepreneurship, social protection and coping capacity; releasing the creative potential of women and men trapped in the informal economy; enhancing basic economic and social security for all people and their families; promoting policy coherence and pluralism on economic reform, reducing poverty and job creation; and maintaining a "rhythm of change" at the ILO by "listening to a wide range of opinions: from those who like our work and also from our critics."

"The ILO has a key role to play," he said. "We have a unique perspective that links how globalization is seen through the eyes of people to how people's lives are interconnected by commerce, investment and integrated chains of production."

Mr. Somavia pledged to work to build "as large a consensus as possible within and beyond the ILO around an inclusive form of globalization based on a level playing field, fair rules of the game, and real opportunity for all families and countries. It's not easy, but it can be done. The ILO is a privileged place to try."

In a review of ILO activities over the past three years, the Director-General said "a fresh breeze of creativity is blowing through the ILO." He cited a host of unprecedented activities undertaken by the ILO since he became Director-General in 1999, including the establishment of new programmes on gender, HIV/AIDS, job creation, technical assistance and health and safety, as well as a widening of the ILO's initiatives aimed at promoting decent work and greater support for core labour standards.

* * * * *

* Report of the Director-General: Appendix. Report on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab Territories, International Labour Conference, 90th Session, June 2002, International Labour Office, Geneva. ISBN 92-2-112426-6. Price: 12.50 Swiss Francs.

Updated by CL. Approved by KMK. Last update: 10 June 2002.

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