Having been warned about this, I wondered if I should make my usual 90-minute speech or a longer one! But I know we must conclude this session of the Conference and some people have planes to catch, so I thought I would merely use the occasion to express my appreciation to all of you.
I wish to thank you because, over a number of years, you have made me proud to be a member of the family of the real economy, of the real world, and to believe that together we have been making a significant contribution to the task of making the world a better place.
I have to look to the Workers’ benches and to my own small country of Barbados, a country of less than 300,000 people – that is small! – and to reflect on the fact that they have permitted me to join you with your millions, and in the case of two countries, your billions of people, to come here and make the kind of contribution which I feel has helped in the deliberations that we have had from time to time.
From coming as an observer in 1972 to my first exercise, to looking on as President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions in 1992, as well as serving as a member of the Governing Body from 1992 onwards, then having the distinction of being made Chairperson: all this is an honour, not just for me, but for our little country and for the people of the Caribbean in the Caribbean Economic Community. And it is in their name that I say “thank you”.
Naturally I would not wish to say thanks without recalling some notable things with which I have been associated, and which I would like you to re-member since I treasure them myself.
The first was dealing with a general discussion on tripartite social dialogue fairly early on in my time as a member of the Governing Body. And then dealing with the worst forms of child labour, leading the debate on behalf of the Workers’ group and getting that Convention and Recommendation adopted by this honourable house without a single dissenting voice. I still feel proud about that, I shall always remember it and you will see it in my memoirs one day.
And then being part of the great task we set out to achieve, of bringing about true exchanges between governments, workers and employers. In the Governing Body particularly, we have now achieved an altogether higher level of tripartite social dialogue. I should like to think that I played a little part in that exercise.
The Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization of 2008, the Social Protection Floor and the Global Jobs Pact, gender equality, and now, as I go out, the Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers: these are but some of the things I have played a part in. And I remember also that there are some lessons that we have learned. We have learned very well that just because you believe something, that does not mean that the rest of the world can accept it as it is. There has to be, to a very great extent, a level of understanding and respect which each delegate must bear to each man, each woman. Unless we start by respecting human values, we cannot deal with major political issues.
I have learned that tripartism should be jealously guarded by all of us, and I would hope that if you remember nothing else that I say this morning, you will recall that we have to guard our tripartite form of institution. When visiting dignitaries come to visit us, they must always be given the opportunity to understand what makes us different from other people, and they must be able to confront worker representatives and employer representatives so that they know that governments are not the only players in this house, and although we respect them very much, we also need to respect employers and workers.
I also wish to leave with you the thought that the values of the ILO must be stressed now more than ever. We have difficult times ahead and we will not succeed unless we hold fast to our values.
I wish to thank you, Mr President, for this occasion. I wish to thank the entire ILO, the Director-General, the Staff Union, every single person who contributes to the great work we do. I wish to thank you for helping to flesh out the contribution which I have been sent here to make.
I want to thank those representatives of Governments, Employers and Workers who have worked with me, who have helped to shape the thoughts that we have put together and who, more than ever, have become part of my family and my friends. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute and I wish you all the best.
I wish, finally, to thank my Government and the governments of the Caribbean for having faith in me over these more than 30 years, not just in the ILO but generally in public service and in the trade union movement. You have put faith in me; I hope I have not disappointed you in any way.
As I say farewell to you, I want all of you to know that even if I have not called your names, even if we have not spoken, I have learned to respect and understand you, and to want to be closer to your thoughts and your considerations.
I wish you Godspeed now. I hope that, as you supported me, you will continue to give that support to those I leave to continue the work of the Workers’ group.