Address by Mr Guy Ryder, Director-General upon his re-election by the ILO Governing Body for a second five-year term starting in October 2017

Statement | Geneva | 07 November 2016
I would like to thank the Governing Body for its confidence in electing me to serve for a second mandate as Director-General of our organization.

I owe particular gratitude to those who have nominated me – some of you on two occasions – or who have supported my candidacy.

It is a source of real satisfaction that – as the arithmetic of the election result shows – I have received the votes of members from all three groups. Governments, Employers, and Workers.

That gives me more than ever reason to repeat what I have said previously and consistently; that I will continue to assume my responsibility to work for all member States and for all group constituencies.

The message I take from today’s vote is that we are ready to come together, to work with joint endeavour towards a common purpose. If I am right in that interpretation it represents a major institutional asset for the ILO; Major political capital that we can and must use to best effect.

Throughout these last months, during the process leading up to this election I have done my best to convey to you some straightforward messages about what the ILO should do in the next five years, how it should do it, and why it is so important that we succeed.

The “what” can be easily stated. It is to make the ILO a more effective and more influential actor for social justice around the world. And when I say more influential, I don’t think we can settle for marginal change. We need to make the ILO a substantially more visible, more vocal protagonist in your countries and in the international system. How do we do that? By pressing forward with the pursuit of excellence as the basis of everything that we do – advocacy, policy advice, quality service provision - and being focussed and courageous enough to address the issues which really matter; the issues where the ILO can and must make a difference. We must innovate, as the ILO has always done, to be successful and we must never avert our eyes or turn our backs on any matter which makes a claim on our responsibilities simply because it is too difficult, too inconvenient, or beyond our zone of comfort.

And the reason why we must take up these challenges and must succeed in our work is that the realization of social justice opens up such extraordinary vistas for humanity while its denial presents us with real dangers – some of them already with us – for the stability of our societies and for the preservation of peace.

Whatever the future holds in store for us, much of it will be played out in the world of work. The world of work is not just where goods are made and services provided. It is there that social justice is hammered out, where progress is forged, and where our societies are moulded. But it is also there that injustice is perpetrated, minds and bodies broken, and inequity propagated.

Our presence here is witness to common commitment to the values and objectives of the ILO. It is witness too to the shared conviction that when the skills, and energies of Governments, employers and workers, each properly engaged in the defence of their own legitimate interests come together in tripartite process then we have every chance to construct the future that we want for ourselves, for each other, and for the next generations.

I have spoken to you and the others about the extraordinary challenges that result from the reality of unprecedented, transformative change in the world of work, change which seems to excite and to intimidate in more or less equal measure, but which in any case apparently unites us in the realisation that now is the time to reflect profoundly on the future of work.

The ILO’s Centenary, a little over two years away now provides us with the opportunity to do just that. Making sure that we use it fully, understanding that 2019 stands not only as a milestone from the ILO’s proud past but a signpost towards its future success, must surely stand as the loftiest of the mountains we need to scale in the years ahead.

And here again we will only get to the top if it is together. Mountaineers faced with a difficult climb rope themselves together. So it must be with the tripartite constituents of this house. We will reach the peaks or fall as one. All win, or all lose.

I see it in the same terms as we tackle all of the other tasks we have rightly set ourselves. The success of a sustainable enterprise generating decent work needs to be as much the concern of a worker representative as of an employer one, just as the protection of organising and bargaining rights is as much the task of the employer as it is of the worker.

In that spirit we can tackle, and tackle successfully, the crucial task of ensuring that the ILO’s standards related responsibilities are carried out fully. The normative backbone of the ILO must be strong, so that our Organisation stands tall and with authority in giving practical and global effect to its founding values, through the setting and supervision of its Conventions and Recommendations.

In that spirit we can steer the world of work along the path of just transition to an environmentally sustainable future.

In that same spirit we can make the opportunities of the world of work equal for all, regardless of gender, race, nationality or any other personal characteristic that is the business of nobody but ourselves.

And in that spirit, everything that tripartism offers can be brought to bear so that the ILO, strong from the lead it took in framing the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda will be a lead partner in the combined efforts of the multilateral system to make sure it is delivered. We owe it to our own mandate and to the UN system and its new leadership to not be found wanting in this.

Faced with these challenges, and being conscious of the responsibilities that go with them, it may be difficult not to be overawed. But it is more important to be ready and to be determined.

The last four years have been ones of reform and improvement in the ILO and that will continue. They have been years of learning for me. That I trust will go on too. They have also been years of coming together, of building bridges of understanding, compromise and convergence often from very divergent starting points on tough issues.

This has been the achievement of everybody here and those you represent, and I ask you to persist in your efforts so that more achievements will follow.

In return, I undertake to do my utmost to deserve the renewed confidence you have placed in me, to listen to you, to respond to what you tell me, and to work with the wonderful group of colleagues you give me the privilege to lead and on whose shoulders the burden of the ILO’s responsibilities to you collectively falls.

I thank you