International buyers get behind the Haitian garment industry
7 October 2009
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (ILO News) – Better Work,
the unique partnership programme of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), organized the first-ever international buyers forum in Haiti recently as part of a new project that is expected to create jobs and promote sustainable development and responsible labour practices in the country’s apparel industry.
More than 70 delegates representing international garment buyers, Haitian garment suppliers, workers’ and employers’ organizations, the Haitian government, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL), the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the CTMO-Hope Commission, among others attended the forum.
Forum participants expressed support for Better Work Haiti and emphasised the importance of responsible labour practices in strengthening the competitiveness of Haiti’s apparel industry. In a joint statement, international buyers at the Forum expressed “support and optimism that the ‘Hope II’ and Better Work combination will bring sustainable economic benefits to Haiti.”
Better Work Haiti, funded by the US Deprtment of Labor, is being implemented as part of HOPE II (Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement) legislation approved by the US Congress last year. HOPE II gives tariff-free entry to the US market and includes provisions for improving labour standards. The HOPE II initiative is expected to create thousands of jobs in Haiti.
“The establishment of Better Work in Haiti represents a significant opportunity to support responsible labour practices in the apparel industry through close collaboration among international buyers, local manufacturers, unions and the government”, said Ros Harvey, Global Programme Manager for Better Work. “Through this cooperation and addressing other issues such good governance, sound infrastructure, skilled workforce and a stable operating environment, Better Work will play a large role in determining the long-term sustainability of the Haitian apparel sector”.
In an address to international business leaders sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), former US President Bill Clinton who is now a UN Special Envoy to Haiti, referred to the Better Work programme stating “the ILO, building on its success in doubling employment in the Cambodian apparel industry, is teaming up with the IFC to do the same here. Garment industry manufacturers, the ILO and the Haitian government are working together to meet ILO guidelines and make sure workers’ rights are respected.”
The garment industry in Haiti employs 21,000 workers in 30 factories, accounting for 8 per cent of the countries total formal sector employment.
Programme Manager – Better Work Haiti
Tel: +509 38 32 83 37
ILO Department of Communication
Tel: +41 79 593 14 91