The Centenary of the ILO 100 years after having overcome a number of crises / Takayuki Ando
Category : Centenary - Testimonials
While we all celebrate the Centenary of our mother organization ILO from the bottom of our heart, we must not forget the fact that the long roads which our organization has travelled in the past 100 years were not necessarily always flat and easy. The ILO has experienced, not only the very hard years during the Second World War; forcing the Office to implement 90 per cent staff cut (from 400 to 40) and take refuge in Montreal, but also many other serious difficulties during its long history.
Due to the limit set to the space available for each contribution, I can only briefly touch on these. One of the most serious and long lasting difficulties the ILO bad to face was the confrontation between the “universarism” and the “tripartitism”, both basic principles on which our organization needs to function. The sharp difference of opinions on this issue and the hard antagonism mainly between the employers group (and some governments, particularly the USA) on the one side , and the then Eastern countries on the other, very much disturbed the smooth functioning of the lLO, particularly the normal working of annual conferences and other tripartite meetings, for many years, in fact since the mid-1930s when the USSR joined the ILO, until early 1990s when the East and West confrontation was finally dissolved.
Some of the other serious difficulties the ILO had to face, as far as I have personally experienced, were the introductions of certain political issues into the ILO stages, causing serious confusion at annual Conferences, first in 1963~64 due to the confrontation among Member States regarding the problem of racial discrimination “Apartheid” in South Africa. I still recall vividly the big noise and shouting for and against the matter in the Conference hall of the Palais des Nations. Then a little later, in early 1970s, the hard accusation against the ILO by the USA regarding the so-called “politicalization of the ILO”, in connection with the conflicts among Member States regarding the issue of Palestine~Israel relationship, etc., which led to the USA’s suspension of its payment of annual contribution and finally to its withdrawal from the ILO for several years (1977~80).
This required the Office to take various hard measures for the economization of its activities, including staff cuts. In these difficult years the great efforts made first by Mr. Jenks, and after his tragic death, by Mr. Blanchard to maintain the unshakable position of the ILO must not be forgotten.
The ILO can function effectively only with a harmonious and orderly situation in the world. Let us recall afresh the words inscribed on the foundation stone of the old Office building (in Latin), stating “If you want peace, cultivate social justice”, and also the words in the Preamble to the ILO Constitution, namely, “Universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice”.
ILO official from 1956-86