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October 1 2013

New Solutions Sought

Head of ILO outlines global work challenges and policymaking efforts

ILO Director-General Guy RyderInternational Labour Organization Director-General Guy Ryder described global challenges related to work and employment when he spoke at the Worker Institute at Cornell on Friday.

“The problem of joblessness is now recognized as a key, if not the key challenge of the future, and beyond that, the issue of inequality” said Ryder, former general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

In addition to 200 million unemployed people worldwide, he said, his organization is focused on issues related to the working poor, lack of quality work and the growth of inequality and informal work.

Despite growing recognition from governments and international organizations about problems of joblessness and inequality, he described the current responses as a ‘paradox, dilemma or challenge.’

Members of labor, workers’ rights and international law communities attended the event, held at the Cornell ILR Conference Center in New York City.Faculty and students at Cornell’s ILR School in Ithaca joined the event by videoconference. In all, about 60 people attended.

Ryder was in New York City last week to attend the United Nations’ General Assembly and to discuss the International Labour Organization’s views on the post-2015 development agenda.

“There are big problems out in the world that governments individually and collectively are struggling to address,” he said, referring to talks last week at the United Nations.

Ryder highlighted the challenge that climate change poses to workers and the economy, saying he believes aligning economic and social needs with environmental challenges will be a defining feature of the ILO’s work in the 21stcentury.

The International Labour Organization is a tripartite organization representing governments, employer representatives and worker organizations. It is tasked with creating international policy solutions to challenges facing the world of work.

Ryder spoke of his goal of making the organization he has led for almost a year a more influential organization and in increasing the influence of the ILO in international policymaking.

“The paradox is that at the same time that I hear national leaders and some international organizations regret this situation, almost in the same breath, you hear policy recommendations which to my mind can only exacerbate that situation,” Ryder said.

New solutions are needed, many of which may go against the policy solutions and orthodoxies of the past several decades, said Ryder.

During his presentation and the question-and-answer session that followed, Ryder outlined the labor organization’s main priorities and initiatives. New areas of “critical importance” include:

· creating policies that generate job growth
· addressing working conditions and standards of employment
· eliminating unacceptable forms of work such as child labor
· addressing issues of youth unemployment, informality and social protection

Ryder also described new initiatives -- women at work, the green initiative, addressing extreme poverty and engaging enterprises directly -- that have been developed in response to major political and policy challenges.

Worker Institute Co-Director Lara Skinner said, “I was pleased to hear the Director-General address many of the same issues and challenges that we are working on here at the Worker Institute. These include gender inequality and social equity at work, the rise of informal and precarious work, and climate change.”

From left, James Brudney, Fordham Law School; International Labour Organization Director General Guy Ryder, Cornell ILR School Dean Harry Katz and Karen Tramontano of Blue Star Strategies, LLC. In welcoming Ryder at the event, ILR Dean Harry Katz spoke of the many projects and partnerships that have developed over the years between the ILR School and the International Labour Organization.

“The ILO has provided us with a forum to do our work and to deepen our work,” said Katz, noting internships for students and numerous opportunities for faculty members.
 

For more information about the event, read A Vision for the Future of Work by the ILO and ILO: Orthadoxy Won't Help the Unemployed by Labor Press.