The International Labour Organization (ILO) has been “a trusted voice” to “ensure social justice in every corner of our world”, Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday, at a high-level meeting to commemorate the centenary of what was the first ever United Nations agency.
The ILO was born out of the rubble of the First World War, as the victors met to draw up the Treaty of Versailles, where they affirmed the need for social justice in the service of a “universal and lasting peace”.
The UN chief painted a picture of a time of upheaval, when newly-emboldened labour unions in many parts of the world, demanded fair treatment, dignity at work, adequate wages and an eight-hour working day.
“The nations of the world knew they must cooperate to make it happen”, Mr. Guterres said, adding that despite being the oldest UN family member, “ILO remains to this day one of the most unique gathering spaces in the international system”, as well as “a source of strength and legitimacy”, where workers, employers and governments can seek solutions through dialogue.
“Let us make the most of this pivotal anniversary to renew our collective commitment to international cooperation, peace and social justice”, concluded the Secretary-General.
General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa commended ILO for its many “firsts”, including “the need to give workers a stake in decision-making that matches their essential contribution to lasting peace and prosperity”.
Dubbing ILO “the most positive and enduring product of the Treaty of Versailles”, the Organization’s Director-General Guy Ryder called it “the first step in the construction of the multilateral system, and a forebearer of today’s United Nations”.