Special Representative to the UN and Director of the ILO Office for the United Nations
Special Representative to the UN and Director of the ILO Office for the United Nations since the 15th of July 2023. Prior to her appointment to lead the ILO Office in New York, she worked as the Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, based at the ILO in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Ms. Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon joined the ILO in 1995 and has undertaken different responsibilities in the field and Geneva, including Deputy Regional Director for Africa, Chief of the ILO Programming Unit for Africa and Deputy Director of the ILO Office in Pretoria.
As a member of the ILO senior management team, with a special focus on Africa, Ms Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon has played an important role in the development and implementation of regional strategies to deliver high quality decent work results that advance social justice as well as foster opportunities for regional cooperation; particularly with the African Union, African Development Bank and Regional Economic Communities, while building strategic alliances throughout the region. She served, along with the African Development Bank President, on the UNECA supported High-level Panel on Migration chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
A committed facilitator of strategic collaboration between UN agencies and regional institutions like the African Union, Ms Samuel-Olonjuwon effectively led the AU/ILO/IOM/ECA team that developed the Joint Programme on Labour Migration Governance for Development and Integration in Africa (JLMP), which was adopted by African Heads of States in 2015. This joint programme has led to a strengthened the strategic collaboration between the AU, ILO, IOM and other partners to improve the effective governance of labour migration in the continent, and from Africa to other regions such as Europe and the Middle East. It also supports the achievements of the First Ten Year Implementation Plan (2013 to 2023) of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Among many other pioneering initiatives, she is strategically leading the ILO/ITU/AU Joint Programme on Boosting Decent Jobs and Enhancing Skills for Youth in Africa’s Digital Economy. The vision of the programme is to enable more African young people to access decent work in the digital economy. With a holistic approach that addresses the labour market supply side, the labour market demand side as well as labour market intermediation, the programme provides the comprehensive support that enable the initial nine target African countries to maximize the decent work opportunities for young women and men.
Ms Samuel-Olonjuwon holds a BSc in Sociology (1980) and a Masters’ Degree in Industrial and Labour Relations from the University of Ibadan in 1982. With about 40 years’ experience in the world of work, she had worked as Assistant Director in the Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA). Prior to that, she was a Senior Researcher and Trainer at the National Institute for Labour Studies, and had been a Lecturer on Gender Issues, Industrial Sociology and Group Dynamics at the Ahmadu Bello University. During her stint in the academia, she was appointed to the Board of the International Sociological Association (Research Committee on Women in Society) from 1986 to 1990.
Ms Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon’s exemplary leadership has been recognized beyond the UN, she was named as one of the 100 Most Influential African Women in 2019 by Avance Media.
Ms Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon is from Nigeria.
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