United Nations General Assembly

World Leaders Gather to Mobilize Solutions to Shape the Future of Work

World leaders called for bold, innovative action to implement a human-centered approach to the future of work.

News | 24 September 2019
On the occasion of the opening of the 74h session of the United Nations General Assembly, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Ford Foundation convened leaders from around the world to mobilize new solutions and innovation to shape the future of work. As a follow-up to the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, which called for strengthened investments in people’s capacities, institutions of work and sustainable and decent work, the Leaders’ Event gave governments and social partners the opportunity to take the next step in ensuring a prosperous, sustainable future of work for all.


The event had 200 participants, with opening remarks delivered by Mr. Darren Walker, the President of the Ford Foundation, and Mr. Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the ILO. In his opening remarks, Mr. Ryder recalled the United Nations (UN) has adopted a landmark resolution calling on Member States to implement the ILO Centenary Declaration and requesting UN entities to mainstream Decent Work in their operations. The resolution also request the UN Country Teams to consider the ILO Centenary Declaration in the elaboration on the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks.

In his keynote speech, H.E. Mr. Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden and co-chair of the Global Commission on the Future of Work, reiterated the importance of social dialogue, calling it a unique solution that provided benefits for everyone. He noted that the labour market would certainly continue to change, but an inclusive world of work would build trust and self-confidence and facilitate individuals’ contributions to society.
An equally optimistic view was expressed by H.E. Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia, as she emphasized that technology was both enhancing traditional jobs and creating new ones. Unprecedented labor mobility offered new opportunities and flexibility. Ms. Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and Mr. Roberto Suárez Santos, Secretary General of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) added to the discussion and highlighted the importance of stability, both for businesses and workers.

H.E. Mr. Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence (AI), United Arab Emirates, stated that governments had to ensure that AI had to work for generations to come, and its usage had to be sustainable and responsible. In the context of work in the digital age, Ms. Charlotte Kirby, Vice President Global Strategic Relations, Salesforce.org, reiterated the importance of lifelong learning, while Mr. Philip Jennings, Commissioner of the Global Commission on the Future of Work, called for better protection of the workforce.

In the panel on strengthening investments in people’s capacities, Ms. Shamina Singh, Founder and President of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and Executive Vice President of Sustainability, and Ms. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International, agreed that leaders and policy makers had to drive the path of technology; technology had to work for workers, not the other way around. Dr. Denise Rutherford, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, 3M, showcased some of the company’s efforts in shaping the future of work, including creating individual development plans for workers and increasing investments in reskilling.

While the participants at the Leaders’ Event shared concerns regarding unemployment, inequalities, low wages and skills gaps, they agreed that it was critical to have a human-centered approach to shape the future of work. A prosperous, sustainable future of work, with decent work at its core, was possible, but innovative rethinking of solutions was essential.