The Centenary International Labour Conference got underway on Monday at the UN in Geneva, with ILO chief Guy Ryder,
calling on hundreds of delegates from around the world to help “construct a future of work, with social justice for
The Director-General of the International Labour Organization said that with the possible adoption of a landmark
declaration looking to the future, at a time of transformative change, it was time “to tell the world that we have the
confidence, the common purpose, the will and the means”, to continue making social justice a top priority.
“We will do so because labour is not a commodity. We will do so, because labour conditions with injustice, hardship and
privation, imperil the peace of the world”, he told the more than 5,000 delegates and dozens of world leaders in
Although this is the 108th International Labour Conference, often dubbed the ‘world parliament’ of the labour movement,
it comes in the ILO
’s centenary year
“The defining challenge of this conference comes from the fact that the ILO’s Centenary coincides with the most profound
and transformative process of the change in the world of work that it has ever seen,” said Mr. Ryder.
“There is nothing in these changes which questions the relevance of the ILO’s mandate or detracts from its importance.
If anything, the reverse is true,” he added.
In a meeting at UN Headquarters in New York to mark the event in April, UN chief
António Guterres noted that the ILO had played “a central role in the struggle for social progress”, throughout its
history, as the oldest family member of the entire UN system.
Since the digital economy operates in a world without border, he stressed that “more than ever”, international
institutions overall “must play a vital role in shaping the future of work we want”.
Mr Ryder said that a declaration focussed on social justice going forward was necessary because “freedom of association
and expression are essential to sustained progress.”
“We will do this together because poverty anywhere is a danger to prosperity everywhere”, added the ILO chief, “and we
will do it because the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of work obstructs other nations which wish to do
UN General Assembly President hails value of decent work
The President of the UN General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, also addressed the opening ceremony in Geneva,
quoting the words of the first Director-General Albert Thomas, who described the ILO as a “monument to peace and social
Acknowledging the ILO’s relevance to multilateralism, she reiterated the importance of decent work for the
implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and for addressing challenges such as child labour, forced
labour and modern slavery.
She added that decent work and gender equality are crucial steps to eradicate poverty and to reduce inequalities within
and among countries.
Approximately, two billion people depend on the informal economy to survive, and 780 million workers are living in
poverty. According to ILO, in 2016, the world had 24.9 million in forced labour. Out of this total, 16 million people
were exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture. The agency also notes that
women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour.