Clarence Wilfred Jenks

Director-General of the International Labour Organization, 1970-1973

Document | 08 February 2006

Clarence Wilfred Jenks (United Kingdom) joined the ILO in 1931 as a member of the Legal Division and served in turn as Legal Adviser, Assistant Director-General, Deputy Director-General, principal Deputy Director-General and from 1 June 1970, Director-General. During his career, Mr. Jenks took part in developing all the Organisation's main activities and played a leading role in strengthening its tripartite structure and traditions. In the space of forty years Mr. Jenks went on mission for the ILO to over ninety countries.

At the start of the second world war, Mr. Jenks was appointed Secretary of the Committee that arranged for the Office to continue functioning throughout the War. Jenks therefore worked closely with the two Directors who headed the Office during and just after the War - John Winant and Edward Phelan. With Phelan, he drafted the Declaration of Philadelphia in1944, which became part of the ILO Constitution and restated the Organisation's aims and purposes. Jenks was also appointed to the ILO delegation to the San Francisco conference which established the United Nations in 1945.

Before becoming Director-General, Wilfred Jenks had the main responsibility for many years for the ILO's activities in regard to international labour standards and human rights, and he played a major role in devising the diversified machinery for ensuring compliance with these standards. This machinery, widely recognised as the most advanced in international organisations, Jenks described as "a synthesis of boldness of conception with caution in execution." Jenks also played a critical role in launching the ILO's main operational programmes, and he liked to recall that he had been one of the ILO's first technical cooperation experts, having been sent on mission to Venezuela in 1938. He helped to establish close working relations between the UN agencies, expanded ILO activities in Latin America, Asia and Africa, and helped to develop the Programme of Industrial Activities and the ILO's procedures for safeguarding the rights of workers and employers to establish and join organisations of their own choosin.

As Director-General, Jenks was faced with a politicization of labour problems resulting from the East-West conflict. His profound knowledge of the Organisation served him well in this task, and he remained a firm advocate of human rights, the rule of law, tripartism and the moral authority of the ILO in international problems.

Wilfred Jenks was born in Liverpool on 7 March 1909 and educated at primary and secondary schools in the Liverpool area, the University of Cambridge and the Geneva School of International Studies. He was a Scholar of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and took a double first in history (1929) and law (1931). He was award the Cecil Peace Prize in 1928 for a study on international arbitration. He held honorary degrees from many universities throughout the world. He lectured at the British Academy and the Universities of Georgia and Yale and was five times visiting professor at the Hague Academy of International Law. He was one of the international advisers to the American Law Institute on the drafting of its Statement of Essential Human Rights, one of the texts which served as a basis for drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Wilfred Jenks died in Rome on 9 October 1973 at the age of sixty-four.