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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2006, Vol, 6 No. 1 .


Jobs after War: a critical challenge in the peace and reconstruction puzzle
Eugenia Date-Bah (ed.)

Geneva, International Labour Office, 2003, 452 pages, PB, 24.95, ISBN 92-2-113810-0

Drawing on the expertise of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Jobs after War makes excellent use of the organisation?s privileged status, embedding precise area-specific observations in a detailed overview of the post-conflict reconstruction field.

With employment concerns rarely featuring in peace accords, this topic is largely excluded from the post-conflict reconstruction debate. The ILO holds that job-creation and socio-economic reconstruction is ?an integral facet of this process and critical for consolidating peace? (13). The book locates post-conflict job-creation in a broad human- rather than state-security perspective, highlighting the linkages between socio-economic security and health, environmental, community and political security (3) bolstering the argument that the ILO?s definition of ?decent work? ? ??work that meets people?s basic aspirations??(25) ? contributes to all of the above.

The volume identifies two central concerns and allows thorough exploration of both:

? How to make employment and other socio-economic concerns a central focus in post-conflict reconstruction, reintegration and peace-building processes, policies and programmes; and
? How to promote coherence between policy and action to ensure the desired outcome in terms of job-promotion and socio-economic recovery (2).

As the title indicates, post-war reconstruction is still very much a puzzle and the breadth and variety of initiatives herein described illustrate that the field is being effectively ?made-up as it goes? along. Indeed this embryonic nature of the field as it stands offers interesting possibilities. ?Integration? is the watchword of this volume ? integration of vulnerable groups into the reconstruction agenda, of sensitivity to the conflict?s specifics into the approach of International Financial Institutions and of the ?decent work? agenda into peace-building programmes. This emphasis on integration presents the possibility that, as discourse on post-conflict employment issues is so underdeveloped, perhaps it could be constructed in such a way as to promote, in Date-Bah?s words, a more ?holistic? approach (15) from the near beginning. Whether or not this will aid in integrating the ILO?s agenda into mainstream post-conflict reconstruction debate is, however, by no means guaranteed.

Arguably this publication?s main flaw is its attempt to fill so much of the surrounding information vacuum. Too wide-angle to be of direct use as a handbook, yet slightly too specialised to be a general introduction to the field, it is nonetheless, a coherent, ambitious, and very necessary contribution to a currently sparse debate. Indeed the book?s authors recognise this shortfall and provide references for further ILO publications where space precludes proper discussion.

Chapter highlights include a detailed breakdown of the costs of war; the role of a variety of stakeholders: the private-sector, co-operatives and self-help organisations, worker?s organisations and labour administrations (ministries) in post-conflict employment-creation; and recommendations for the inclusion of marginalised groups such as youth, women, refugees, IDPs and ex-combatants in the planning stages of all post-conflict policies. Attention is drawn to the role post-conflict economic-development can play in social reconciliation (306). Of particular note are contributions detailing the failure of the massive international response in the Balkans to include local staff ?lokalci? into the ?agency culture? of the reconstruction effort thereby undermining potential capacity-building benefits (393), and the damage the immediate post-conflict aid-influx may wreak upon unstable economies focussing on Timor-Leste (430). From street-lighting initiatives in Kabul (218), sustainable development for East Cameroon?s Baka Pygmies (292) to IMF structural adjustment policy in Mozambique (40), Jobs after War offers a readable, surprisingly colourful and inclusive perspective on where ?decent-work? promotion fits in post-conflict and conflict-prevention action.

Ultimately practice-oriented, this handbook offers unambiguous policy suggestions throughout, supported by specific and detailed case-studies and ILO data-collection. Furthermore the volume highlights gaps in the knowledge-base, calling for further research into the linkages between humanitarian/reconstruction efforts and their employment impact and the relationship between transferable best-practice guidelines and adaptability to local specifics; more systematic data collection and critical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the ILO?s role. Indeed, while making a strong claim for the ILO?s centrality to post-conflict reconstruction in addition to a role in conflict prevention and early warning, this volume is remarkably clear-sighted regarding the organisation?s flaws. The ILO?s previous inadequacies in crisis response ? blamed for marginalising the ?decent work? agenda in the arena of post-conflict reconstruction ? come under particularly heavy fire and possible entry-strategies for the body are offered (48).

Overall this book makes an authoritative contribution to the field and will stimulate discussion, very likely continuing to do so should the current paucity of similar publications be corrected. This book is highly recommended.


Emma J. Plant, INCORE Intern, University of Ulster, 2005



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