The World of International Organizations

Labor leaders see role in peace and justice

James Vibert's "The Human Effort" in Geneva's William Rappard Park outside the World Trade Organization (AN/John Heilprin)

GENEVA — Reflecting a world of instability and conflict, International Labor Organization Director-General Guy Ryder set a distinctly somber tone as he opened a one-day summit meant to explore the importance of decent jobs in building world peace, social justice and resilience.

The one-day summit was a highlight of ILO’s annual high-level International Labor Conference, which drew more than 5,000 people including world leaders and foreign ministers. ILO’s history is in many ways bound up with the quest to end world wars. Created in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, ILO was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on its 50th anniversary in 1969.

“We all have a stake in securing peace and resilience,” Ryder told participants in the “World of Work Summit,” webcast live from the United Nations’ sprawling European headquarters in Geneva’s Palais des Nations. “Disturbingly, I fear there are few signs of improvement in the near future.”

The setting for his speech — referencing war, disasters, hunger, climate change and trade tensions — was fitting. He spoke in the former home of the League of Nations, the international organization created in 1920 to prevent another world war. The United Nations replaced it after World War II.

“We are here today,” said Ryder, “because of the simple demand of hundreds of millions of women and men living in fragile and conflict-affected countries and disaster situations: the plea we hear time and again is for jobs, bread, freedom and dignity.”

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