Remarkable contribution of trade unions to the development of the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2021-2025 for Somalia

The Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) has made a historic breakthrough concerning its engagement in the sustainable development of Somalia. The organisation has successfully contributed to the design of the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2021-2025 for Somalia and secured the explicit mention of trade unions as key partner in the realisation of outcomes and strategic priorities of this process.

By Omar Faruk Osman, General Secretary of the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU)

Somalia’s United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2021-2025 (UNCF) represents an extremely positive agenda for Somalia’s national development, particularly in regard to the opportunities it holds for decent work, inclusive economic growth and women’s empowerment. This document is indicative of Somalia’s gradual emergence as a trusted partner on the international political and economic stage, and a testament to the commitment of organisations like the United Nations to support the country in its progress towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (ODS).

The frequent inclusion of workers’ considerations is a direct result of the meaningful input made by trade unions during the Cooperation Framework’s consultative process. For the first time in Somalia’s history, workers organisations were involved in the design and development of the national development agenda. This was the outcome that the Federation of Somalia Trade Unions (FESTU) strongly advocated for, insisting that the views of workers must be considered in the development of the national agenda.

Fuelled by the momentum of thousands of its members and driven by the mandate to represent the views and priorities of Somali workers on different developmental decision-making fora, FESTU remained focused on the unwavering need to be given a space to present workers’ positions. As the largest membership civic society grouping with a focus on economic growth, protection of human rights and gender equality, FESTU was confident of its capacity to bring experience and evidence on labour rights to the UNCF and the National Development Plan processes.

FESTU had already demonstrated its value in these processes, having been instrumental in the development of the National Development Plan version 9, the basis of the UN Cooperation Framework. Therefore, it is critical for trade unions to continue to meaningfully participate in the subsequent processes.

This experience, no doubt, contributes to the changing perceptions of the strategic importance of trade unionism in the developmental agenda. Too often, trade unions are seen as contentious players because of their commitment to ensuring workers’ concerns are heard and rights upheld. Trade unions are also arguably effective in grassroots activism, championing bread and butter issues for workers and a human-centred developmental agenda. While these remain extremely important, FESTU’s input in the development of the Cooperation Framework highlights that trade unions can and must be seen as key and strategic actors in policy development and workers as primary beneficiaries of any national development action.

The primary mandate of trade unions is to ensure that the voice of workers is located centrally within any process, activity and discussion related to labour and, more broadly, pro-poor socio-economic development initiatives. Through the unions’ contributions to the UN Cooperation Framework, the ability to do this in a participatory, consultative, structured and constructive manner was proven. Including the voices of workers and the vulnerable groups in society was non-negotiable for the trade union movement as this represents the views of the majority of the Somali people, perfectly encapsulating the popular saying : "Nothing about us, without us".

It is therefore reassuring to see that trade unions are cited as key partners in the realisation of outcomes and strategic priorities in the UN Cooperation Framework for Somalia and also as monitors of Somalia’s correct adoption of international labour standards. We are, therefore, looking forward to being active participants in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Cooperation Framework so that it brings real change for Somali workers, especially in the priority areas of Economic Development and Social Development.

FESTU is grateful to the UN country team, ILO including ACTRAV, UNIDO, the UN Resident Coordinator Office y UN Women for taking on board our views and for understanding the importance of them. The federation also wants to express sincere appreciations to the ITUC comrades for supporting us, particularly in the development of concrete proposals from the Somali workers in this process.