Human Rights 75

Social Protection, Sustainable Development, and Right to Development

Statement by ILO Director-General, Gilbert F. Houngbo, at the Human Rights 75 - September Thematic Spotlight Discussion co organized by the ILO and the UN Human Rights Office.

Statement | Palais des Nations, Geneva | 25 September 2023
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start by thanking the High Commissioner and his Office for inviting me to speak to you today.

I welcome the opportunity because this subject is as important as it is timely.

We need to build a synergy between the human rights to development, sustainable development and social security, so that they complement and reinforce each other.

Creating that synergy, and converting it into concrete change, is essential if we are to achieve the SDGs.

This year we mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is a moment to reflect on how our organizations have and continue to contribute to turning the Universal Declaration’s promise of human rights into real change. We have a long history of working together to do this.

Since its founding, more than 100 years ago, the ILO has built its work around the premise that universal and lasting peace depends upon social justice, and that poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere.

To support this vision, the ILO has built a comprehensive body of international labour standards. In effect, these turn the promise of work-related human rights into concrete measures. They also create a foundation for the goal of decent work for all.

The human rights these standards guard are wide-ranging. They include:
  • the right to safe and healthy working conditions – which has now been recognized as a fundamental principle and right at work;
  • the right to fair wages, including equal remuneration for work of equal value;
  • the right to rest, leisure and a reasonable limit on working hours;
  • the right to maternity protection;
And, they also include the right to social security – which is what we are recognizing today.

In sum, human rights and international labour standards are two sides of the same coin.

As such, they demonstrate how decent work is both a pre-requisite for and a driver of sustainable development and social justice. This relationship can also be clearly seen in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its accompanying Goals.

Dear Colleagues,

We should be proud of the progress made on human rights in the last 75 years.

But, let us also acknowledge that much remains to be done if we are to achieve social justice, sustainable development and decent work.

Our world is grappling with multiple, interlinked crises and major transformations; created by technology, demographics and environmental change.

We need an inclusive and resilient recovery and a just transition towards a greener, fairer and human-centred future of work.

We need a form of sustainable development that ends poverty, leaves no one behind, and allows for the full enjoyment of human rights by everyone.

Thank you.