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Source: International Labour Office (ILO)
16 June 2005



Reply by the Director-General to the
discussion of his Report

1. Introduction

This year’s session of the International Labour Conference was, for me, a prime example of what this gathering is really all about – the most important forum in the world for an exchange of ideas and best practices for promoting the lives and livelihoods of working men and women. And it is good that this year was a rich “laboratory of new ideas”, as I described the Conference in my Report to you, for, in a sense, that was the very theme of this year’s session of the Conference: faced with a global jobs crisis, we need as many good ideas as possible to guide our future course of action in the right direction. I believe you have risen admirably to the occasion.

My overall impression is one of general satisfaction among speakers with the direction in which the ILO is headed. Previous sessions of Conferences and the regular work of the Governing Body have consolidated a shared approach around the Decent Work Agenda, making it a global goal, striving for a fair globalization, linking poverty reduction with employment creation and enterprise development, and reinforcing tripartism nationally and internationally to achieve these aims. Decent work country programmes were unanimously supported as the key tool for ILO cooperation with constituents at the national level. There were calls for greater cooperation with other international organizations, which was seen as an important complement to regular ILO activities. The new programme and budget received widespread support.

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2. Reflecting on where we are

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The occupied Arab territories

My Report entitled The situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories is an annual record of prolonged conflict. Our fact-finding missions to Palestine seek to illuminate the impact of conflict on working men and women and their families in the region. I believe we have done our job with the Report submitted to you. We have described two things: on the one hand, an economic maelstrom, widespread deprivation; and the political glimmers of hope, on the other. Palestine is indeed wounded and appeals to our conscience, as Mr. Alragheb, the Employers’ delegate of Jordan, told us. And yet here too, in situations of conflict, our tripartite base serves us well. We can, within our mandate, seek to sow the seeds of reconciliation – that is what social dialogue is all about, that is its instrumental value. I agree with Mr. Ryder, the General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, when he says that the ILO’s means have an important role to play, and he offers an example: “Our affiliates in Palestine – the PGFTU, and in Israel – the Histadrut, met recently under ICFTU auspices, also look to the ILO and are ready to bring their combined weight to the task of moving the peace process forward.”

The Government representative of Palestine, Mr. Abu-Libdeh, noted that his people “are determined to continue to fight for the recognition of their right to create an independent State”. Several of you, such as the Employers’ delegate of Tunisia, Mr. Djilani, offered your solidarity to the Palestinian people and supported their right “to build their own independent State within recognized borders, and to live in peace like other peoples in the region”. We must continue to play, as Mr. Jrad, the representative of the Union of Workers of the Arab Maghreb put it, “an important part in the fight against extremism, in the search for a balanced world based on peace and solidarity between peoples”. The Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection is an instrument of central value in this regard, and the cross-border solidarity of our constituents can be an instrument of even greater effect. “We are a people in search of peace”, Mr. Dahlan, the Employers’ delegate of Saudi Arabia said, “and we can solve this issue only by supporting the essential principles of this Organization”.

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