SOLIDAR Mission to the 106th ILO Conference: Freedom of Association in Egypt should come before the signature of partnership priorities

This year, as in previous years, SOLIDAR together with its members and partners FOS, Solidarité Laïque, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, and the CWTUS participated in the ILO’s 106th International Labour Conference (ILC) to follow the works of the Conference’s Committee on the Application of the Standards (CAS). The focus of the mission was Freedom of Association in two countries where SOLIDAR members are active in: 1) Egypt: with the aim of denouncing the ongoing repression of independent CSOs and trade unions through, among others, the recent adoption of very restrictive legislation. 2) Ecuador: with the aim of putting pressure on the Government of Ecuador so that it changes its legislation that does not allow banana workers to form a sectoral trade union.

On 14 June, the case of Egypt’s infringement of ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise was discussed within the CAS.

Prior to this discussion SOLIDAR’s Egyptian partners (the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights and the Center for Trade Union & Workers Services) had circulated two papers denouncing the

  • Draconian NGO law ratified by President Abdel Fattah El Sissi on 28 May 2017. Among others, the law will not allow associations and foundations to conduct or publish any research or opinion poll without prior authorisation by the State. As for foreign NGOs wishing to work in Egypt, they have to pay registration fees as high as 300,000 pounds and all funding, either local or foreign, will be under the control of a newly established “national agency” including representatives of the security services, the army and other government bodies. With the ratification of this law, CSOs are threatened by a state of paralysis and dismantlement.
  • Coercive practices against workers and their leaders: Over the last six months, many workers and trade union leaders were sent for trial; many of them spent several months in jail while many others were fired from work at an unprecedented rate.

At the same time, SOLIDAR addressed the EU representatives in the CAS seeking their support: given the forthcoming EU-Egypt Association Council where the formal signature of EU-Egypt Partnership Priorities should take place, an EU statement during the discussion of the case within the CAS would have been of great support to independent CSOs and labour organisations that are asking the Government of Egypt to withdraw this law. Unfortunately, no EU member took the floor during the discussion.

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