A time for collaboration and partnerships for building more inclusive, resilient and peaceful societies amid the COVID-19 crisis

News | 02 October 2020
GENEVA – On September 28th, the ILO organized a virtual event with more than 400 live participants, in partnership with the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) to discuss the key contribution of employment and decent work to peacebuilding, social cohesion and social justice, in particular, in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“This is, indeed, a time for collaboration and partnerships to help address rising social tensions as a result of inequality and injustice. Employment and decent work can help contribute to crisis recovery, but also to peace and resilience,” said Ms. Renée Larivière, Senior Director for Programme Management at INTERPEACE in her welcoming remarks during the opening session. “While the pandemic has exposed serious vulnerabilities in our society, it also offers new opportunities for collective action and innovation, and combining our efforts towards more inclusive, resilient and peaceful societies,” added Ms Larivière, who also moderated the webinar.

“Conflict arises from the absence of decent work. There is a need for partnerships, and this COVID 19 crisis requires actors to work together. The ILO has a renewed sense of responsibility from what we`ve learned and the circumstances that we face today to redouble our efforts to promote peace and resilience in times of COVID-19,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

Mr Ryder also highlighted how the ILO has been engaged in peacebuilding since its founding in 1919. With the adoption in 2017 of the landmark Recommendation on Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience (No. 205) and the launch of the Jobs for Peace and Resilience (JPR) global flagship programme, the ILO has recently reinvigorated its mandate in the humanitarian-development-peace nexus and fully equipped itself to contribute to more peaceful and resilient societies through the promotion of employment and decent work.

Speaking during the opening session, Mr Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary General of the PBSO stated that, “with the economic fallout of COVID-19 often affecting the most disenfranchised among us, the issue of livelihoods, employment and social safety nets are integral vehicles to restore trust and confidence in institutions, to sustain peace, and to underpin effective handling of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Both Mr Ryder and Mr Fernandez-Taranco thanked H.E. Mr Ambassador Félix Baumann, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Conference on Disarmament and Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Office and other International Organizations in Geneva, for the support provided by the Swiss Confederation (Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs) to the ILO and PBSO in reinforcing their cooperation to sustain peace and foster development through employment creation and decent work in conflict-affected situations, a collaboration that began in 2018.

Also speaking during the opening session, H.E. Mr Baumann highlighted the role of Switzerland and Geneva, in particular, in promoting peacebuilding efforts. “Favoring lasting peace means that we need to attack the underlying causes of conflict. And, unemployment and decent work, as well as education, are some of the essential ingredients that need to be promoted in preventing conflict.”

The virtual event also included contributions from representatives of governments, employers and workers organizations.

Among the featured panelists was Ms Mubarak, Chairperson of the Iraqi Center for Women Rehabilitation & Employment and Head of Iraqi Peace Net who talked about the importance in supporting the economic empowerment of women to allow them to contribute to social cohesion and peacebuilding in Iraq.

Ms Mejia Fernandez, Manager of the Territorially Focused Development Program (PDET) of the Sierra Nevada and Perijá, Colombia introduced the territorial development program that is contributing to the implementation of the Colombia Peace agreement at the local level. She highlighted the importance, particularly during the current crisis, of promoting a participatory and integrated approach of rural development, including the socio-economic integration of ex-combatants and communities through decent work.

Ms Muferihat Kamil, Minster of Peace, Ethiopia, shared her reflections on the nexus between peace building, employment, and decent wage from the perspective of the Ethiopian Government. “The pandemic has brought the Ethiopian people together. Civil society, government, academia, media, have been working side-by-side to face the COVID-19 crisis."

Adding his voice to the conversation was H.E. M. Sidikou, Executive Secretary, G5 Sahel, who also called for collective action, which is needed for shared prosperity in the Sahel. He emphasized the importance of youth employment to build peace and social cohesion, and also discourage the emergence of violent extremism.

“Young people are an asset to our people,” stressed Mr Omar Faruk Osman, General Secretary, Federation of Somali Trade Unions. “The absence of social dialogue and the lack of decent work opportunities to address the employment needs of the youth provide a breeding ground for conflict and social crisis,” he added.

“The role of the private sector can complement other elements of the peace process,” said Ms. Lindiwe Sephomolo, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Lesotho Employers and Business, who discussed the role the private sector can play in promoting social cohesion and peace during times of crisis

“Tackling complex issues can only be resolved through strong partnerships. It's very simple, as the saying goes 'two heads are better than one', as we lean into each other's strengths in this time of crisis," said Ms. Larivière in concluding the virtual event.