Address by ILO Director-General Guy Ryder during the ceremony for the transfer of office at the ILO

Statement | Geneva | 30 September 2022
Mr Director-General Elect,
Dear Friends,

Today, the last day of my mandate as Director-General of the ILO, I have the honour and the pleasure of undertaking my final responsibility. It is that of passing the three keys which symbolize the tripartite authority in our Organization of the Governments, Employers and Workers of the world to my successor, the 11th Director-General, Mr Gilbert F. Houngbo.

This ceremony date back to 1926, and I have frequently quoted passages from the extraordinary oratory that marked that occasion. It is filled with symbolism and with history. And that makes it particularly appropriate that we are accompanied today by the 9th Director-General, Juan Somavia. Together there is at least a quarter century of ILO leadership in the room today.

When, 10 years ago, I received the three keys which are the centre piece of this event I said that when they turn together, when Governments, Employers and Workers are able to come together, doors open and social justice advances. People’s lives improve, our societies get better, the world becomes a bit safer.

I think that we all know that the foundations of the ILO’s first headquarters building have carved into them the rationale of the existence of our Organization: “If you seek peace cultivate justice”. What is less widely known is that this is a variation on a few older statement of a General of Roman antiquity who said “If you seek peace prepare for war”.

Looking at our circumstances today it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the world is heeding the Roman General rather than the founders of the ILO. That creates dangers for the world which are unprecedented in recent times and challenges to the values and mandate of the ILO.

And it is my sincerely held conviction that this makes this Organization more than ever a key player in the international system and a key partner for our Member States everywhere.

In a world which seems increasingly focused on the trivial the ILO must recenter attention on what is truly important. In a world which more than ever pursues the superfluous the ILO must prioritize the essential. And in a world that appears more and more inclined to act in ways which are manifestly unfair, it falls to the ILO to reinstate what is just.

Mr Director-General Elect,

On your election you spoke of the “troubled moment of history” through which we are living. You spoke of the “unacceptable social injustice that we are morally … bound to address”. And you spoke of the ILO’s obligation to insist on its common values of peace social justice and solidarity and the principle of tripartism.

And you spoke with all of the authority of the ILO’s first Director-General from Africa, of your many years of national and international leadership, of your professional and personal qualities and of your deep and obvious attachment to the ILO its goals and its values.

So it is with a genuine sentiment of pride, of friendship, and of confidence in the future of the ILO under your guidance that I end my mandate and in a few moments pass the baton – or the keys – into your hands.