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109th International Labour Conference

“Cataclysmic” COVID-19 crisis demands human-centred recovery policies, says ILO Director-General

The ILO’s Director-General told delegates at the opening virtual plenary sitting of the International Labour Conference that human-centred policies, such as those outlined in the ILO Centenary Declaration, are key to a sustainable and inclusive global pandemic response.

Press release | 07 June 2021
© M. Crozet / ILO
GENEVA (ILO News) – The “cataclysmic” effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world of work has highlighted the necessity of human-centred recovery policies, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder has told delegates at the first plenary sitting of the 109th International Labour Conference (ILC).

He underlined the consequences of the “multiple and growing inequalities in our societies” the pandemic has exposed and the past failure to address them over time.

“The sum of human suffering caused by the pandemic is all the greater for that collective failure. In this house of social justice we, more than most, need to draw conclusions from this,” he said.

Ryder acknowledged the efforts and commitment of governments to do whatever it takes to overcome the health crisis and mitigate its social and economic consequences. He told delegates that it was “extraordinarily important that this Conference takes place… as people across the globe hope and reach for a recovery that leads to a resilient, sustainable, fairer, and better future.”

The Director-General reminded delegates that the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted by the ILC in 2019, gives an agreed and highly-valued roadmap for “constructing a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.”

“The pandemic has highlighted just how inextricably health, social and economic, financial, trade, and intellectual property policy is really linked… We need to lever that realization to forge better multilateral system coherence on a permanent basis, just as the Centenary Declaration urged us to do.”

“The adoption by this Conference of an outcome document calling for, and shaping, a global response for such a human-centred recovery will be of the very greatest value,” he said.

The plenary sitting of the ILC was also addressed by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Guy Parmelin, who said the ILC was “particularly important… at a time when our labour markets are still in shock and when we must continue to support our economies, our jobs and our population.”

The President called upon delegates to “work tirelessly” to implement the ILO’s Centenary Declaration, which “guides us on the measures to be taken to ensure that the recovery of our economies takes a significant, social and human-centred approach.”

“Let us abandon the standstill, fear and fear of innovation to seize the opportunities that any crisis offers us. The crisis is forcing us to new interdependencies, particularly between health, environment, education, finance, digital, work and social. These interdependencies require more cooperation. Between governments first, but also with social partners,” he said.

At the first plenary sitting, the Chairperson of the Governing Body, Apurva Chandra, Secretary of Labour, India also presented his report, covering two years’ work. The Presidents of the ILC’s Employers and Workers groups, Renate Hornung-Draus, Germany and Catelene Passchier, Netherlands made opening statements.

During this session of the ILC, delegates will debate a COVID-19 outcome document that will provide guidance on policies for a human-centred recovery from the crisis. They will also discuss social protection, a critically important subject at a time when the inadequacies of current systems have been so cruelly exposed by the crisis.

The ILC will further undertake its regular supervision of the application of international labour standards.

More than 4,300 delegates from 175 ILO Member States have registered to attend the ILC, which is being held virtually for the first time because of the COVID-19 crisis. The official Conference opening was held on 20 May, when the Conference Officers were elected. This segment will close on 19 June, and a second segment of the 109th ILC is scheduled for 25 November to 11 December 2021 when issues of inequalities and skills and lifelong learning will be discussed.

The ILC plenary sessions are being broadcast via the ILO’s website. Coverage is also being disseminated via YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.