From Oslo

ILO Director-General's closing remarks to the 9th European Regional Meeting

Statement | Oslo | 11 April 2013
ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder
Dear President, Delegates and Observers,

We are reaching the end of this 9th European Regional Meeting and I am pleased to have this opportunity to say a few words about what we have achieved and some words of appreciation too.

We have worked hard, and I believe we have worked productively with 38 Ministers and Vice-Ministers.

The fact that 41 member States have been represented at our meeting as well as many Employers’ and Workers’ leaders is testimony to the importance of the issues we have discussed.

Warm congratulations are due to you all for beating the target set for women’s participation in our meeting – women were 41.4 per cent of all participants. But as the Minister of Belgium rather pointedly reminded us – there did seem to be a lot of older delegates in the room, and the Irish Worker noted that there were not many from the ranks of the youth who figured so prominently in our debates. We need to think about that.

I said at the opening that we all had opportunities and responsibilities here in Oslo and together you have taken these opportunities, met those responsibilities – thank you.

Many of you have told me that you have found the working sessions and methods adopted here to have been good. We have had interactive and substantive debate in full meeting rooms. We have gained from the inputs of guests from international organizations including those responsible for financial matters.

Our panels have helped us do our work, rather than distracted us from it. And we held, to my mind, a really valuable informal ministerial meeting on the all important issue of youth employment in the margins of the Regional Meeting itself.

We can take some satisfaction from all of this, and I think that we have benefited considerably from the innovations that have made this 9th European Regional Meeting different from previous ones. We have made our reports shorter (and can do more in the future); we have made plenary sessions shorter and more interactive, and our “paper smart” approach with much less hard documentation being distributed has also made a difference.

Moreover, we have adopted Conclusions – the Oslo Declaration: “Restoring confidence in jobs and growth” which are short and to the point – concrete and actionable.

They are of course the most significant output of our work this week and the fact that they were not easy to agree is a reflection too of their importance. You did not side-step the difficult things and you have lived up to the challenge of providing the ILO with clear guidance about what you expect of its future work. And all of that in a single sheet of paper.

I want to assure you that we will be diligent in using the Oslo Declaration in formulating our ideas and activities in Europe as our own reform process advances, and also that we will be learning from the experience of this week to see how we can do still better in the future.

Now let me come to the “thank yous” that I want to say.

Firstly, you all know that a meeting like this only runs as smoothly and as successfully as it has because of the combined efforts of a large number of people – some of whom you have seen these last days, and some you have not.

I hope you will allow me to address my real appreciation to my ILO colleagues – from our European Regional team led by Director Susanne Hoffmann, from our Conference and Official Relations branches, our Legal Services, those responsible for the authoring, translation and production of documents (they have been working in Geneva as well as Oslo), our Protocol, Communications and our Security colleagues too. Our interpretation services have worked their usual magic in the cabins, allowing us to speak in our five official languages plus Portuguese and saving our blushes if we occasionally misspeak – as can happen. This ILO team has contributed I hope to a positive experience here in Oslo for you all.

But nothing would have been possible without the warm hospitality, efficiency, friendliness and generosity of our Norwegian hosts. I have come to understand over the years that it is part of the Norwegian way of doing things not to be too demonstrative, not to make a big fuss, but just to get things done – and done well.

But, as many of you have already done, and through our President who has kept us in order so efficiently, let me say on behalf I am sure of everybody here how much we have enjoyed and benefited from all of the support and kindness of the Norwegian Government, social partners and the Norwegian people who have looked after us.

The presence of Prime Minister Stoltenberg and of four Ministers at our Meeting has been an enormous honour for us and testimony to Norway’s commitment to the ILO and its values. Let me express thanks for the excellent cooperation with the Norwegian Ministers of Labour, Foreign Affairs, Development and Finance.

We have been accompanied by security personnel who with their smiles have made us feel good as well as safe, by hotel staff who have been admirable in keeping us comfortable and full of food, and conference organizers who have been first-class in their professionalism and responsiveness.

Add all of this up and we can all conclude that the kindness, efficiency and friendship of its people is as Norwegian as is salmon and brown cheese.

We are all looking forward I am sure to getting home – but are sorry to leave our Norwegian friends too.

To them – warm thanks.

And to you all – a safe journey to your homes.