102nd International Labour Conference

Welcome remarks by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, to Her Excellency Dr Joyce Banda, President of the Republic of Malawi

Statement | Geneva, Switzerland | 12 June 2013
Your Excellency, Dr Joyce Banda, President of the Republic of Malawi – welcome to the International Labour Conference, and thank you for being with us today.

Madam President, permit me to frame your visit in the context of a proverb from your own country: MUTU IMODZI SUSENZA DENGA. For the rest of the Conference, this is “One head cannot support a roof.”

In the spirit of this proverb we welcome you sincerely to our tripartite house – the three pillars of which are central to holding up the roof of social justice and sustainable development.

And I think that I need to say welcome back – as an alumna of the ILO’s Turin Training Centre!

It comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed your life’s journey Madam President, that today you are at the helm of your country, leading the women and men of Malawi on a path that is already transforming its socio-political and economic landscape.

Some have described you as one of the most powerful women in Africa but your concern has always been the imperative of empowering others – whether it be women, young people, people living in poverty – and this driven by your vision that all can and all must prosper together and the need to tackle the workings of the system that produces vulnerability.

At the recent ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the African Union in Addis Ababa and at the Summit of Heads of State and Government, which I had the privilege to attend, you and other African leaders conveyed the strong message that your growth, the “African Renaissance” must be African-led, broad-based and inclusive, and that employment is the vehicle through which growth must translate into poverty eradication.

Your 2013-2018 Economic Recovery Plan sets out your strategy for the realization of that vision and it is a vision that is well illustrated in your approach to the particular issue of child labour.

So, let me say how fitting it is that you are with us today as we observe the World Day Against Child Labour. Your personal commitment to this fight is well known and you are backing it with strong political commitment and action. Particularly important is your recognition of the need to mainstream child labour in all development programmes through an integrated approach that ranges from education to social protection to jobs for the parents. We couldn’t agree more when you say that, and I quote, “Sustainable agricultural and rural development cannot be based on the exploitation of children, but it should aim to create decent work opportunities.”

Madam President, your resolve to pursue an inclusive growth path is reflected in initiatives to develop and implement a Social Protection Floor in line with the ILO’s Recommendation on this subject.

It is also expressed in your Government’s undertaking to reinforce support to the education sector and to improve skills to provide a productive underpinning to social and economic progress. In this regard I might point to your Action Plan on Skills for Employability and Productivity under the G20 initiative, for which Malawi is a pilot country.

Another important line of action is in the field of HIV and AIDS – including in the world of work. When the AU Summit designated you as the champion of HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis in the Southern Africa Development Council region, they undoubtedly recognized your role in Malawi’s achievements, for which we congratulate you.

Your contribution has, Madam President, without doubt played an important part in placing Malawi among the 15 African countries which have made the greatest progress on the MDGs globally.

Your Excellency,

You took office and the responsibility not only of a heavy development mission but also the task of building trust and restoring confidence.

The ILO is honoured to be a partner of Malawi and to work with your Government and our tripartite constituents as you strive for equitable development, “growing wealth as well as opportunities for hope and freedoms for all the Malawian people.”

Madam President, thank you for coming and we look forward to your message to our Conference.