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95th session of the International Labour Conference, 2006
"Papa na come": Liberia rises from the ashes, exchanges guns for jobs

Fourteen years of civil war killed 250,000 of the 5 million Liberians, displaced most of the others, quadrupled the number of people living with HIV/AIDS and left the country with a US$3.5 billion external debt.

Article | 07 June 2006

Fourteen years of civil war killed 250,000 of the 5 million Liberians, displaced most of the others, quadrupled the number of people living with HIV/AIDS and left the country with a US$3.5 billion external debt. Together with other international agencies, the ILO will provide support to recently elected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's and her government's efforts to rebuild Liberia and bring hope back to its people.

MONROVIA (ILO Online) - "We will work to ensure that when our children say 'papa na come', papa will come home joyfully with something, no matter how meagre, to sustain his family. In other words, we will create the jobs for our mothers and fathers to be gainfully employed," said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, in her inaugural address in January 2006.

The President faces a daunting challenge to make this engagement a reality. Hundreds of thousands of Liberians escaped over the borders, and even more fled into the bush, constantly running away from one militia or another and surviving on a diet of wild plants they found in the rainforest. Children died of malaria and malnourishment or because they were forced to be child soldiers.

Now, the children who survived want to go to school. A lost generation of young adults wants a job. Former soldiers do not want to have to fight and run again, and need training to find another job. Entrepreneurs who have returned from abroad risking everything to invest in their country's future want a fair and transparent regulatory environment. Farmers who fled the fighting want to return home and have a fresh start.

Following two missions to Liberia in April and May, the ILO has identified components for support to the Liberia Emergency Employment Programme (LEEP) and to the longer term Liberia Employment Action Programme (LEAP).

The LEEP is aimed at quickly creating a significant number of jobs for Liberians in the next 20 months. LEAP, on the other hand, is a mid- and long-term programme which places employment promotion at the heart of the country's reconstruction strategy as a means to create decent jobs.

The ILO, other UN agencies and the donor community will mobilize further funds for a technical cooperation programme for Liberia that will boost jobs in small and medium-sized enterprises, skills and labour administration, including a special employment programme for women. In the meantime, funding from the Dutch Government will enable Liberia to develop a comprehensive Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) in the context of LEEP.

Working out of crisis

During the International Labour Conference, a Roundtable "Working out of Crisis" will be organized on 8 June, the day after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's address to the Conference, to build up support for the launch of the two employment programmes (LEEP and LEAP). Participants will share experiences with other countries that were at the forefront of the ILO's InFocus Programme on Crisis Response and Reconstruction (IFP/CRISIS) effort over the last six years.

Building on ILO success stories in countries emerging from armed conflict, such as Cambodia and Mozambique, ILO/CRISIS is refining a model based on integrated and multi-disciplinary interventions that use the "Whole of the ILO" approach. These tie immediate action to long-term recovery and development, using the programme's extensive partnership networks. Through projects in such countries as Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal, Sierra Leone, the Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the ILO has forged a unique base of expertise.

"Decent work matters in crisis. It is a powerful, tested rope that pulls people and societies out of crises and sets them on a sustainable development path. Decent and stable jobs offer crisis-affected people not only income, but also freedom, security, dignity, self-esteem, hope and a stake in the reconciliation and reconstruction of their communities," explains Claudia Coenjaerts from ILO/CRISIS.

The ILO crisis response is involved in four types of emergencies: armed conflicts, natural disasters, financial and economic downturns and difficult social and political transitions. It responds to the multifaceted challenges of crises through three integrated pillars: (i) country interventions to assist crisis-affected people and to show how to apply proven technical approaches; (ii) strategic partnerships with other actors who work to prevent or respond to crises, including constituents, international agencies and donors; and (iii) capacity building of ILO staff, ILO constituents and others through targeted training and the development of crisis response knowledge and tools.

"These pillars reinforce each other. For example, ILO/CRISIS publications and capacity building pave the way for successful country interventions. Executing these, in turn, illuminates new potential partnerships. By organizing its work around the three pillars, ILO/CRISIS amplifies the impact of its efforts to promote decent work in crises," said Coenjaerts.