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Day 2: 108th International Labour Conference

Huge turn-out of world leaders at Centenary International Labour Conference

Dozens of world leaders are attending the 108th session of the International Labour Conference, which marks the 100th anniversary of the ILO. The two-week Conference has a strong focus on the future of work, but also on violence and harassment at the workplace.

News | 11 June 2019
GENEVA (ILO News) – Some two dozen heads of state and government addressed the International Labour Conference (ILC) in the first two days of its Centenary session, with about as many more still to appear before the plenary.

Speaking at Tuesday’s plenary session of the Conference, which runs from June 10 to 21, the leaders of 10 states reaffirmed their commitment to the ILO’s principles of social justice and highlighted the importance of addressing the challenges of a rapidly changing world of work.

The President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, said: “One hundred years ago, in the midst of chaos, but at the dawn of rapid technological and social change, the world witnessed the creation of the ILO. This institution was to assist the world to bounce back from the destruction and despair inflicted by war, and to make human dignity and social justice the driving force of reconciliation and development. And it did.”

The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, told the conference that, “the challenges the ILO has to address today are much more diverse and complicated than the challenges it had to face 100, 50 or even 10 years ago…a new digital era, new types of business, and climate change. These challenges require the constant evolution and upgrading of ILO’s activities and policies.” Expressing his support for the human-centred agenda proposed by the Global Commission on the Future of Work, he said, “it is my strong and firm belief that it is only by collectively adhering to these principles that we can achieve growth, social justice and prosperity for current and future generations.”

King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Eswatini said: “As we celebrate this centenary, we are alive to the realities and the challenges of a rapidly changing world of work as a result of technological advances.” He praised the Global Commission on the Future of Work “for compiling the Future of Work report with clear proposals to guide member States on how to deal with the complex issues presented by the evolving world of work. We are particularly impressed with the report’s emphasis on human-centred development.”

Describing the ILO as one of the most “influential global structures”, the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, told delegates that, “we share the mission and objectives of the ILO, and we express solidarity with the position that our shared task is to make labour in the 21st Century a way for humans to unleash their potential.” He said, “Russia knows, based on its own experiences, that it is necessary to professionally and timely respond to social changes, the new demands of society and the needs of workers, because ignoring these challenges always leads to lamentable ramifications.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the conference: “We need social peace, we need fair conditions of labour, we need the preservation and respect of human dignity. The ILO has achieved a lot – sincere congratulations on this – but still a lot remains to be done. And so, I hope and trust that what has already been achieved will spur you on to continue to work with dynamism and vigour and really throw yourself into this task and into this work.” Referring to World Day against Child Labour, marked on June 12, and the ILO’s role in fighting this scourge, she said, ”all over the world, 152 million children are forced to work, roughly half of them under the age of five….That is certainly unacceptable and we have to tackle this together.”

The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, delivered a strong endorsement of the ILO’s tripartite methodology. “This can be difficult, it can be demanding, sometimes we have to accept that decision-making can take a long time, but it makes it possible to get solid results.” He added, “refusing to give up, acting responsibly, building international solidarity step by step, through law and dialogue, this is the spirit of your organization….A double heritage and a responsibility for us to continue.”

The President of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina hailed those he called “the benefactors of humanity.” Madagascar, he said, “pays tribute to the men and women ... who have fought with all their strength and conviction to build a world of work that is just, decent, that values human beings, and which favours personal growth and well-being for all generations since 1919.”

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Tunisia, Youssef Chahed, praised the ILO for its history of fighting poverty, promoting social justice, and helping countries develop their economies. "We will only achieve sustainable development if we respect human dignity, if we ensure there is a fabric that supports social justice," he said. "Tunisia is striving to implement the principles of decent work in every part of the economy, ensuring social dialogue and social protection... The country is making progress. Slowly but surely it is on the right path for establishing social development and social justice."

The President of Malta, George Vella, called the ILO a prime example of effective multilateralism. “In the present international context where multilateralism is being put into question, this organization stands out – not merely as a success in itself, but also as an affirmation of the crucial role that the United Nations still holds, not only in the international arena but also in directly improving the well-being of our citizens through the enforcement of social justice and egalitarianism.”

The Vice President of Peru, Mercedes Rosalba Aráoz Fernández, spoke of the transformations underway in the world of work. She said, “we must sieze the opportunities arising ... to create a more promising future, one which allows us to reinvigorate the social contract. She added, “Today’s skills will not be in line with tomorrow’s jobs. New skills may quickly be left behind... This calls for a revolution in our education system, including the world of work as a source for updating labour skills.”

Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec stressed the need to ensure that technological progress benefits everyone. “Through joint efforts, we have to prevent that the fruits of technological progress ... are grabbed only by a few, leaving the majority with leftovers. We need a comprehensive approach to achieve this major goal, an approach based on a human-centred agenda.”

The Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, addressed the challenges the world of work faces. “Climate change, demographic evolution, migration and changes in the organization of work will affect all our societies, all organizations, all workers and all enterprises... I fully support what Director-General Guy Ryder said, that social dialogue was, is, and will remain the key to forge the future of work. So we need to reinforce it and improve it to adapt to a changing world.”

The two Captains Regent of San Marino, Nicola Selva and Michele Muratori, took turns to present their joint address. Muratori said the future of work “must involve renewed and strengthened dialogue and exchange of views aimed at establishing shared principles." Selva called the ILO, “one of the brightest lights worldwide in the search for peace and prosperity.”

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Theresa May, told delegates they had a “moral duty” to “address a relic from the past, modern slavery”. She described it as a global epidemic that “reaches into every corner of our lives – in the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the services we pay for... No leader worthy of the name can look the other way while men, women and children are held against their will, forced to work for a pittance for no pay at all, routinely beaten, raped and tortured”. She concluded, “a future in which modern slavery becomes a thing of the past ... that is the future of work we can and must deliver.”

About two dozen more dignitaries are scheduled to address the ILO’s annual meeting, often known as the world parliament of labour. Nearly 6,000 delegates – representing governments, workers and employers – are discussing how to forge a future of work that offers social justice and decent work. They will also discuss a possible new standard on violence and harassment at the workplace.