The Xth African Regional Meeting of the International Labour Organization (ILO) is to hammer out priorities for action for the 53 ILO African member States and create a platform of support for the Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in Africa to be convened by African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in Burkina Faso in 2004.
"The tripartite constituents of the ILO in Africa are meeting at a time when the nations of the continent are creating institutions that promise to set in motion a dynamic process of development founded on their own collective endeavours," says ILO Director-General Juan Somavia in his report "Decent Work for Africa's Development" 1 prepared for the Addis meeting. "We need to make sure that a decisive step is taken in Africa's struggle to gain control of its own destiny, realize the full potential of its people and natural resources and break out of the trap of widespread and debilitating poverty."
Three eminent guests will honour the Meeting with their participation: H.E. President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, H.E. Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré, the Chairman of the African Union Commission
The Meeting, which gets underway at 10 a.m., Tuesday 2 December, comes at a time when close to half of Africa's population, over 300 million people, live in extreme poverty on the equivalent of US$1 a day or less - the highest intra-regional poverty level and the widest gap between rich and poor in the world. Strategies for reducing such poverty and closing this gap through a job centred development agenda will be the main items on the table at the Meeting.
"Africa today is a continent in search of decent work" the ILO says."It is shouldering a huge poverty burden and battling the barriers of an unfair system of international economic rules while tackling the massive challenges of job creation and poverty reduction. And yet, there are signs of hope."
The report notes that Africa's nations are forging a new dynamic development process founded on their own collective endeavours.The launching of the African Union (AU) in 2002 and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) in 2001 are among such dynamic new initiatives.
In addition, community-based projects are improving skills, spawning small enterprises, extending micro-insurance and micro-finance, eliminating child labour and ending gender and other forms of discrimination. In manufacturing, inroads are being made against discrimination that shuts women out of the workplace. Moreover, ratifications of the eight fundamental Conventions of the ILO are remarkably high.
The ILO report notes that the decision by the AU Heads of State and Government in Maputo in July to convene an Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in 2004 in Burkina Faso holds the promise of connecting the new regional initiatives to the daily experience of Africa's working families.