African Trade Unionists Challenge Nepad Leaders

African Church Information Service, 10 June 2002

Nairobi—Africa trade unionists have accused their Heads of State for establishing the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) without involving them in their planning.

Addressing unionists from East, West, Central, South and Northern Africa at a conference in Nairobi recently, the Secretary General of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions—African Regional Organisation (ICFTU-AFRO) Mr Andrew Kailembo said NEPAD would make no headway if it ignored views from trade unionists.

We the workers' leaders know very well that no development programme will succeed without the active participation of the social partners; the workers, employers included. NEPAD should involve all stakeholders in its conceptualisation, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and follow-up, particularly the workers and their trade unions, he said.

He observed that workers and citizens in general have the right to be part of economic decision-making in NEPAD, whose aim is to put Africa on the path of sustainable growth in order to achieve a lasting reduction of poverty and to promote social development.

Speaking on globalisation Kailembo said the trade union movement considered the impact of to be one of the greatest development challenges in this century adding that Africa is among the least beneficiaries of globalisation process.

The gap between the rich industrialised countries and the poor countries—the bulk of which are in Africa, is widening and the human and trade union rights situation continues to be characterised by oppression and repression, he said.

The conference also heard that addressing gender issues was mandatory and that trade unionists need to develop campaigns that highlight the link between privatisation and cutbacks in social services, and the resulting increase in the burden of women's unpaid labour. Unions should campaign for an extension of basic services, social welfare and child care facilities as part of the state's commitment to gender equality.

The unionists pointed out the need for building international solidarity saying it was important for them to support one another in worthy courses such as fighting for workers rights among others. We must work together and form alliances with other social movements in the fight against poverty and other negative implications of the globalisation process.

The conference adopted a Plan of Action aimed at tackling the negative effects of globalisation and trade unionists role in NEPAD.

The plan called upon trade unionists to campaign for democratisation, transparency and accountability of global institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary fund (IMF) and World Bank.

They urged trade unionists to demand equitable distribution of benefits of globalisation through market access of African exports into the industrialised markets and levelling of playing field such as removal of agricultural subsidies by rich nations and other forms of non-trade barriers.

They called upon unionists to exhort African governments through the African Union (AU) to encourage economic, social and political regional integration under which trade unions are fully involved as the only way of consolidating Africa's position in the global economy and reduce its marginalisation.

On NEPAD, the plan advocates for its extensive popularisation at grassroots level in Africa in order for it to secure the requisite African ownership, participation and involvement of all social partners that is necessary to guarantee the realisation of the goals of partnership.