Gerry Finnegan

Interview for the Oral Archives of the ILO Century Project by Regina Monticone

Mr Finnegan is an Irish national who served the International Labour Organization for over 22 years, working on employment and labour issues: financial and cooperative business management, marketing and exporting, small enterprise, community and local economic development, and gender. In his career as an enterprise specialist, Manager and Director of the Lusaka Country Office and representative for Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia (2006−2010), Mr Finnegan launched and developed a series of initiatives which later became embedded in the Organization’s working plan. He led ILO’s programme on promoting small enterprise development in Thailand in response to the Asian Financial Crisis (1997–1998) and initiated and managed ILO’s global programme on Women’s Entrepreneurship Development and Gender Equality (WEDGE) between 2000 and 2006. He successfully instigated partnerships with OECD and the African Development Bank (AfDB) and was responsible for a significant resource mobilization effort in bringing Irish Aid into a Partnership Agreement with ILO. In managing ILO’s efforts to promote decent work – through the Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) formulation in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique – he supervised Luanshya Integrated Support Initiative on Employment (LISIE) in response to the impact of the global financial crisis on unemployment in the mining sector in Zambia and became an institutional champion for initiatives to promote gender equality and ILO’s participatory gender audits in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia (2007–2010). Prior to joining the ILO, Mr Finnegan held several academic positions in Northern Ireland and worked in accountancy. He is the author of numerous publications, articles and books.

1969 − Bachelor of Commerce, University College Dublin (UCD)
1979 − Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (DBA), Queen’s University Belfast
1982 − Masters in Business Administration (MBA), Queen’s University Belfast

In his career at the International Labour Organization, Mr Gerry Finnegan was deeply involved in the “technical side of things”, as he describes the projects and programmes he initiated and managed. In this interview he touches upon a wide range of subjects from cooperatives and youth employment, to gender and women’s entrepreneurship. With good business acumen, achieved through commerce and business studies at University College Dublin (UCD) and through helping out in his father’s butcher’s business, he started his professional career first in accountancy and then lecturer in the UK. He remembers those years as formative in shaping his later interest in “another way of doing business”. While embracing a business-like approach, he raised funds for charities and provided services for local communities. Community work served as a basis for his first position as Community Development Officer with the Northern Ireland Community Relations Commission. Working for the community became a long life credo and driving force behind many of his endeavours, both professional and civic. Mr Finnegan recalls the beginnings of cooperatives in the early 1980s in Ireland and the UK, and explains how they changed from established member-based agricultural cooperatives into worker-owned businesses or cooperatives, based largely on the Mondragon model of workers running the business operations.

His first involvement with the ILO came in 1988 in Zambia, working on youth unemployment issues. Later, as Chief Technical Adviser, he continued his work on cooperatives and began working on Self Employment and Small Enterprise Development for people with disabilities. His assignments in Asia included being a Lead Specialist in the ILO's response to the Asian Financial Crisis (1997−1998) and Deputy Team Leader for the inter-agency multidisciplinary mission on Poverty Reduction in Vietnam (1993). He piloted a number of initiatives in Asia, such as training on SESED (Self Employment and Small Enterprise Development for people with disabilities) and he was considered a “champion” of Delivering as One (UN), both in the ILO and in the UN country teams, particularly in Mozambique and Zambia.

Mr Finnegan discusses the beginnings of the ILO Women’s Entrepreneurship Development and Gender Equality Programme (WEDGE), which he created and managed. The programme opened access to markets for women entrepreneurs. WEDGE provided knowledge, advocacy and services and forged linkages with trade unions and employers. This paved the way for a series of partnerships with OECD and the African Development Bank. In this interview, Mr Finnegan speaks about the greatest challenges in Africa after the global financial crisis and its effects on employment and growth. He also talks about a more participatory approach to career development at ILO headquarters, and in the regional and field offices.

Key words
1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, 1995 World Summit for Social Development, 2000 Second OECD Conference on Women Entrepreneurs, African Development Bank, Asian financial crisis, child labour, China Enterprise Confederation/China Enterprise Directors Association (CEC/CEDA), Cooperative and Community Enterprise Research and Training Unit (CERTU), cooperatives, corporate social responsibility, Decent Work Country Programmes, Delivering as ONE, enterprises, entrepreneurship, Ernest Warburton award, Greater London Enterprise Board (GLEB), Growth-oriented women entrepreneurs (GOWE), ILO COOP, ILO EXREL, ILO PARDEV, ILO SEED Programme, ILO Skills and Employability Department (EMP/SKILLS), ILO Women’s Entrepreneurship Development and Gender Equality (WEDGE), Irish Aid, MDGs, Mondragon cooperative model, Multidisciplinary Advisory Teams, Northern Ireland Cooperative Development Agency (NICDA), Northern Ireland Youth Opportunities Programme (YOP), Self Employment and Small enterprise development for people with disabilities (SESED), The Troubles (Northern Ireland), UK’s Cooperative Development Agency (CDA), UN Resident Coordinator’s (UNRC), UNDP, volunteering, Womenable, World Day for Health and Safety at Work, Young Women’s Christian Association of Zambia (YWCA), Youth entrepreneurs association in Zambia, Northern Ireland Community Relations Commission (NICRC).

Names mentioned
Brech, E. F. L; Capt, Josiane; Estime, Marie-Florence; Forgues, Ginette; Goodale, Gretchen; Griffin K. Nyirongo; Henriques, Michael; Kaseketi, Cathrine Musola; Kenneth David Kaunda; Lawton, Ned; Lim, Lin; Mackie, Grania; McNally, John Henry; Melekh, Irina; Murray, Barbara Murray; O’Reilly, Aidan J; Rodgers, Brendan; Schwettmann, Jürgen; Simpson, Joni; Somavia, Juan; Theocharides, Stelios; Tuladhar, Jyoti; Valenzuela, Maria Elena; Weeks, Julie; White, Simon; Ying, Chen.

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