ILO to take a more active role in cyclone reconstruction

Jun 16, 2008 (DVB), The International Labour Organisation is planning to play a more active role in post-cyclone reconstruction efforts in Burma, according to a senior ILO official.

The ILO governing body decided at the plenary session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva on Friday that the organisation should work with teams providing relief to cyclone victims.

The ILO's report on forced labour in Burma was also adopted during the plenary meeting.

Kari Tapiola, executive director of the ILO Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Sector, said the ILO would work to ensure that reconstruction work in Burma was done in accordance with international labour standards.

"What the governing body discussed yesterday afternoon was that the office should be involved actively in the relief and reconstruction work after Cyclone Nargis," Tapiola said, speaking on Saturday.

"And we actually are working together with the UN-ASEAN relief operation and we are going to have some of our own people involved in that," he said.

"Whenever reconstruction is done, it is important that it is done in a proper way and with respect for labour standards and that there is no forced labour in reconstruction," he said.

Tapiola said the ILO was cooperating with the Burmese regime under the terms of the Supplementary Understanding agreed between the two parties, which was renewed earlier this year.

"Some things could go better and could go more quickly, but there is cooperation," he said.

"There is cooperation, but we need more."

While the ILO's current priority in Burma is to prevent the use of forced labour in reconstruction efforts, Tapiola said the organisation will continue to receive and investigate complaints of forced labour in other contexts.

The ILO will also push for the Supplementary Understanding to be widely distributed in Burmese and local languages so that people understand their rights and how to make a complaint.

The ILO's Conference Committee on Application of Standards has expressed "profound concern" at the forced labour situation in Burma, including the general lack of punishment of offenders and the harassment of complainants to the ILO.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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