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In September 2016, Heads of States at the UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The Declaration sought to ensure fair migration for all and strengthen the global governance of migration through the development of a Global Compact for Migration and a Global Compact for Refugees. Subsequently, in 2017-18, a range of intergovernmental consultations occurred for the planned adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9th of December 2018[2].

The Compact rests on international conventions including the ILO’s standards for promoting decent work and labour migration. To this end, and recognizing the need for a Global Skills Partnership, Objective 18 is dedicated to the issue of investing in skills development and facilitating recognition of skills, qualifications and competences. It calls upon Member States to “Build global skills partnerships amongst countries that strengthen trainings capacities of national authorities and relevant stakeholders, including the private sector and trade unions, and foster skills development of workers in countries of origin and migrants in countries of destination with a view to preparing trainees for employability in the labour markets of all participating countries” (UNGC, 2018, 25-26).

Therefore, the ILO, in collaboration with the IOM, UNESCO, the IOE and the ITUC, is launching the Global Skills Partnership to support the development of skills partnerships between countries, along migration corridors, and within selected regions through knowledge sharing and technical assistance. Most international cooperation regarding the free movement of people focuses on highly skilled individuals. The Global Skills Partnership will, therefore, pay particular attention to low- and semi-skilled migrants. These migrants, who comprise a large share of migrants on the African continent, face constraints that hinder their mobility in regional labour markets. On the demand side, the lack of recognition of skills can pose barriers to mobility or result in de-skilling. In addition, restrictive immigration possibilities and the lack of work-permits and visas targeting occupations that require low or medium level skills, can curb opportunities for regular migration. The lack of legal protection resulting from unregulated and often temporary employment make semi-skilled and low-skilled workers more vulnerable to exploitation.

The highest incidence of low- and semi-skilled migration within the African continent is found in the West-African, Central African and Sahel region. Sectors such as construction, mining and services, attract semi-skilled migrants most of whom have completed secondary school or vocational education and training. The vast majority of low skilled migrants with basic or less than basic education work in agriculture, domestic services or engage in cross-border trade, predominantly in informal economy as this is where the majority of jobs are generated.

To ensure the context sensitive design and genuine grounding of the global skills partnership at the country, corridor and regional level, the ILO conducted two tripartite regional workshops in close collaboration with the respective sub-regional economic communities (RECs) under the umbrella of its existing SKILL-UP project. The workshops were conducted in 2019 and took place in (i) Yaoundé Cameroun in collaboration with the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and in (ii) Abuja, Nigeria in collaboration with the Community of Western African States (ECOWAS).

In the workshops, constituents identified, defined and planed for the implementation of tailored interventions to foster skills partnerships between governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, training institutions, public employment services or national statistical institutes in countries of origin, destination and transit, considering the institutional framework for migration in selected countries.

Among the suggested interventions, tripartite constituents from Nigeria, Ghana and Togo pledged to strengthen mutual recognition of each other’s training certificates and/or harmonize curricula in key sectors / occupations affected most strongly by migration between the three countries. These sectors are agriculture and construction. In order to do so, five key occupations were selected within each sector, through a participative and inclusive process which involved a tripartite group of national constituents in the three countries. Occupational standards and qualifications in agriculture and construction sectors were then mapped against one another to identify commonalities and differences. These two phases were agreed upon with constituents to ensure the relevance of mutually recognized / harmonized education and training programs in the context of migration between the three countries.

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