ILO decides to expunge labour-related ‘commission of enquiry’ against Qatar from its agenda. Doha welcomes the move

The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) decision to finally put an end to its long-standing, somewhat cynical posture on the labour-related issues in Qatar in its year-end discussion on Wednesday, November 8,Geneva, is not just a vindication of Doha’s persistent effort to convey to the world that it is doing what is needed, and the only one to do so in the Gulf region, to make living standards suitable and prosperous for the over 2.2-million-strong migrant workers.

It says Qatar is willing to listen, and is okay with course-correction.

The Government Communication office (GCO), on Wednesday, was relieved to release a thankful statement: “The State of Qatar welcomes the statement by ILO, which says it will close its 2014 complaint against Qatar. Their announcement is an acknowledgement of the important steps our Government has taken to develop a modern labour system that is fair to employers and employees, alike”.

“Qatar’s 2030 vision recognised the need for better living and working conditions for its foreign workforce even before contractors broke ground on World Cup sites. In recent years, Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Welfare, initiated a sweeping new programme to upgrade workers’ housing by creating modern accommodations for the nation’s migrant labourers,” the statement further added.

Provision of healthcare facilities for the migrant labourers is also a big factor in mind. According to GCO, construction of three modern hospitals and four new health centers for migrant workers is in full swing. In addition, a new labour contract system has been inaugurated. A wage-protection system has been put in place, too.

Despite being attacked for alleged indifference to workers’ living and working condition by various organisations, Qatar has engaged with NGOs like the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), to establish best labour practices, the statement read. It added: “Qatar will continue to work closely with them to ensure that the workers’ rights are not just guaranteed, but developed in parallel with international standards.”

The ILO complaint was a setback to the integrity of Qatar, and it took it very seriously. Reaction or not, it developed a “comprehensive programme of technical co-operation to ensure the reforms aligned with ILO’s best practices.” Qatar is developing a timeline for full implementation.

What Qatar is today is a consequence of the hard work that millions of workers from the South and South-East Asia have put in. They are the standing testimony to the country’s growth, and the State expressed its deepest gratitude. “The Government will continue to upgrade their living and working standards. We will set the highest standards for human rights.”

It may be a ghost in the past now, with the commission of enquiry gone, but the trauma that the three-year-long difficulty brought should be a lesson not just for Qatar. While hundred-year-long traditions may be difficult to negotiate, it is courage that separates the wannabes from the real ones.

It appears, for Qatar, courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to walk through it.

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