Post-election speech

Address of Guy Ryder, ILO DG elect, to the Governing Body

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has elected Guy Ryder as its tenth Director-General. M. Ryder, who is currently the ILO’s Executive Director for International Labour Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, will begin his five-year term in October 2012.

Statement | Geneva, Switzerland | 28 May 2012
Chair, Distinguished Members of the Governing Body,

Allow me firstly to thank you, Chair, for the manner in which you have prepared and conducted this election. It is recognized by all, I believe, as having done credit to the ILO and having set a standard for others to follow. Although I am sure I am not the only candidate who wished that you had spared us the “photo finish”.

The election has been keenly and fairly contested and that too is to the benefit of the ILO and does honour to my fellow candidates. I have appreciated the opportunity to get to know them, or know them better, and to learn from them as I have from so many people during this campaign.

Above all, though, I wish to say to this Governing Body that I am profoundly grateful for the confidence you have placed in me and equally conscious of the heavy responsibility that goes with it. I cannot guarantee that over the next 5 years I will meet the high expectations that you have of your Director-General. But I can promise you absolutely that all of my efforts, to the limits of my capacities, will be at your service and the service of our Organization.

I am as conscious as I am sure many of you are that my origins and the origins of my candidacy are not those of past Directors-General. And I know that may give rise to concern in some quarters. I am, of course, very grateful to those who gave me the opportunity to be before you today. But they know, and so must you all, that the task of the Director-General is to represent, promote and respond to the views and the interests of all parties in the Organization. As I have already had the opportunity to tell many of you personally, I believe I am equipped to do that, and I am determined that each one of you - representatives of Governments, of Employers and of Workers; Africans, Asians, Americans or Europeans - will find in me a person open to you equally. Someone who is ready to listen, to learn and to work with you in the construction of consensus and in the pressing task of identifying solutions for the problems of a world of work still in crisis.

We have many advantages as we set about the job. We build on the achievements of those who have gone before. None of you has any doubt about my admiration of the contribution and person of our current Director-General, Juan Somavia. Truly, a giant in the history of the ILO. Professionally and personally I owe him an enormous amount and so do we all.

Under his direction the ILO has acquired the visibility and protagonism it absolutely needs to fulfil the role it must take on. To that we must, together, set about the task of uniting what - at first appearance - may seem a very diverse tripartite constituency with widely varying - and legitimate - interests to defend.

That is what I ask all of you, today, to make a start in doing. To work with this Secretariat - full as it is of commitment and talent and knowledge - and with each other in pursuit of the goals of social justice that this Organization has worked and always will work for.

The election that has taken place today is a major episode in the life of our Organization. The challenge all of us must be equal to is to ensure that our Organization in turn is in a position to make a major difference to the working lives of those millions of people on all of the continents who, even if they do not even know of its existence, so badly require its support.

Whatever differences may exist in this room, I am strong in the conviction that there is not one person here who would turn their back on the unemployed - say this is not my concern; push aside the destitute or the desperate; or be indifferent in the face of injustice and rights denied. Our duties to the poorest and most vulnerable must come first indeed.

Our common values unite us behind the cause of social justice, and the turbulent times in which we live require of us still greater effort to its realization. If it is true that the greatest danger is when good women and men do nothing in the face of injustice - let us not be found wanting.

I know, too, that there is heavy onus on the ILO to undertake its work with a maximum of efficiency - with the upmost regard to the need to spend each dollar you put at our disposal to optimal effect.

We will change, reform, improve to meet your expectations in that regard - and you will rightly hold us to the highest standards of conduct.

But let us hold on also to what we have and what is invaluable to us and in us. The capacity that we have in the world of work - employers, workers and governments - to sit down, to talk, and to find good solutions. The idea that tripartism is not a conspiracy against good decision-making but a pathway to social justice. All of you are good at these things. You have a wealth of knowledge, of expertise and of commitment.

Together, let’s put it to work at the ILO. Make our Organization - more than ever - central to meeting the challenge of our fast-moving times. We must move with them and stay faithful to ourselves.

I ask for your help on this - in my language, I ask for your solidarity.