Francis Blanchard

Interview for the Oral Archives of the ILO Century Project by Juan Somavia

Francis Blanchard was born in France in 1916. He joined the ILO in 1951, became Assistant Director-General in 1956, Deputy Director-General in 1968 and finally Director-General for three terms (1974−1989). As Director-General, he oversaw the expansion of ILO technical cooperation programmes, actively worked to extend ILO’s activities to the informal sector, continued ILO’s work in defence of human rights, steered ILO’s participation in the High-level Meeting on Employment and Structural Adjustment held in 1987 when for the first time the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund participated actively alongside governments, trade union and employer members of the ILO's Governing Body. After leaving the ILO in 1998, Francis Balnchard prepared a number of reports on coordination within the UN. Before he joined the ILO, he had worked for the International Refugee Organization, the predecessor of UNHCR. His memoir is entitled “L’Organisation International du Travail: De la Guerre Froide à un Nouvel Ordre Mondial”. Mr Blanchard died in Morges (Switzerland) in 2009.

Law and politics, University of Paris, France

In this interview Francis Blanchard, ILO Director-General from 1974 to 1989, talks about the continuity of the Organization’s values and underlines the central role of tripartism. He mentions the fundamental role the ILO played in the fight against General Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile as well as in the battle against the policies of apartheid in South Africa. The description of his encounter with the Solidarnosc leader Lech Walesa in Poland is followed by thoughts about the origins of the relationship with the Catholic Church, the withdrawal of the United States from the ILO. He highlights the remarkable personalities who composed the Governing Body at the time. Mr Blanchard explains how in the wake of the decolonization process, ILO’s mandate expanded and Technical Cooperation became one of its major fields of activities. He points out the problems caused by two secretariats: one in charge of Standards, and the other in charge of Technical Cooperation. He also comments on the creation of the UNDP and remembers how he managed to organize a high level meeting with the IMF and the World Bank in Geneva in 1987.

Key words
1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, American Federation of Labour (AFL), apartheid, Catholic Church, Chief Executives Board (CEB), Chile, China, Cold War, C087 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention 1948, C098 Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention 1949, C111 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958, Decent Work, dictatorship, employment, fall of the Berlin Wall, free trade unions in Chile, Germany, globalization, Great Britain, ILO values, International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Refugee Organization (IRO), Israel, Nobel Prize, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), Rerum Novarum, social justice, Solidarnosc, South Africa, Soviet Union, structural adjustment, technical cooperation, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), withdrawal of the United States from the ILO, World Employment Conference (WEC) 1976.

Names mentioned
Ago, Roberto; Ammar, Abbas; Astapenko, Pavel; Béguin, Antoinette; Boutros-Ghali, Boutros; Bush, George W.; Bustos, Manuel; Camdessus, Michel; Casaroli, Cardinal; Cassin, René; Chotard, Yvon; de Larosière, Jacques; de Robien, Gilles; d'Estaing, Giscard; Dunlop, John; Emmerij, Louis; Etchegaray, Cardinal; Fortin, Bernard; Fukijama, Francis; Gorbachev, Mikhail; Hansenne, Michel; Hawke, Bob; Hoffman, Paul; Hussein, Sadam; Jaruzelski, Wojciech Witold; Jenks, Wilfried; Jouhaux, Léon; Jouhaux, Schnucky; Kane, Elimane; Kissinger, Henry; Lamy, Pascal; Laugier, Henri; Meany, George; Morse, David; Myrddin-Evans, Guildhaume; Parodi, Alexandre; Pinochet, Augusto; Pope Jean-Paul II; Ramadier, Paul; Rens, Jef; Santa Cruz, Hernan; Séguin, Philippe; Thomas, Albert; Valticos, Nicolas; Ventejol, Gabriel; Videla, Jorge Rafael; Walesa, Lech; Waline, Pierre.

Should you wish to obtain the full transcript of this authorized oral interview or quote from it, you can obtain permission by contacting The views expressed are those of the interviewee, and the inclusion of the interview and/or its transcript, either partly or in full, on the ILO Century Project website does not constitute an endorsement of their contents by the ILO.