ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (ILO News) – African nations are pointing the way toward an employment-centred approach to alleviating the continent's chronic poverty, and international policies must change to recognize this. That was the message heard by delegates to the International Labour Organization's Xth African Regional Meeting at its opening session this morning in the Ethiopian capital.
The meeting brings together governments and workers' and employers' representatives from 53 African states to discuss initiatives to alleviate the plight of the continent's hundreds of millions of impoverished people and creating more and better jobs for its women, men and youth.
In his opening address to the meeting, International Labour Office Director-General Juan Somavia said that "the present model of globalization is not delivering for Africa", and called for changes in international policies that place jobs at the centre of the development debate.
"The extensive policy advice given to Africa needs a reality check – a wake-up call", said Mr. Somavia. "Work is at the heart of the economic, political and social concerns of people. So let's make Decent Work in all countries the new organizing factor for a globalization that works for all."
Mr. Somavia noted that the ILO's Decent Work agenda has been assumed by its African tripartite constituents as a primary means of dealing with real problems as perceived by individuals, families and communities. That agenda is rooted in the ILO's core strategic objectives of employment and enterprise creation, rights at work, basic social protection and social dialogue.
"If we are serious about tackling poverty, then we must fight for jobs, sustainable livelihoods, income generating activities, and quality self-employment", said Mr. Somavia. "Through the African Union, Africa is developing a new vision and institution to tackle collectively its challenges. Through (New Partnership for Africa's Development) NEPAD, Africa is calling for new types of partnership. Through the Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty, Africa is shaping its own priorities that connect with people's immediate needs."
"That creativity and commitment should be matched at the global level", he continued. "It is time for a new generation of policies for international cooperation."
In his welcoming address, Ethiopian Prime Minister H.E. Meles Zenawi echoed the call for changes in international policies and approaches to assist with what he called Africa's "all out effort towards poverty alleviation".
"It goes without saying that job creation is one of the most critical challenges we face", said Mr. Zenawi. "The significant role of the ILO in the socio-economic development of Africa cannot be overemphasized."
Mr. Zenawi also noted the significance of the African Union's decision to convene an Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in Burkina Faso in May 2004. "This is a recognition on our part at the highest level that poverty alleviation cannot succeed without job creation. We need the support of the ILO and other partners in this endeavor."
H.E. Mr. Alpha O. Konare, Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, also addressed the opening session of the meeting, where he called for new solutions and the creation of a new and responsible partnership that will help to build an industrial base and promote good governance in Africa.
As proceedings got underway this morning, the delegates elected Mr. Hassen Abdella, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Ethiopia, as Chairperson of the meeting. Elected as Vice Chairpersons were M.M.S. Mdladlana, Minister of Labour of South Africa, Taddese Tilahan, President of the Ethiopian Employers' Federation, and Mody Guiro, Secretary-General of the Senegal National Confederation of Workers (CNTS).
Following the opening addresses, the ILO's Regional Director for Africa, Regina Amadi-Njoku, presented the Director-General's Report on ILO Activities in Africa for 2000-2003. Discussion on that report by the delegates will continue throughout the day, with presentation and discussion of the Director-General's thematic report, "Decent Work for Africa's Development" to begin tomorrow.
The African Regional Meeting is scheduled to run until Friday. Highlighting the program during the remainder of the week is an address on Wednesday by H.E. President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, as well as discussions on youth employment, HIV/AIDS, social dialogue and tripartism in Africa, and the African launch of the Global Campaign on Social Security and Coverage for All.