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Governing Body

Juan Somavia elected to third term as ILO Director-General - Says will work to address financial crisis, ensure social justice

Juan Somavia was elected to a third term as Director-General of the International Labour Office, and pledged to work to ensure social justice amidst a growing series of challenges in the global economy.

Press release | 18 November 2008

GENEVA (ILO News) ─Juan Somavia was elected to a third term as Director-General of the International Labour Office today, and pledged to work to ensure social justice amidst a growing series of challenges in the global economy.

Mr. Somavia, a Chilean who became the first representative of the Southern Hemisphere to head the ILO when first elected to the post a decade ago, received 43 of the 56 available votes of the titular members of the ILO’s Governing Body with 13 abstentions. The vote was conducted by secret ballot, and there was no other candidate for the position.

Mr. Somavia is the ninth Director-General to hold the office in the Organization’s 89-year history and formally begins his new five-year term in March 2009.

During the past decade, Mr. Somavia has led the organization on a new course through the promotion of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda, which has received support at the highest political level in all regions of the world as well as across the multilateral system. Mr. Somavia has also overseen the implementation of the Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work adopted in 1998, as well as a massive increase in the number of ratifications of ILO labour standards.

During his tenure the ILO also adopted a landmark Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization, in June of this year, designed to strengthen the tripartite Organization’s capacity to address the challenges of the 21st century and to promote its Decent Work Agenda to forge an effective response to globalization. He has also been at the forefront of efforts to eliminate child labour and forced labour, end discrimination in the workplace, and promote adherence to labour standards, employment growth and sustainable development.

In comments today, Mr. Somavia said: “We stand today at a significant moment in this Organization’s history. Unemployment is rising. The crisis continues to batter economies and individuals across the world. The number of working poor is increasing. And there is a growing chorus of concern over the balance, fairness and sustainability of the current model of globalization.”

“Yet the current crisis also reveals the strength and value of the ILO”, he said. “On the eve of the ILO’s 90th year, we must continue to work for social justice and maintain and enhance social protection. We must ensure that enterprises can find the access to credit to avoid layoffs, maintain wages and find the resources that will permit them to recover. And we must pursue deeper social dialogue to help move toward long-term recovery and sustainable development.”

“‘Working for social justice’ is more than just the theme of our 90th anniversary” he said. “It is our assessment of the past and our mandate for the future”.

Born on 21 April 1941, Mr. Somavia is an attorney by profession and has had a long and distinguished career in civil and international affairs. He has served as both the President of the UN Security Council and the UN Economic and Social Council. He also was Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the 1995 World Summit on Social Development. His wide experience in all areas of public life – as a diplomat and academic – and his involvement in social development, business and civil organizations have helped forge a vision of the need to secure decent work for women and men throughout the world.

The Governing Body is the executive body of the International Labour Office (the Office is the secretariat of the Organization). It meets three times a year, in March, June and November and takes decisions on ILO policy, the agenda of the International Labour Conference and the draft Programme and Budget of the Organization for submission to the Conference.

It is composed of 56 titular members (28 Governments, 14 Employers and 14 Workers) and 66 deputy members (28 Governments, 19 Employers and 19 Workers). Ten of the titular government seats are permanently held by States of chief industrial importance (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States). The other Government members are elected by the Conference every three years.