The International Labour Organization has elected Gilbert F. Houngbo, the former Prime Minister of Togo, as its 11th Director-General, to take office in October this year. He will be the first African to take the post.
Houngbo is currently President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a position he has held since 2017. He served as Prime Minister of Togo from 2008-2012, in the period after the massive internal conflict over the 2005 Togolese presidential election, and oversaw the extensive economic, political, and social reforms that followed. After concluding his term, he joined the International Labour Office, the ILO's permanent secretariat, as Deputy Director-General, before moving on to IFAD.
In his vision statement for the ILO, Houngbo said that a new global social contract is needed, one that will preserve and protect the progress made in social justice over the previous decades while centreing global solutions around human, environmental, economic and societal values, and proposed a global social justice programme that will strengthen the basis for labour laws in the post-pandemic world while addressing deficits in jobs and social protections.
Speaking subsequently after his election, he said: “I commit to represent the voices of those who rely on us in ILO. I’m thinking about the four billion people around the world who do not have access to social protection. I’m thinking about the 200-plus million of women and men who face unemployment. The 160 million children in child labour. The 1.6 billion people in the informal sector. The enterprises, particularly the small and medium sized enterprises that are facing supply chain disruption or closure due to crises’ including the pandemic, climate change and armed conflict. I’m thinking about the women and men who face discrimination, violence and harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. These are all expressions of unacceptable social injustice that we are morally if not legally bound to address.”
The ILO elects a new Director-General every 10 years. Votes are cast by the ILO’s Governing Body, comprising representatives of governments, workers and employers. Candidatures for the most recent election were called last July, and the other candidates were Kang Kyung-wha, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea; Mthunzi Mdwaba, Vice-President to the ILO, International Organization of Employers; Muriel Pénicaud, former Minister of Labour of France; and Greg Vines, former Minister (Labour), Australian Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva and Chair of the ILO Governing Body.
Photo: Marcel Crozet/ILO