Geneva, Switzerland

6 June 2012

Secretary-General's video message to the International Labour Conference

Chairperson of the Conference, Dr Rafael Alburquerque, Vice Presidents of the Conference, Director-General Somavia,  Representatives of governments, employers and workers,  Distinguished guests,  Ladies and gentlemen,

The ILO is unique in the UN system.  Every year, at the International Labour Conference, the world sees your tripartite power on full display. 

Your gathering this year comes at a vital time. 

We are just days from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio. 

I am glad that you are using your own forum to send important messages about decent and productive work -- the imperative of youth employment – the crucial importance of social protection floors and fundamental rights at work.

I stand with you. 

In focusing on budget deficits, the world must not lose sight of the even more troubling deficits in decent work.

This year’s Labour Conference has a special meaning for me for another reason.  

It is the last with Juan Somavia at the helm.

I congratulate Guy Ryder on his victory.  I look forward to working closely with him. 

Director-General Somavia leaves much to build upon.

He has moved ILO issues to the heart of the global agenda.

Years before the financial crisis, Juan focused on the social dimension of globalization. 

Long before the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, Juan put the spotlight on people’s aspirations for a fair chance for dignity and a decent job.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Juan is “decent”. 

Not just because of the signature Decent Work Agenda. 

But even more, because of his strong sense of decency.  Compassion.  Heart.

And he has matched that decency with “work”.  Hard work.  Delivery.  Results.

Juan Somavia leaves behind a strong product line.  Decent Work Country Programmes.  The Declaration on Social Justice and a Fair Globalization.  The Global Jobs Pact.

His impact reaches far beyond the ILO.  He served twice as Chair of ECOSOC and President of the Security Council.  He was the driving force behind the World Summit on Social Development.  And he has been a pillar of the Chief Executives Board.

From his days fighting for democracy in Chile to his central involvement in the upcoming G20 and Rio meetings, Juan Somavia embodies the ILO’s motto: if you want peace, promote social justice.

I am proud to join with all of you in saying thank you. 

Un gran abrazo, Juan. 

Muchas gracias.