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Showing its Age: The 1951 Convention and the Right to Work - the Example of Ethiopia

Citation: Alberghini, Diana (2022) Showing its Age: The 1951 Convention and the Right to Work - the Example of Ethiopia. [Discussion or working paper]

RLI WPS No. 62.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

This paper aims to offer a perspective on the 1951 Convention’s aging process by exploring how it approaches refugees’ right to work. Such an analysis seems particularly relevant especially when considering the right to work is a fundamental element of refugee economic inclusion — a priority put in sharp relief by the COVID-19 pandemic —and of refugee self-reliance, one the main objectives promoted in recent key international events such as the Global Compact on Refugees. The first part of this work will examine Articles 17, 18 and 19 of the 1951 Convention which respectively accord refugees the right to engage in wage-earning employment, self-employment, and participate in liberal professions. The close investigation of these articles will reveal discrepancies and limitations which have allowed signatory states to restrict, sometimes even deny, the right to work to refugees. This discussion will prepare the setting to analyse Ethiopia’s new refugee legislation, Proclamation No. 1110/2019, and in particular Article 26 on the right to work. This second part of the paper will focus specifically on those aspects of Article 26 replicating Articles 17-19 of the 1951 Convention, thus attesting to the continuous significance of this legal instrument. It will also investigate the most innovative, development-centric feature of Article 26, which links refugees’ right to work to the international community and makes it contingent on foreign investment. This aspect has enabled the Jobs Compact, an initiative aimed at creating jobs for refugees which, however, so far does not seem to have fulfilled its goal. In conclusion, it will be argued that the 1951 Convention maintains its importance as it constitutes a baseline for refugees’ right to work. However, because of its discrepancies and limitations, it is not fully adequate to respond to today’s challenges and ensure refugee self-reliance. Innovative solutions are urgently needed which should involve the participation of multiple stakeholders, including refugees.

Creators: Alberghini, Diana and
Subjects: Human Rights & Development Studies
Keywords: Right to work, Articles 17-19 of the 1951 Convention, Ethiopia, 2019 Refugee Proclamation, Jobs Compact
Divisions: Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Refugee Law Initiative
  • 15 July 2022 (published)


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