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Better Work forum in Jordan unfolds plans for expansion

7 Jul 2017

AMMAN – Better Work Jordan held its ninth buyer and stakeholder forum in Amman today (6 July), exploring ways to address compliance with international labour standards beyond the garment sector and announcing its upcoming expansion.

Some 15 members from international brands attended the forum, alongside a hundred representatives from the national and international garment and industrial sector partners from government, the employer associations and the union.

Better Work Jordan – a partnership between the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group – is part of a new agreement struck between Jordan’s Ministry of Labour, the European Union and the ILO.

The agreement aims to help Jordan further access the EU market, create decent jobs for Jordanians and include Syrians within the country’s workforce. Accordingly, Better Work’s mission will expand to more manufacturing sectors, helping local companies abide by the country’s labour law and meet international labour standards.

The Jordanian Minister of Labour Ali Ghezawi attended the event and highlighted the ILO/BWJ’s efforts throughout the past period with its contribution and interventions in the Jordanian labour market, and work in the garment satellite units that give jobs to Jordanian women in areas where unemployment is high, highliting that unemployment in the Kingdom currently accounts for 18 percent and around 33 percent among women.

“Our youth has the potential once the right work environment is provided with decent working conditions. Satellite units can largely contribute to the employment of a large number of girls,” he said.

Ghezawi said he was proud of what Jordan was doing concerning the refugee issue.

“Having 1.3 million Syrian refugees in the country is a huge burden. The Jordanian economy has managed to absorb the largest number (of the past waves of refugees), but the current circumstances are very difficult and we are facing a so-called ‘hosting-country fatigue.’ This why Jordan needs help implementing the relaxed rules-of-origin agreement with the EU.”

Welcoming the collaboration with the ILO’s programme, the Ambassador of the European Union to Jordan Andrea Matteo Fontana said: “The EU and the ILO have embarked on a common track in Jordan this year. This initiative is part of the EU’s support for Jordan in the context of the Syrian refugee crisis and links in with Jordan’s efforts to promote exports, encourage new investments and create jobs for Jordanian nationals and Syrian refugees.”

“To this end, BWJ will provide technical assistance to public institutions, private sector stakeholders and employees’ associations in the fields of compliance with international labour standards,” he said.

The United States Chargé d’Affaires to Jordan, Henry T. Wooster, lauded the well-established partnership between the US and Jordan – a partnership that has already resulted in a free trade agreement worth more than one billion dollars in the garment sector alone.

73 factories enrolled in the programme in Jordan produce goods for American and other international garment brands, providing work for 65,000 people in the Kingdom.

“From January to April this year, bilateral trade grew another 40 percent over 2016, a sign the FTA is a powerful tool that promotes sustainable growth for both sides,” Wooster said, highlighting further plans to boost business opportunities in Jordan, help the country withstand its challenges and boost its resilience.

The British Ambassador to Jordan Edward Oakden said his country was working closely with the Kingdom to invest in Jordan’s future, creating new job opportunities in the industrial sector.

“Jordan’s economic sustainability is vital to the country’s ongoing resilience and future success. We are focused on helping develop Jordan’s economy to stimulate job creation, and UK experts are helping Jordanian companies export their products to European markets,” he said.

Better Work Jordan Programme Manager Tareq Abu Qaoud outlined the programme’s results in the garment sector and its upcoming expansion.

“Garment sector stakeholders have shown a genuine commitment to abide by national laws over the years,” he said.  “They are now eager to engage with other actors in areas that go beyond compliance, including training Syrian refugees on sewing skills in the country’s camps, women’s empowerment programmes across the country, and ways to seek more environmentally-friendly production options.”

Abu Qaoud added that the expertise Better Work acquired over the years would be translated to additional sectors spanning chemical, plastics and engineering industries, among others.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Assistant Representative for Protection to Jordan Daniela Cicchella highlighted the country’s Syrian refugee situation and updated the audience on the state of the project to include Syrians in the workforce, a plan backed by the ILO and other UN agencies.

“We must continue to protect refugees and invest in them. They are not the problem but part of the solution to this crisis. They are the potential for the rebuilding and stabilization of their own country, and can be a benefit to Jordan while in exile.” Cicchella said.

Discussing current ILO-implemented projects across the Kingdom, the agency’s Country Coordinator for Jordan Patrick Daru said the garment sector exports had expanded by six per cent year-on-year.

“This is an excellent result, especially if one considers the regional security situation,” Daru said. “This has been accompanied by some improvements also in decent work conditions demonstrating that economic performance and decent work can both be achieved when there is a strong commitment of all stakeholders along the value chain.”

“This positive experience should now be replicated in other sectors under the new EU-Jordan trade agreement,” he added.

Expanding further on workplace safety, stakeholders discussed the need to introduce inspection regulations for the regular supervision of high-risk equipment by specialised entities.

For more information contact:

Elisa Oddone

Communications Consultant, bettr Work Jordan

International Labour Organization, Jordan

Mob: +962 787 7083172; oddone@guest.betterwork.org

Claire Anholt Duthuit

Communications Officer, Better Work

International Labour Organization, Geneva

Tel: +41 22 799 7377; anholt@ilo.org

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