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Employment for Peace in the Horn of Africa

The Regional Strategy recognizes the need to promote a “virtuous triangle” of employment opportunities, social protection for the most vulnerable and empowerment of people and communities in the local areas.


The region of the Horn of Africa has been characterized by various challenges including fragile peace agreements, protracted conflicts, social unrest and instability, struggle over the access to natural resources, droughts, sheltering of rebel groups and terrorist organizations, and international crime in the form of piracy attacks in the seas around the Horn. Furthermore, the region is a host and source for a high number of asylum seekers, refugees, IDPs, and migrants. Climate change exacerbates the strain on natural resources. As an example, droughts such as the one affecting 12 million people in the Horn at this time, are expected to recur more frequently in the future, further worsening the underlying causes of conflict. All these factors have had a severe impact on the livelihoods of the people inhabiting the region.

These sources of conflict have strong backward and forward linkages with employment and livelihoods, not only in Somalia or individual countries of the region, but across the Horn of Africa. The joint strategy of “Employment for Peace, Stability and Development” for the Horn seeks to bring to the forefront of the development and peace-building agenda in the Horn of Africa this crucial linkage between livelihoods, peace, and development on a regional level. The Strategy was approved at a Regional Conference on 11-12 April 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the auspices of the African Union Commission, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the ILO.

The Regional Strategy recognizes the need to promote a “virtuous triangle” of employment opportunities, social protection for the most vulnerable and empowerment of people and communities in the local areas, for positive feedback effects to occur sustainably between employment and peace in the Horn. Specific approaches to best address these three related objectives are identified.

Firstly, opportunities for employment have to be created. This can be done through the diversification of livelihoods, by creating immediate employment opportunities for example through labour-intensive investments (such as road construction and maintenance, social infrastructure and environmental protection), skills development, and by macro-economic solutions such as a more enabling environment for business creation, for instance.

Secondly, the concept of a universal “Social Protection Floor” should be adopted, and adapted to the situation in the Horn of Africa by building on existing, community-based practices of mutuality, reciprocity and solidarity.

Thirdly, people and communities have to be empowered through a bottom-up approach to governance, involving extended social dialogue, capacity-building for emerging social partners and South-South cooperation between social partners in the Horn of Africa. This also entails supporting social economy enterprises and delivering of economic and social services through community-based organizations.

Development partners were guided in establishing such a strategy, by the UN Global Policy for Post-conflict Employment Creation (2009), which identifies priorities and directions for the stabilization, recovery and long-term employment creation in conflict-affected or conflict-prone areas.

Heidi Kumpulainen

Associate Expert of Social Economy

ILO, Regional Office for Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Facts on the Horn of Africa:

Population: 213 million people (one fifth of the population of Africa)

Labour force: 89 million people (estimate)

Agriculture and employment: 70-85% of active population (except in Djibouti)

Official unemployment rates: 3% Uganda -43 % (Djibouti)

Median age range: 15 years (Uganda) – 21 years (Djibouti)

People living under poverty line: Range 35%-50%

Annual per capita income: Range 150 USD (Somalia) – 1130 USD (Djibouti)

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