Text of press briefing at the end of the ITUC-Africa Human and Trade Union Rights Network meeting in Abuja, Nigeria from 27 – 28 July, 2015

Keywords : Human and trade union rights Communique

Friends and comrades from the press, welcome.

African trade union leaders from 25 African countries gathered here in Abuja, Nigeria for the past two days to discuss some critical and urgent issues affecting workers, families and communities across Africa with the view to contribute practical suggestions to them. Some of these issues include: halting Illicit Financial Flows from Africa in the context of the quest to mobilize domestic resources to finance Africa’s structural transformation. The other issues were around insecurity as a result of growing extremism, terrorism and sectarian violence; the issue of migration management; and finally on the promotion of civil liberties.

This meeting was organised in the framework of the Human and Trade Union Rights Network of the African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa).

For the African trade union movement, structural transformation refers to the successful agrarian and industrialisation revolution in the sense that the continent is able to feed her people, undertake and attain manufacturing production. In essence, our economies must be encouraged to achieve manufacturing heights that give value addition to her mineral and other resources in a self-reliant, trade-orientated, sustainable, safe and secured manner that will lead to shared prosperity. The state is the main driver of the structural transformation agenda for which other actors like the private sector can complement it.

Furthermore, we are convinced as organised labour that the decent work agenda of employment creation, respect for rights at work, deployment of social protection coverage for all and social dialogue provide spaces for engagement in development processes should be consciously imbibed by the African structural transformation processes.

It is from this background therefore that we welcome some of the initiatives of the African Union with respect to giving effective direction to the structural transformation agenda. Particularly, we commend the development of the AU Agenda 2063, the African Mining Vision and the adoption of the Mbeki panel report on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, which shows that a conservative figure of US$50 billion leaves the continent annually.

On the issue of financing Africa’s structural transformation, we wish to reiterate our commitment to support our governments and the African Union in their fight to defeat Illicit Financial Flows from our continent.

We shall continue to pressure big businesses and Multinational Companies to pay their fair and true share of tax in countries where their production and profit activities take place. The financial hemorrhage as a result of IFF continues to harm our economies and people as monies for social spending on education, potable water; health and sanitation; food and nutrition that are real drivers of development are lost because businesses continue to find ways to manipulate tax rules and administrations. We therefore say #stopthebleeding!, which is our on-gong campaign on halting Illicit Financial Flows from Africa.

Furthermore, we urge our governments to desist from the current harmful tax competition practices amongst themselves with the use of sundry and endless incentives, including labour market flexibilities under the guise of attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). Tax wars are contributing to the race to the bottom.

We equally call on our governments to embrace pro-poor and pro-people tax regimes that are progressive in nature. In essence, the situation where tax burdens are passed down and bore by the poor should be discontinued. It is not poverty eradicating when essential household commodities and goods are aggressively taxed.

Regarding the current insecurity, as well as rising extremism and terrorism, workers, their families and communities are affected and so will continue to engage our governments and other actors within our nation-states and continent to finding enduring solutions to the insecurity and the restoration of peace.

We sympathize with the victims, families, businesses, communities and economies affected by the strains and pains from these dastardly and cowardly violent attacks from criminal groups such as Boko Haram and Al-shabaab. We condemn these conscienceless attacks and urge our people to refuse to submit to fear and divisiveness, which are some of the goals of these criminal terrorist gangs.

We commend and will continue to support the efforts of African governments, particularly with the realization that a well-coordinated and collaborative regional approach should be pursued to complement national security arrangements. Nevertheless, we strongly urge them to scale up ideas, men, materials and intelligence so as to pose robust and enduring responses to insecurity on the continent. We shall continue to advocate for an efficient, progressive and democratic international collaboration amongst governments and Non-State Actors on sectarian civil conflicts, extremism and terrorism.

We urge our governments to commit to genuine efforts to create decent and secure jobs, particularly for our teeming youth. Our governments must be imaginative in the deployment of social protection provisions so that the sense of marginalization, deprivation and exclusion that combine to make decisions by violence perpetrators easy are reined in. In essence, government must work to give hope to all.

Furthermore, we call on our governments to open spaces and opportunities for Non-State Actors to be engaged and involved in the fight against hate crimes, sectarian conflicts and insurgencies. Equally, we urge our governments to begin to seriously look at post-insurgency arrangement for the rehabilitation of victims, especially the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and communities beyond token gestures.
No doubt, every conscionable persons and constituencies will continue to strongly condemn these criminal and cowardly attacks. However, we caution our governments against hiding behind the fight against insurgencies and terrorism to promulgate and implement legislation that will undermine and abuse civil liberties.

On migration, we are concerned that the desperate and deadly journeys from Africa through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe embarked upon by our youth and the consequent deaths are avoidable. The recent xenophobic attack in South Africa is equally regrettable. These issues must be dealt with in an urgent, decisive and efficient manner.

Therefore, we welcome the African Union Declaration AU/18(XXV) at its last Summit this June in Johannesburg on Migration aimed at accelerating mobility and integration on the continent. The resolution realized the role of migration in development, whilst also aiming to address regular and irregular migration, as well as promoting the rights of migrants and their families. We laud this resolution and will work with our governments and other social partners to ensure quick, genuine and comprehensive implementation of this resolution and other similar processes such as the AU/EU/ILO/IOM Joint Labour Migration Programme for Africa. We as African trade unions are committed to ensure that our governments are responsive and accountable to their people in ways that will contribute to defeat push factors of migration.

We therefore urge our governments to commit to genuine follow-up actions to this Declaration such as the elimination of reciprocity so that citizens bearing African passports can get visa on arrival within the continent like Rwanda has initiated. Similarly, we call on our governments and the African Union to work to ensure that the aspiration to achieve one passport arrangement for Africans is achieved within the 2017 timeframe.

African trade unions appreciate the value of political pluralism and multiparty democracy in advancing people’s aspirations, as well as in securing the defence, protection and promotion of civil liberties. We therefore reject the situation where Swaziland continues to remain the last absolute monarchy in Africa and the world. Political parties are still banned and pro-democracy activists are whimsically thrown into detention in inhuman conditions. We therefore call on the Swazi government to commit to genuine multiparty democracy in ways that can allow for genuine citizen participation.

Thank you.

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