The International Labour Organization’s 10th Director-General, Guy Ryder concluded his 10-year term in office on 30 September and handed the keys of office to his successor, Gilbert F. Houngbo.
The three keys represent the ILO’s unique tripartite structure in which Governments, Workers and Employers play an equal role in decision-making.
Ryder was elected Director-General by the ILO’s Governing Body in May 2012 and was re-elected for a second five-year term starting in 2017.
“In a world that appears more and more inclined to act in ways which are manifestly unfair, it falls to the ILO to reinstate what is just,” said Ryder during the handover ceremony. “It is with a genuine sentiment of pride, of friendship, of solidarity and of confidence in the future of the ILO under your guidance that I end my mandate b passing the baton into your hands.”
Speaking at the same ceremony, Houngbo said, “I salute your uncompromising commitment to the ILO’s founding values, your resolute pursuit of technical excellence within the organization’s mandate and your constant respect for our tripartite constituents as a source of insight available uniquely to the ILO. These are qualities I will seek to emulate as I embark on the mandate that has been bestowed upon me.”
During his term as Director-General, Ryder strove to ensure the ILO protected and defended the rights of all workers – particularly the most vulnerable. A series of ILO recommendations was adopted aimed at tackling forced labour, protecting the world’s poorest workers in the informal economy, and rebuilding the world of work in countries recovering from war and natural disasters.
Other major achievements came in 2015, when – following a worldwide ILO campaign – the UN General Assembly adopted Sustainable Development Goal 8 on Decent Work for All; and in 2020, when the ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) became the first Convention to be universally ratified by all 187 ILO Member States.
Ryder’s strong leadership and personal commitment to combatting sexual violence and harassment was key to getting the ground-breaking Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190) adopted. Convention No. 190 is the first international instrument to address the issue of violence and harassment in the world of work.
Ryder also undertook far-reaching measures to ensure the ILO was equipped to face contemporary and future challenges, including the establishment of the high-level Global Commission on the Future of Work, which met from 2017 to 2019. In the ILO’s centenary year, 2019, the International Labour Conference (ILC) adopted the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, which drew heavily on the Commission’s recommendations and established a road map for the Organization.
An important focus of Ryder’s mandate was maximizing the ILO’s contribution to the battle against climate change by achieving a just transition. The ILO was asked to lead the Climate Action for Jobs Initiative, launched by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. The ILO now coordinates the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions, established by the Secretary-General in 2021.
After steering the ILO through the COVID-19 crisis, Ryder led the ILC’s adoption of the Global Call to Action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, in 2021.
Ryder’s final ILC, in 2022, took the historic decision to classify occupational safety and health as a fundamental right at work.
Gilbert F. Houngbo was elected as the Organization’s 11th Director-General in March 2022, by the ILO’s Governing Body. His term in office starts on 1 October 2022. ILO Directors’-General serve a maximum of two five-year terms.