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ECOWAS, ILO move to promote decent work in West Africa

ECOWAS

By Innocent Odoh               The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have teamed up to develop of the ECOWAS Regional Decent Work Programme (RDWP), to enhance the status od workers in  West Africa.

Indications to this development emerged on Tuesday during a three-Day technical review and validation Workshop on the 39-page Report of the diagnostic study on decent work in the region, whiche opened at the ECOWAS Commission on the 26th of September 2017.

Organised by the ECOWAS Directorate of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, the Workshop provides an opportunity to identify decent work priorities and enhance the capacity of the staff of the relevant ECOWAS Directorates and Institutions to provide improved technical support and coordinate Member States on RDWP in aid of their development impact, a statement from the communications division of the ECOWAS Commission said on Wednesday.

ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, the ECOWAS Director, Humanitarian Affairs, Mrs Florence Iheme, who declared the workshop open urged participants to do a good job of identifying the deficit and priorities of the proposed RDWP just as the meeting’s output is expected to facilitate policies and interventions meant to better integrate decent work programmes within the region.

She stated that the promotion of employment, improvement of labour market and mobility of skills have become major concerns within the framework of the implementation of the ECOWAS Protocol of Free Movement of Persons in the three stages of entry, residence and establishment as reaffirmed by the ECOWAS labour and Employment Policy (2009) as well as its Youth Employment Action Plan (2012), the statement said.

Mrs. Iheme remarked further that judging by the important role which employment plays in the integration of the region, it is scarcely surprising that “the ILO is partnering with ECOWAS to ensure that a decent work agenda is implemented”

“We are working hard in this regard to bring about this ideal situation where the worker has access to full employment, where there is equal pay for equal work and there is no gender based discrimination and where that there is security for workers and people are allowed to work in dignity while the social, economic and political milieu in which we operate in our region are taken into consideration” She added.

The opening remarks of the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow which was delivered by the ECOWAS Commission’s Head, Social Services Dr. Alves d’Almada Fernado Jorge, emphasized the ILO’s definition of decent work being one which provides “the acceptable quality employment of work performed in conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity.”

She noted that despite the progress made in the implementation of the ECOWAS Labour and Employment Policy, the identified four key challenges to the realization of decent work in the ECOWAS space now require urgent attention.

The key challenges bordered on capacity building in the areas of labour policies and market institutions as well as political commitment to the implementation of employment policies, the improvement of coordination and synergies between institutions and partners as well as the reform of educational systems and vocational training to bring it up to date with the realities of the labour market, among others, the statement added.

Apart from validating the findings of the diagnostic study in aid of formulating and implementing a regional decent work programme, the Workshop is also expected to identify and agree on three priority areas based on findings of the study on the RDWP and develop programmes and activities on them, develop a draft and action plan for the implementation of the three key priorities identified while capacitating ECOWAS staff to initiate a process on results based management on Decent Work programme within the ECOWAS region.

On the heels of a presentation made on the overview of ILO’s activities in the ERCOWAS region, which looked at job mobility among others, the ILO country Director and Liaison officer for ECOWAS Mr. Dennis Zulu stated that the decent work agenda being sought can only be realized through strong political commitment and concerted action by national or regional governments, the social partners (representatives of employers and workers), civil society and with support from the international community.

With the aid of statistics, the ILO boss who was represented by Mr. Aly Cisse painted a dire global “world of work” labour picture that needed to be squared up with. He quoted the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) trends of 2017 to have submitted that “the number of unemployed persons globally in 2017 is estimated to be over 201 million, with an additional; rise of 2.7 million expected in 2018, as the pace of labour force growth outstrips job creation…”

Among the early interventions made by participants was the need to establish modalities of harmonizing data collection processes mindful of the critical place of accurate data in planning.

ECOWAS Commission had in partnership with the ILO initiated the Diagnostic study to underpin the formulation and implementation of the RDWP in aid of West Africa’s workforce in synch also with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals which aim to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, the statement added.

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