“Unemployment a big hurdle to peace and stability” – Somali labour unions’ leader at Centenary International Labour Conference

The Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) has called on world leaders at the on-going 108th session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva to support Somalia’s efforts to tackle unemployment if peace and stability must be attained.

Dozens of world leaders and more than 5000 delegates of governments, trade unions and employers are attending the International Labour Conference, which marks the 100th anniversary of the ILO. The two-week Conference has a strong focus on the future of work, but also on violence and harassment at the workplace.

Addressing the centenary conference at the United Nation Headquarters in Geneva, General Secretary of FESTU Omar Faruk Osman lamented the poor working condition of Somali workers, saying that the situation of the working poor in Somalia continues to deteriorate, creating room for young people to engage in violent activities.

The trade unionist observed that appalling levels of unemployment and lack of decent work for youth is a root cause of instability in the horn of Africa country, with a call for urgent solutions to the problem.

Speaking at Monday’s plenary session of the Conference, which runs from June 10 to 21, Mr Osman said “we view unemployment as a major hurdle in realizing lasting peace, stability and development in Somalia. Youth empowerment and women emancipation programmes will definitely act as catalysts for social change in our country”.

Osman, who was responding to the report of the ILO Director General, concurred with the report that there is a need to emphasize more the advancement of the World of Work Initiatives and the need to focus on the historically neglected issue of gender equality.

“Recently, we observed a microscope focusing on two issues affecting women at work, namely, problems of harassment and violence,”.

The FESTU General Secretary stated that the goal of equality, justice and progress is still far from being achieved and remains unclear, stressing that ILO delegates needed to put much effort in negotiating and adopting an International Labour Standard that is indispensable of laying a solid legal basis to guide the fight against violence and harassment at the work place.

“Suffice it to say that the agenda item – violence and harassment in the world of work – is very important to us, both as a trade union movement and in the broader context of our country which has experienced years of ruinous and bloody violence at unacceptable levels.”

“Every year, hundreds of Somali workers, especially women, die as a result of workplace violence. Therefore, allowing harassment and violence in the workplace without a solution is not only costly, but totally unacceptable,” added Osman.

On the national situation, Osman said since the last ILC, Somalia has taken concrete steps to foster inclusion, social dialogue and tripartism in policy formulation and implementation.

“We need to maintain and sustain this positive development to promote a culture of respect for democracy, good governance and social justice in Somalia,” he noted.

“Economic and development plans can only make meaning if there is decent work and respect for the principles of tripartism and social dialogue,” he further observed.

Osman stressed the fundamental principles of the ILO remain unassailable and must be applied in Somalia effectively.

“This means that labour is not a commodity; that freedoms of expression and association are essential to sustained progress in our country; and that poverty, anywhere, constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere,” Osman declared.

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