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Urban webinar #10: Labour and livelihoods in urban humanitarian response

Wednesday 8 April 2015

The audio of this webinar is also available below.

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**Please note the above video only shows the presentation of this webinar. The Q&A section can be found at**

 Presented by Edmundo Werna and Andres Mella from the ILO, this ALNAP webinar focused on the labour and livelihoods aspects of humanitarian response in urban crises. The webinar outlines the ILO’s Emergency Employment Programme, including the benefits of short-term employment in urban crises, the challenges of such an approach, and the result for crises affected people – where do they go when the programme ends? In addition the webinar will examine the ‘Decent Work Agenda’ led by the ILO, which focuses on the creation of jobs and livelihoods, the provision of basic social protection, the promotion of social dialogue and the enforcement of fundamental rights – all of which are critical to any humanitarian response.


Decent Work Agenda:

• Formulated by the ILO constituents. Framework - Governments and employers and workers - as a means to identify the organizations major priorities
• Work and employment: quantity and quality, income and personal development, informal v formal, opportunity for women
• Basic rights: freedom of association, right to organise and bargain collectively, freedom from discrimination, freedom from forced labour and child labour
• Social protection: employment and job security, protection against accident and disease, income security in unemployment, child protection
• Representation and dialogue: formal organisations of workers and employers, the institutional framework for collective bargaining or consensus building


 Examples of ILO crisis response:

• Philippines: employment high before Yolanda disaster. ILO introduced emergency employment programmes 1 month after the disaster. Conducted rapid assessment of damage and job losses. Also involved in cleaning urban areas and labour rehabilitation of community assets.
• Pakistan – 2010-2011 floods: moderate levels of unemployment (5.3-6.8%) and poverty. ILO focused on CfW programmes, observing international labour standards. Began reconstruction of the built environment. Private sector adopted ILO Decent Work principles.
• Haiti:  government affected in it’s capability. 1m displaced. High unemployment rates: 58.5%. Generated employment through human settlement reconstruction, debris collection and recycling of waste.


Lessoned learned:

• Responses have to be quicker and more extensive in urban areas
• DWA includes employment, but is not the only focus
• Urban labour is an opportunity and a challenge
• Work with constituents and social partners
• Value chains: how this can generate a cycle in which workers can benefit out of a crisis situation

Q+A Snapshot:

How sustainable is short-term labour opportunities following an urban emergency?

EW: In terms of short-term employment, usually it is important in an emergency situation as it is difficult to find long-term opportunities immediately. You can very quickly provide cash for people through waste management and debris clearing and gradually move into reconstruction and other areas. This will bring immediate income and food, with multiplying affects in the local economy. With this, you can move from total crisis towards the situation as it was before – or indeed, a better situation.

The issue is how to combine short and long-term employment and facilitate a transition. The image in the presentation of different stages of recovery is quite a comprehensive picture of how you move from the first steps into sustainability.


How can legal constraints to work be addressed in urban areas?

AM: That is a really pertinent question, because refugees and IDPs face many decent work deficits, which are common to their situation. The lack of access to employment is restricted by their legal condition of being refugees. The 1951 UN Convention on refugees gives the right to work, but it doesn’t always translate into reality. In a report, the ILO found that 45% of the 15 countries studied don’t allow refugees to work. These difficulties are also shared by IDPs.

There’s also a problem of skills recognition, where people leave their homes, sometime without any documentation of their abilities. There are also cultural and language barriers that push refugees and IDPs into informal work. This is not the only decent work deficit: the access to jobs in urban areas requires having urban skills, and lack of training leads to problems with occupational safety and health, freedom of association and other restricted rights for refugees in urban settings.


How do gender and protection issues impact work for urban refugees?

The overall policy is to provide equal access to women and men refugees to job opportunities without discrimination. This also entails access to education and skills learning. One needs to have sensitivity in terms of the occupations in the urban economy. Many NGOs choose a specific section of the economy to develop and through this they can target more women, because sometimes you have a division of labour between men and women. To avoid discrimination and to provide opportunities for women, one approach is to develop sectors of the economy that women are more drawn to work in.


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