Kuwait News Agency (kuna)
May 22, 2008 - 4:52pm

A senior International Labor Organization (ILO) official Philippe Egger said Thursday that a new ILO report evokes the concerns of the labor organization about the danger of a growing gap between peace talks, which have acquired a new momentum following the Annapolis Conference in November 2007, and the continuing 'facts on the ground'. "With the devastation of military action, and the continuing fine net of restrictions on movement, there is no doubt that economic and social hardship is mounting in the occupied Arab territories", the report says, adding that "pitting the claim 'security first, then peace' against 'peace as a condition for security' leads to an impasse".
The situation on the ground, says the report, is reflected in closures, military incursions, checkpoints, the permits regime, the endless patience required to cross the Separation Barrier, the continuing construction within settlements, and 'settlers-only' roads, including the separation of East Jerusalem from the Palestinian territory.
That is there is a huge credibility gap between the ongoing peace process negotiations and its impact on the daily lives of the Palestinians leading to widespread disbelief and no change. Egger said, in a news briefing today to launch the ILO report on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories which was prepared for the ILO's International Labor Conference which opens its annual session here on 28 May, that the first three months of this year, three Palestinians were killed per day as opposed to 11 Israelis in the same period. He added that the causes of this massive decline in the daily lives of the Palestinians are the military occupation. Egger said that the settlements and settlers have increased and there are now some 450,000 settlers living on occupied land. In Jerusalem, he added there are 16 entries to the wall four of them allowed to be used by the Palestinians which makes it very difficult for the Palestinians to move back and forth.
The report says that working poverty is rising, genuine employment is declining, and frustration is growing.
According to the report, only one person of working age (15 years and above) in three living in the occupied Arab territories was employed for all or part of the time, with unemployment hovering above 20 per cent. Over 80 per cent of the population in Gaza is now dependent on food aid as a result of the severe economic siege imposing a closing of all crossings save essential humanitarian supplies.
The incidence of extreme poverty was 40 per cent of the population in Gaza and 19 per cent in the West Bank in November 2007, showing some improvement compared to November 2006 levels though remaining alarmingly high.
According to the report, the reduction was mostly due to the resumption of wage payments to civil servants by the Palestinian Authority who regained the financial support of the international community. According to the report, the unfolding employment crisis is compounded by systematic disregard of the fundamental right of Arab workers to equality of opportunity and treatment in employment and occupation.
The report also says that institutions representing free and democratic employers and workers are facing interference in their right to organize, leading to considerable difficulties in carrying out their basic functions.
The findings of the report are based on missions sent to the occupied Arab territories and Israel and to the Syrian Arab Republic earlier this year to assess the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, including the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan. The ILO mission also consulted with the Arab Labor Organization (ALO) and the League of Arab States in Cairo.


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