VI. Promotion of Decent Work (1999-2012)
ILO Director-General: Mr. Juan Somavia (1999-2012)
In June 1999, in his report submitted to the first International Labour Conference after his inauguration as ILO Director-General, Mr. Juan Somavia proposed the ILO’s goal for the 21st century, which is to secure “decent work” for all. With gender equality as the cross-cutting policy, and with standards and rights, employment, social protection, and social dialogue as the four pillars, it was decided to promote initiatives to achieve the overall goal. As the foundation for these initiatives, the “ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization” was adopted at the International Labour Conference in 2008. In November of the same year, during his first visit to Japan after his inauguration as ILO Director-General, Mr. Somavia gave a lecture to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ILO Association of Japan.
In January 2001, Ms. Mitsuko HORIUCHI, Regional Director, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, was appointed as Special Regional Advisor on Gender Issues and Director of the ILO Tokyo Branch Office (2001-2005). With this appointment, the ILO Tokyo Branch Office left the control of the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and started to report directly to the Director-General. In 2002, the ILO designated June 12 as the “World Day against Child Labour,” and since then, it has hosted special events to draw public attention to this issue and ILO’s initiatives toward it in various places of the world. Japan, too, has recently seen photo exhibitions focusing on child labour and special events held with the cooperation of NGOs and other partners before, on, and after the World Day each year. On April 1, 2003, as a result of reorganization of the ILO’s regional structure with a view to attaining more consistent and efficient operation, the ILO Tokyo Branch Office was renamed the ILO Office in Japan (ILO-Tokyo). In 2010, it was renamed the ILO Office for Japan.
In May 2003, the Japanese government decided to contribute approximately 1.21 million dollars to assist the ILO project on “Prevention of trafficking in children and women at a community level in Cambodia and Viet Nam” through the United Nations Human Security Fund. Its financial support through the Fund continued in subsequent years for similar projects, including one to improve the situation of children at risk of labour in Senegal and one for regional development in conflict areas of the Philippines. In December of the same year, with the cooperation of the University of Tokyo, an ILO social policy lecture was given under the theme of “New Forms and Meaning of Work in an Increasingly Globalized World,” and this was the first of its kind to be held in Japan. It was the sixth in the series of lectures given biannually under the co-sponsorship of the ILO and one of the world’s leading universities using interest on the endowment fund of the Nobel Peace Prize received by the ILO in 1969. With Prof. Ronald Dore of the University of London as its key lecturer, the ILO event featured lectures by distinguished academics from Japan and the rest of the world.
In December 2004, Mr. Somavia, ILO Director-General, made his second visit to Japan to give a keynote speech at the Symposium on Globalization and the Future of Youth in Asia, which was hosted by the ILO jointly with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the United Nations University. In September 2005, as one of its projects to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its re-opening, the ILO Office in Japan (former ILO Tokyo Branch Office) organized a photo exhibition to present the history of the ILO and a symposium entitled “Changing World of Work and the ILO Today.”
In January 2006, Mr. HORIUCHI was replaced by Mr. Shinichi HASEGAWA, Regional Director, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, as Director of the ILO Office in Japan (2006-2012)
In April 2008, the ILO and the Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) set up a fact-finding mission for the first time, and the mission visited Japan for investigation. It was organized in response to the complaint filed by several organizations of teachers in Japan, including the All Japan Teachers and Staff Union (ZENKYO), about the alleged failure of the Japanese government to follow the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, 1966 as it implemented the policy to deal with teachers lacking in teaching competence and the new teacher evaluation system. The team of investigators collected the opinions of the government, teachers’ organizations, and experts in various parts of the country and submitted its report, including specific recommendations on evaluation of teachers’ ability and performance, consultations, and negotiations, to the 303rd session of the Governing Body held in November of the same year for deliberation. In May of the same year, Mr. Somavia, ILO Director-General, attended the G8 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting held in Niigata and delivered a speech focusing on the Green Jobs Initiative, which called for a just transition to environmentally friendly and economically sustainable employment. Prior to this ministerial meeting, the ILO invited the participants of the preparatory meeting for the G8 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting to the international symposium entitled “Changing World of Work and Future Labour Policy - Decent Work for All towards a Resilient and Sustainable Society” which it held in Tokyo in February, and then hosted the Research Conference: Green Jobs for Asia and the Pacific in Niigata in April.
The year 2009 marked the 35th anniversary of the commencement by the Japanese government of support for ILO’s technical cooperation projects through funding and the provision of human resources. In June, the ILO signed a memorandum of agreement with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare on a new framework for future development cooperation, and the ILO and the Ministry co-organized a commemorative exhibition at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva. The year also marked the 90th anniversary of the ILO’s establishment, and on April 27, as part of the celebrations held worldwide, a commemorative symposium was organized in Tokyo jointly by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, RENGO, Keidanren, the ILO Office in Japan, and the ILO Association of Japan with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the theme of “Challenges towards Decent Work for All - Decent Jobs and Workplaces under the Global Economic Crisis.” At the 99th Session of the International Labour Conference in 2010, Mr. Shigeru NAKAJIMA, a then member of the ILO Governing Body and Advisor on International Affairs at RENGO, was elected as Workers’ Vice President.
Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011, Mr. Somavia, ILO Director-General, sent a letter of condolence to leaders of the government as well as workers’ and employers’ organizations, including Prime Minister Naoto KAN, expressing profound condolences to the Japanese people and informing them that ILO was ready to provide as much support as it could. At the end of April 2011, the ILO Association of Japan, which had been engaged in activities such as disseminating the ILO principles for more than six decades since its foundation in 1949, disbanded, and former members of the ILO Governing Body called for establishment of a Japan Association for Advancement of ILO Activities, tripartite constituents consisting of government, workers' and employers' representatives, which succeeded the ILO Association of Japan. The newly established Association was certified as an NPO organization in August. In December of the same year, Japan hosted the first ILO Regional Meeting in 43 years. Mr. Yoshihiko NODA, Prime Minister of Japan, delivered a speech at the opening ceremony of the 15th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting. Ms. Yoko KOMIYAMA, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, and Mr. Takaaki SAKURADA, Advisor on International Affairs at RENGO, were elected as Chairperson and Workers’ Vice President, respectively. Participants discussed a wide range of issues to realize decent work in the region.