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Report of the outgoing chair of the SADC Meeting of Ministers of Employment and Labour in Cape Town

by lloyd last modified 2018-03-02 16:00

2 March 2018

Honourable Chairperson: Ministers of Employment and Labour
Ladies and gentlemen;
All Protocols Observed

Good Day
 
We recall that the Republic of South Africa officially took over as Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August 2017 for the term ending in August 2018.  You will also recall that in the case of the SADC Employment and Labour Sector (SADC-ELS), South Africa assumed the challenge to lead the sector as early as April 2017, in Swaziland. By extension we assumed the chair of both the Troika and the SADC ELS.  You will also note that we have been doing some work since then and as such it would be appropriate that we give a high level overview of the grounds that we have covered so far for both the SADC-ELS and the troika for the sector during this period.

The past year has been challenging for the SADC-ELS and equally the Troika. Our starting point was to examine and introduce new ways of working starting by enhancing the architecture of our agenda in the manner that was not only solid in terms of SADC priorities and international commitments, but also designed in such a way that it began to revive our sector and its role.  

In this regard, the Republic of South Africa introduced the theme for its presidency as; “Horizon Decent Work: Advancing Coherence, Connectivity and Inclusivity”. The notion of Decent Work Ladies and Gentlemen, underpins all what we wanted to achieve during our tenure as Chair of the sector. In order to make it as practical as possible, supporting priorities were formulated to enhance what was intended with the selected theme. 

To deliver on our mandate, we developed a set of activities and action plans on which we gave reports of how we were doing within extremely tight timeframes.  It is no secret that we had to overcome certain structural hurdles along the way, including performing additional tasks.   We are extremely indebted to those Member-States who walked with us every step of the way. 

Honourable Ministers and Social Partners, Ladies and Gentlemen;

I would not attempt to cover all the details of the work that we have done during this period, instead I will give a broad brush account of key activities covering key achievements and one or two challenges that confronted us.

I would also touch on a couple of initiatives that we believe could enhance the functioning of the institution and move towards strengthening our structures for the purposes of making it more inclusive and better able to serve its members. Also worthy of mentioning, are the efforts to enhance cooperation with other work streams within SADC and other multi-state bodies in the implementation of our programme, with a view to enhance harmonious labour regulation framework in the region.

•    KEY  ACHIEVEMENTS

The 37th Ordinary SADC Summit in August 2017 began to chart the way forward for the regional body under the Chairship of South Africa. Our Principals met in Johannesburg, South Africa under the theme: “Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and value chains”, with a lot of emphasis on industrialisation as a catalyst to grow our respective economies, and creating sustainable jobs.  You will note that this work took its cue from key tenets of the SADC Charter.

It is safe, therefore, to point out that our Chairship was not divorced from the broad SADC agenda and priorities, as well as from the resolutions taken in Swaziland just under a year ago.  As endorsed by the Ministers in Swaziland, that the Troika should convene to ensure a proper hand over to the incoming chair; the three members of the Troika met three times during this term, in Gaborone, East London and Cape Town.  The engagements in the Troika meetings focused on various strategic issues including ensuring a seamless transition from the sitting Chairperson to the next.  The Troika sessions were also key in ensuring the success of the two technical meetings and the ministerial meetings preparations.  In this regard, we recognise the commitment of Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia, and also thank them sincerely for their contributions and support.

It is pleasing and reassuring that creating decent work and ensuring that our countries are ready for the workplace of the future, underpinned everything we did in the period under review.

In pursuit of the objectives of the sector, the South African chairmanship sought to build on the results of previous meetings and relevant international frameworks, notably the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Programme (RISDP), the African Union Agenda 2063 and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  From this, we drove an agenda using policy priorities informed by the Future of Work and Decent Work, namely: Promotion of Decent Work; Employment Creation; Youth Unemployment; and SMME Development.

In this regard, two senior officials’ meetings and/or the SADC Joint Tripartite Technical Meetings and one ministerial meeting plus six workshops, were held.  The workshops sought to implement previous resolutions and dealt with bottlenecks that were frustrating implementation.  This work also covered various topics in furtherance of different elements of SADC priorities, including transition from informal to formal economy, public employment services, dispute prevention and resolution, labour inspection and enforcement, international labour standards, and portability of social protection benefits.

Flowing from this, Member States committed, in line with Article 4 of the SADC Charter of Fundamental Social Rights, to establish three regional forums on public employment services; dispute prevention an, resolution  labour inspection and enforcement.  It was agreed that these forums would meet on a yearly basis to engage on issues of common interest and to share experiences and knowledge, with the hope of improving labour market regulation systems in our respective jurisdictions.

This is obviously some of the work that the incoming Chairperson will have to pick up going forward and moderate in which-ever way necessary.

•    OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES

The biggest challenge we faced was the lack of capacity, support and visibility of the SADC Secretariat. It is noteworthy that it is the first time in this session that the sector is graced by the presence of a senior representative of the Executive Secretariat. The support of the Executive Secretariat is a matter that will require special attention from the Ministers in this sector. Without the consistent support of the SADC Secretariat in so far as providing effective support to member-states, our efforts may not yield the desired outcomes. 

The incoming Chairperson will have to pay urgent attention to this aspect, otherwise all the efforts will be in vain.  The Executive Secretariat will have to play its role if the sector is to succeed in its efforts.  Perhaps the first step for the incoming chair will be to organize a bilateral meeting with the SADC Executive Secretariat to thrash out better ways of working together going forward.

Honourable Member States and Esteemed Ministers;

Funding for the Sector is another huge challenge which needs critical assessment.  We must thank the ILO for coming to our rescue when budgetary constraints threatened to collapse our work.  Our honest assessment is that these challenges pose a real threat to the implementation of the decisions we take as this platform and getting the Sector to function optimally. Of course, we are not aware of the challenges if any, faced by other sectors, but it is our considered view that the matters outlined herein be raised with the Secretariat as a matter of priority. We hope that this meeting will also come out with some brilliant ideas of how to arrest these challenges.
 
•    EFFORTS TO STRENGTHEN SADC-ELS PROCESSES

In the past, as you all aware, the reporting to the Ministers focused on the implementation of a number of frameworks and protocols that govern our sector, such as the RISDP, the SADC Youth Employment Policy Framework, the SADC Decent Work Protocol and so forth. However, we are of the view that this methodology needs some fine-tuning so that the efforts by Member States to implement these protocols are enhanced.  We have a few suggestions that we want to put forward for consideration in this regard.
 
Firstly, an activity-based approach is required to facilitate implementation, not only of the SADC priorities, but also our international commitments as Member States. For the first time and as mentioned above, the Chair selected a broad theme and also identified priorities, both of which were supported by activities, in the form of workshops, in order to ensure that Ministerial decisions and SADC protocols were implemented. The decision by Member States to establish forums on labour inspections, public employment services and dispute prevention and resolution will, therefore, go a long way in expediting regional priorities in these selected areas.

Secondly, there is nothing stopping a Chair from creatively enhancing the programme for the year. 
In the case of South Africa, besides the workshops on labour inspections, public employment services and dispute prevention and resolution, we elected to venture into areas of capacity building, knowledge sharing and strengthening of institutions in our countries.  As such, R204 and ILS were incorporated into our programme to assist Member States to focus their energies on employment creation and to solidify labour market regulation efforts.

In addition, the Ministerial Symposium focuses on enhancing the capacity of our Principals and creating an enabling environment to engage more comprehensively on topical issues which are relevant to the sector.  For example this year’s symposium is on Decent Work in Global Supply Chains. The symposium present an update on the global developments on decent work in global supply chains, including the key findings of the 2016 ILC report.  A symposium of this nature helps to give all of us a sense of the goings-on on this front and the complexities relating to this matter.  The symposium also lifts lessons from which we can all learn.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Thirdly, to foster collaboration between and among member-states, cooperation between Member States, as far as labour employment and labour regulation issues are concerned, should enjoy prominence in SADC-ELS meetings.  These may include more than the collaboration at ILO/ILC levels but also at bilateral and multilateral levels.  This is to encourage Member States to build stronger relations amongst themselves with the long-term view of aggregation of this work at sectoral level. 

For example, the tobacco issue, involving a few member countries, is quite important for the sustainability of economies, and thus employment. 
In light of this, Member States should be allowed to table similar issues at the SADC-ELS level in order to craft joint interventions where necessary.

Fourthly, there should be more coordinated cooperation in the exchange of experiences on policy architecture, bearing in mind the sovereignty of each member state.  Sharing information on how each state is dealing with inclusive growth, with a particular focus on health and employment, skills development and vocational training, as well as gender equality; reducing income inequalities, and promoting labour productivity, will be extremely useful going forward. This will also facilitate synchronisation of programmes of different sectors and contribute positively to the functioning of the SADC as a body. 

The “silo-effect” or fragmentation in the work of the different sectors undermines the very purpose of SADC, which is fostering regional integration and collaboration between and among the countries.  There has to be a strong synergy between and amongst the different sectors within SADC at least in terms of initiatives that are being pursued. 

Honourable Ministers, Social Partners, Member States

We want to offer the following as some of the recommendations that could be considered by the incoming chair; We recommend that;

(1)    The traditional JTTS meetings should be enhanced through some of the interventions proposed above, particularly the work of the three approved forums; and a declaration at the end of the presidency to sum up resolutions of ministerial meetings. Furthermore, knowledge sharing and capacity-building efforts should be adopted as a standard way of ensuring that Member States are on par in terms of labour market administration systems, operational standards and laws;

(2)    Member States to ratify key international labour standards and also to seriously consider taking the necessary steps to realise full implementation of such standards;


(3)    The Ministers should consider finding long-lasting solutions to the operational challenges in the Secretariat;
 
(4)    We continue to agitate for Gaborone to take this sector as seriously as it does other sectors in SADC. We must demand as we deserve the same attention and support from the Executive Secretariat that which it gives to the other sectors;

(5)    We elevate our concerns to our respective countries’ Focal Points on SADC issues; in case of South Africa the Department of International Relations and Cooperation;

(6)    The issues relating to the capacity of the Secretariat to attend to matters relating to our sector should be raised very sharply and possibly feature more prominently in the Summit documents including the Summit Declaration, and

(7)    We stand ready to provide support within the context of the Troika, to work with the incoming chair, Namibia in this case, As well as other Member States in furthering the goals of the sector.


This Report is but a synopsis of our work both in terms of achievements and challenges of SADC ELS in the period under review, and does not purport to be a comprehensive account of all our activities.

We happily pass on the baton to Namibia as the incoming Chair and wish you all the best in your tenure.  Once again we wish to give you our unreserved assurances that we will do everything humanly possible to support you. 

I thank you.


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