Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, ILO and UNICEF commit to ending Child Labour in Somalia [EN/SO]

Mogadishu, 12 June 2021 – To commemorate the 2021 World Day against Child Labour, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Federal Republic of Somalia, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) agreed to scale up efforts to end child labour in Somalia.

In 2019, Somalia made a minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor however; there is a long way to go to eliminate child labor from the country. “Many families are forced to send their children to work due to economic hardship and lack of decent employment opportunities for family-heads. Even more concerning, children who are recruited by militias or groups are forced into dangerous life-threatening roles such as soldier, cooks & cleaners. We need to act now and develop a National Child Labour Policy that will pave the way for the elimination of child labor,” said H.E Abdiwahab Ugas Khalif, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs for Somalia.

Even though there are different reasons behind child labour in Somalia, the government in close partnership with the international community is working hard to identify and eliminate child labour from Somalia. “ILO is currently supporting the Ministry to conduct a child labour assessment in Somalia in order to better understand the key drivers of this harmful practice which will then inform the development of a National Action Plan against Child Labour,” said H.E Alexio Musindo, ILO Director for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan & South Sudan as well as special representative for AU & ECA.

For children, having to work at a young age can have devastating and long-term impacts on their development, both mentally and physically as well as the country at large.

“Children should be in a classroom and protected from child labour,” said Jesper Moller, Acting UNICEF Representative in Somalia. “If children have to work at a young age, they are missing out on an education, deprived of basic health care and can be exposed to dangerous work practices and environments, especially those recruited into armed forces and groups.”

Ending child labour can only happen through a collective systematic approach with a strong understanding of the root causes and a legal framework that prohibits children from entering the work force at an early age. Legislation must also address the worst form of child labour – forced recruitment into armed forces or groups.

Source: Government of Somalia/International Labour Organization/UN Children’s Fund

Labor Market Access in Forced Displacement Contexts

Executive Summary

Refugee populations often lack legal and/or practical access to labor markets. As a result, refugees are excluded from formal, semi-formal or de facto regularized informal work. This pushes them into exploitative and illicit employment and livelihoods options—and depresses wages, working conditions, and other labor standards for all workers. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that economies suffer when refugees cannot fairly and equitably access labor markets.

As an expert agency trusted by governments, the WBG has a unique and vital role to play in strengthening institutional responses and engaging in policy dialogue to address the challenges the forcibly displaced face in fair and equitable access to labor markets. Ensuring refugees’ equal rights as workers is an important component of economic growth and development: it improves national economic outcomes in refugee-hosting countries, reduces corruption and other crime, and safeguards all workers against exploitation. Advancing refugees’ fair and equitable access to labor markets is critical to achieving the WBG’s mission to end poverty and boost shared prosperity.

The WBG should prioritize refugees’ fair and equitable labor market participation as a desired goal in all countries hosting significant numbers of refugees (e.g., 25,000 or more). Specifically, the WBG should:

Examine barriers to refugees’ labor market access when developing Country Plans and consider including projects that address those barriers.

Draw on the technical knowledge and resources of the WBG’s Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV) team at key moments, such as negotiation of country plans or project plans.

Ensure refugees’ international human rights and unique needs are addressed in Project Plans, including through direct consultation with refugee communities during development and implementation.

Promote implementation of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) core labor standards and implementation of worker rights legal aid for all workers, with a focus on refugees and other marginalized workers.

Source: InterAction

Joint NGO Call for a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the ongoing human rights crisis in Tigray, Ethiopia

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)

10 June 2021

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned human rights non-governmental organizations, strongly urge the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to adopt a resolution at its upcoming 47th session (HRC47) on the ongoing human rights crisis in Tigray, Ethiopia.

Over the last seven months an overwhelming number of reports have emerged of abuses and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law (IHL/IHRL) during the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. Reports by civil society organizations have detailed widespread massacres, violence against civilians and indiscriminate attacks across Tigray while preliminary analysis by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) indicates that all warring parties have committed abuses that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is now ample evidence[1] that atrocities continue to be committed, notably by the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Eritrean Defense Forces, and Amhara regional special police and affiliated Fano militias. These include indiscriminate attacks and direct attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, widespread and mass extrajudicial executions, rape and other sexual violence, forced displacement, arbitrary detentions, including of displaced persons, widespread destruction and pillage of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, factories and businesses, and the destruction of refugee camps, crops and livestock.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict has repeatedly expressed alarm over the widespread and systematic commission of rape and sexual violence in Tigray. On 21 April she stated that women and girls in Tigray are being subjected to sexual violence “with a cruelty that is beyond comprehension,” including gang rape by men in uniform, targeted sexual attacks on young girls and pregnant women, and family members forced to witness these horrific abuses. The SRSG also stated that these reports, coupled with assessments by healthcare providers in the region, indicate that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war.

Thousands of civilians are estimated to have been killed, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believes at least 1.7 million people remain displaced. On top of ethnic targeting and massacres within Tigray, there have been reports of government discrimination, demonization and hate speech directed at Tigrayans in other parts of Ethiopia. A number of UN officials, from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to UNICEF’s Executive Director and the UN Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, have publicly called for urgent action to end the abuses in Tigray and alleviate the conflict’s devastating impact on the region’s civilian population.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator has also warned that famine is imminent in Tigray and that without a drastic upscaling of funding and access, hundreds of thousands of people could starve. Despite this looming risk, humanitarian workers have also been targeted throughout the conflict, with nine aid workers killed since November, the most recent on 29 May.

On 25 March, OHCHR and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission announced the launch of a joint investigation into the ongoing reports of atrocity crimes in Tigray. On 12 May, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) adopted an important resolution establishing a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate violations of IHL and IHRL and identify perpetrators. Unfortunately, the HRC has so far remained largely silent on Tigray, aside from a welcome joint statement delivered by Germany on behalf of 42 states on 26 February 2021.

A robust, dedicated and coordinated approach to this human rights crisis by the international community is both critical and urgent, given the gravity of ongoing crimes, the complex nature of the situation, and the involvement of various parties. After seven months of serious violations and abuses, the HRC can no longer stay silent. It should take urgent action to address the crisis and fulfil its mandate to address and prevent violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations and abuses, and to respond promptly to emergencies. We therefore respectfully urge your Mission to work towards the adoption of a resolution at HRC47 that:

• Recognizes the serious concerns expressed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and Responsibility to Protect, and other senior UN officials regarding possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Tigray;

• Requests the High Commissioner to report on her investigations, findings and recommendations to date regarding the human rights situation in Tigray, Ethiopia, and possible violations of IHL and IHRL at the HRC’s 48th session in the context of an enhanced interactive dialogue;

• Also invites the ACHPR’s CoI to brief the HRC on its investigation at the enhanced interactive dialogue at the 48th session;

• Emphasizes the important role of the HRC’s prevention mandate, as outlined in Resolution 45/31, and requests the High Commissioner to brief UN member states intersessionally and on an ad-hoc basis to update the HRC on the situation in Tigray.

The adoption of such a resolution would provide a concrete foundation for the HRC to decide on the action needed to prevent further human rights violations and abuses in Tigray and ensure accountability.

Excellencies, please accept the assurances of our highest consideration,

1. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)

2. Amnesty International

3. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

4. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

5. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

6. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

7. Global Justice Center

8. Human Rights Watch

9. International Service for Human Rights

10. Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

11. Unitarian Universalist Association Office at the United Nations

12. World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy

[1] Amnesty International, Ethiopia: The Massacre in Axum, 26 February 2021; Human Rights Watch, Ethiopia: Eritrean Forces Massacre Tigray Civilians, 5 March 2021.

Source: Amnesty International/CIVICUS/Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect/Human Rights Watch/International Service for Human Rights

How African Union members came to share power despite themselves

The African Union (AU) held its first summit in 2002, establishing itself as a new international organisation. It also launched a new vision for African security cooperation.

Nearly two decades later, it is worth reflecting on the process that produced that vision. It may have something to teach us about international negotiations.

The vision is captured by the African Peace and Security Architecture – a framework for promoting peace, security and stability in Africa. It’s intended to prevent, manage and resolve crises and conflicts. Although its effectiveness is debated, it marked a major departure from how African states traditionally cooperated on security.

My research sought to understand how this switch happened. Most negotiation analyses emphasise economic or security-based leverage and narrowly defined material interests. I took a different approach. I looked at the social and organisational environment in which the AU negotiations took place and its effect on the peace and security framework’s form and function.

My analysis offers insights for negotiators and researchers about the significance of social context for the outcome of international negotiations.

AU’s new approach to security

From 1963 until the AU replaced it in 2002, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) usually adopted a “hands off” approach to security. This had its roots in well-founded fears among leaders that their recently acquired political autonomy would be violated by former colonial powers or other OAU members. Therefore, the OAU Charter carefully protected the principles of state sovereignty and territorial integrity.

One consequence was shielding oppressive governments from reprimand for abuses against their citizens. The vast majority of Africa’s conflicts prompted little reaction from the OAU. In several cases, leaders even ruled out discussion. Ugandan president Idi Amin was even elected OAU chairman in 1975, at the height of his government’s human rights abuses.

By contrast, the AU’s approach – at least in treaty documents – is groundbreaking. It gives the Union a much greater security role. Most notable is the AU’s right to intervene in a member state

“in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.”

The Union also has a much broader range of security responsibilities. These include peacekeeping, human rights protection, and promotion of democracy and good governance. Such shifts started in the 1990s but the new peace and security framework provided a legal foundation for AU involvement in activities like elections. The OAU had viewed these as the sole responsibility of governments.

The African Peace and Security Architecture is also notable for the rules of procedure used by its core decision-making organ, the Peace and Security Council. Like the UN Security Council it can deploy peace missions and apply sanctions. But unlike its UN counterpart, there are no veto holders or permanent seats (though Nigeria has become a de facto permanent member).

What influences negotiations

Many studies of international negotiations assume that participants try to maximise their resources, power or influence. This isn’t what happened when African governments – traditionally very conscious of sovereignty – gave power to an organisation in which members held equal sway.

In trying to understand this outcome, my analysis examined negotiators’ loyalties, rivalries and shared understandings of the world. It also examined the use of informal diplomatic networks.

A strong sense of shared identity developed between the leaderships of South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Algeria and Mali. They were the most active proponents of the eventual security framework. They privately referred to themselves as the Like-Minded Five.

Their main “sparring partner” was Muammar Gaddafi, with his own alliance of smaller states and a very different vision for the future – a federal “United States of Africa”. The Libyan leader’s focus was much more on threats from outside the continent. And he aspired towards a standing army, led from Tripoli.

The Like-Minded Five produced a united front that reaped several negotiation successes over Gaddafi. Many governments shared a stronger sense of identity with them than with the Libyan leader. Gaddafi’s interest in Africa, many suspected, stemmed from his earlier rejection as a regional leader by Arab countries. The Like-Minded Five capitalised upon this perception.

Another factor that influenced negotiation outcomes was the use of informal pathways of influence. The Like-Minded Five, particularly South Africa, shared a worldview and warm relations with Salim Ahmed Salim, the OAU’s secretary general from 1989 until 2001, when most of new framework was negotiated. His informal engagement with other states helped secure a critical mass of members behind many of the group’s positions.

Also influential was a new but growing understanding among members of how to achieve continental stability and what responsibilities African governments should bear. The decade prior to the AU’s establishment was arguably the most violent in Africa’s history. It witnessed genocides in Rwanda and Burundi, and many major conflicts. These often originated from human rights abuses and repressive rule.

Many African leaders shared a sense of shame over not responding to humanitarian catastrophes, particularly Rwanda’s. That, combined with a sense that the non-African international community could not be relied upon for assistance, smoothed the pathway to reform. One of the drafters of the AU’s Vision and Mission Statement told me;

“Rwanda loomed large as a reminder of just how horribly things could go. It is because of Rwanda in particular that genocide and crimes against humanity are a stated unequivocal pretext for intervention.”

This combination of factors – group loyalties and rivalries, informal pathways of influence, and shared understandings of the world – helps explain the outcome of the negotiations. Without a strong core of like-minded leaders for reform, it is unlikely the AU would have given democracy, human rights and good governance such prominence. Without a strong ally in Salim, their ability to persuade at least some other members would have been very restricted.

This change in how many governments viewed their collective security role allows the AU to be active in peacekeeping today.

Going forward

Although the impact of social context will vary across circumstances, this snapshot of how it influenced the African Peace and Security Architecture negotiations suggests it’s worth considering such variables when analysing international negotiations. In recent years, Brexit and Donald Trump have created an impression of “transactional diplomacy” with negotiators motivated by little other than self-interested material considerations.

As the AU negotiations indicate, every diplomatic engagement takes place in a particular social context. Understanding that context can prove crucial to understanding what happens.

Source: The Conversation Media Group Ltd