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The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Nigeria @ 40

Today, Monday, October 10, 2016 in Abuja the Nigerian chapter of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) a private, non-profit German Foundation committed (in both vision and activities)…

Today, Monday, October 10, 2016 in Abuja the Nigerian chapter of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) a private, non-profit German Foundation committed (in both vision and activities) to the values of Social Democracy marks its 40th history of value adding activities in Nigeria. According to its Resident Representative, Mr Michael Roll, highpoint of the anniversary manifestations is true to the social democratic tradition of FES; a Policy Debate about economic transformation and industrialization and labour in Nigeria that will attract labour and employers with the Vice President, Yemi Oshibanjo as the special Guest with scores of state and non-state social partners of the Foundation! Expected is the FES global  President Kurt Beck and the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Coming from National Union of Textile and Garment Workers’ union workers’ organization which has partnered with the progressive Foundation in the past four decades, I bear witness that the Foundation has over the years maintained a deep sense of duty and commitment to its various partners through whom it has continued to deliver its contributions to building institutions and promoting core values of democracy and accountability organizations in trade unions and civil societies.  The foundation formed was founded in 1925, some 91 years ago as the Germany’s first political foundation the name of the first democratically elected president of Germany, Friedrich Ebert. Ebert, a Social Democrat, had risen from being a simple craftsman to hold the highest political office in the country had willed that his resources be devoted to deepening social democracy against the background of his own experiences in political confrontation with dictatorships the worst form of which was the eventual Hitler’s dictatorship.
The Foundation’s aims include the following; – Political and civic education in the democratic spirit: Fostering international understanding, including partnership with developing countries; Scholarly research in the Foundation’s own institutions; and the fostering of art and culture as elements of a vital democracy.
In collaborating with my union and other trade unions, FES Nigeria which commenced partnership in Nigeria in 1976, greatly enhanced capacity building, promoted conscious collective actions, effective execution of duties of bargaining, representation and delegation functions of trade unions.  In short, better and effective unionism has been cultivated through informed and enlightened membership, many thanks to the partnership of FES. Our union has been in collaborative work with FES since 1993.  Jointly, we have organized hundreds of training programmes including development of training manuals in joint financial collaboration that runs into millions of Naira.  Some of the programmes jointly organized by our union and FES cover topical critical labour market issues like, industrial relations, occupational health and safety and women inclusion in trade union movement.      
Others include Organizational Skill Development for Women Activists, Train-the-Trainers and Leadership Skills Development as well as Strategic Planning and Policy Development Skill/Capacity Building for Trade Union Activists.  FES the last five years has collaborated with affiliate unions under the global Industrial union to intensify policy advocacy for re industrialization of the African continent in the wake of neoliberal policies of trade liberalization that has exposed African industries to unfair trade practices and led to massive industrial closures and loss of quality jobs. FES is a visible actor in the annual policy Dialogue series to mark the Africa Industrialization Day (AID). The policy dialogue series which involve all stakeholders in the industry, namely Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, electricity companies, organized labour and manufacturers association had helped in formulation and shaping industrial policies. If these policies are not implemented, it is not because of lack of policy ideas but lack of political will on the part of government to truly diversify the economy through beneficiation and value addition that industrial manufacturing had delivered to many countries. FES has produced dozens of resident representatives and Nigerian project managers that have made a lot of positive difference in civil society collaboration and partnership. Also remarkable are foundation’s commendable historic efforts to through various publications offer historic and contemporary information on labour market issues and state and society in general. In 1996, Dr. Jürgen Burckhardt, Secretary General of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation announced the conferment of Human Rights Prize to the former President of Nigeria, General Olusegun Obasanjo. The award was received by late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo on behalf of her husband who was then serving prison terms imposed by Abacha dictatorship.

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