On the 28th and 29th of January 2019 in Addis Ababa, the International Labour Organization (ILO) launched a new program to support the sustainable socio-economic integration of forcibly displaced populations with host communities. The program will avail technical assistance for employment and job creation to help operationalize the Government of Ethiopia (GoE)’s Job Compact and its nine policy pledges. This aligns with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) mechanism, a commitment made at the NY Summit in 2016 as part of the Global Compact for Refugees.
The launch of the program comes 10 days after the Ethiopian parliament adopted a new Refugee Proclamation, which has opened the legal space for all actors, national and international, to accelerate and enhance interventions in this area, and introduced a range of rights for refugees to access labour markets, open bank accounts, move out of camps, etc.
Participants of the launch workshop included national labour, vocational, employer and worker organizations and consultations were held on the envisioned areas of engagement and proposed technical assistance. The workshop had two levels of engagement, with the first day (28th) focusing on federal players, while on the second day (29th) ILO engaged regional partners from refugee- and IDP hosting areas.
According to UNHCR, Ethiopia hosts 900,000+ refugees which makes it the 2nd largest refugee-hosting country in Africa after Uganda. Protracted conflict and fragility in neighbouring countries have contributed to a longstanding practice of hosting refugees. Ethiopia’s open door policy, enacted in 1991, permits refugees and asylum seekers the right to reside in officially designated camps that are managed by the Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA). Most refugees are of Somali, Sudanese, South Sudanese and Eritrean origins and most live in camps with limited schools, health facilities, food, clean water, sanitation, household or energy. Prior to the adoption of the new proclamation, refugees did not have the right to work and survived mostly on humanitarian aid, which tends to create aid dependency.
Access to employment and livelihoods has emerged as the bridge between humanitarian action and development cooperation and ILO continues to drive critical response programmes, anchored in its comprehensive policy framework, namely its Guiding Principles on the Access of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons to the labour market and the Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience Recommendation, 2017 (No. 205). This normative framework set a vision where labour markets provide decent work opportunities and enable co-existence between forcibly displaced populations and their hosts.