Articles: Message69

Angela Merkel awarded in Geneva the Nansen Prize for 2022

Category : Archives , Message69

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel received the Nansen Prize from UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on 10th October 2022 in Geneva.

The Award is given to an individual, group or organization who has gone beyond the call of duty to protect refugees, internally displaced or Stateless people.

Angela Merkel was named winner of the prestigious Nansen Award, for offering a haven to over 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence at the height of the Syrian conflict, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said.

Each year, the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award – named after the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, scientist, diplomat and first High Commissioner for Refugees in the League of Nations, from 1920 to 1930, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922.

It is also 100 years since the creation of the Nansen passport, an identity document for refugees that enable holders to move across borders in search of work.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi lauded Ms. Merkel for displaying “great moral and political courage” in helping so many survive and rebuild their lives, who had been forced to flee brutal fighting at home.

In her acceptance speech, Ms. Merkel stressed that that she rejected the selfish instincts of some “with cold hearts”, who wanted Germany to be only for Germans.

“What is important is a future for the country to be self-confident and free”, a Germany which “is open to other human being [… and] can succeed if we do our best”, she said.

The former German Chancellor insisted that the accolade was “also an honour for all the people who have to grips with the tasks we faced.” “My thanks goes first and foremost to all those people”, she said.

Angela Merkel quoted Erich Kästner: “There is nothing good unless you do it.” At the time, many people in the cities and communities as well as many volunteers contributed to meeting the challenges. “From my point of view, this tribute is therefore addressed above all to the countless people who put their hand to the dough at the time, to whom we owe it to have mastered the situation, to have succeeded,” Merkel said.

For UNHCR, this distinction is above all that of “true leadership, appealing to our common humanity, firmly opposing those who preach fear and discrimination. In helping more than a million refugees survive and rebuild, Angela Merkel has shown great moral and political courage,” said Grandi. “Merkel has shown what can be achieved when politicians take the right course of action and strive to find solutions to the world’s challenges rather than simply blaming others,” Grandi added.

Ivan Elsmark
(UNHCR and Internet information)

Nobel Peace Prize for 2022

Category : Message69

The Nobel Peace Prize has this year been awarded to one individual and two to human rights advocates: Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organisation Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organisation Centre for Civil Liberties organisations.

The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. For many years, they have promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.  “The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honour three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence in the three neighbouring Belarusians, Russia and Ukraine,” said its president Berit Reiss-Andersen.

Ales Bialiatski was one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s. He has devoted his life to promoting democracy and peaceful development in his home country. Among other things, he founded the organisation Viasna (spring) in 1996 in response to the controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president, dictatorial powers and that triggered widespread demonstrations. Viasna provided support for the jailed demonstrators and their families. In the years that followed, Viasna evolved into a broad-based human rights organisation that documented and protested against the authorities’ use of torture against political prisoners.

Government authorities have repeatedly sought to silence Ales Bialiatski. He was imprisoned from 2011 to 2014. He was again arrested, following large-scale demonstrations against the regime in 2020. He is still detained without trial. Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus.

The Centre for Civil Liberties was founded in Kyiv in 2007 for advancing human rights and democracy in Ukraine. The centre has taken a stand to strengthen Ukrainian civil society and pressure the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy. To develop Ukraine into a state governed by rule of law, the Centre for Civil Liberties has actively advocated that Ukraine become affiliated with the International Criminal Court.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Centre for Civil Liberties has engaged in efforts to identify and document Russian war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population. In collaboration with international partners, the centre is playing a pioneering role with a view to holding the guilty parties accountable for their crimes.

Human rights activists in the former Soviet Union who wanted to ensure that the victims of the communist regime’s oppression would never be forgotten established the human rights organisation Memorial in 1987. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov and human rights advocate Svetlana Gannushkina were among the founders. Memorial is based on the notion that confronting past crimes is essential in preventing new ones.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Memorial grew to become the largest human rights organisation in Russia. In addition to establishing a centre of documentation on victims of the Stalinist era, Memorial compiled and systematised information on political oppression and human rights violations in Russia. Memorial became the most authoritative source of information on political prisoners in Russian detention facilities. The organisation has also been standing at the forefront of efforts to combat militarism and promote human rights and government based on rule of law.

By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 to Ales Bialiatski, Memorial and the Centre for Civil Liberties, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honour three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence in the neighbour countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Through their consistent efforts in favour of humanist values, anti-militarism and principles of law, this year’s laureates have revitalised and honoured Alfred Nobel’s vision of peace and fraternity between nations – a vision most needed in the world today.

Ivan Elsmark
(UNHCR and Internet sources)

List 2022 of former officials who died

Category : Message69

Personnes décédées: informations transmises par le BIT depuis janvier 2022

Le Bureau de la Section des Anciens adressent ses condoléances aux familles des personnes décédées, étant dans l’impossibilité d’envoyer des condoléances plus personnalisées.

Information communicated by the Office since January 2022

In memoriam: The Bureau of the Section of Former Officials of the ILO Staff Union extends its sincere condolences to the bereaved families of the colleagues whose names are listed below, as it is currently impossible to send more personalised condolences.

Mme AMO Mary Elizabeth 09.06.21
M. ANNONI Alberto 13.08.22
Mme AUBRY Suzanne 10.04.22
M. BAKRI Abdullahi 10.07.21
M. BASTARD Thierry G. 02.12.21
M. BONADEI Giovanni 08.10.22
Mme Vve BREDE Ilse 27.01.22
Mme BIGNENS Jacqueline 23.10.21
M. BRUNELLO Antonio 16.11.22
M. CHAPERON Claude 03.07.22
Mme CLARKE Barbara 10.01.22
Mme CRIBELLIER Denise 07.01.22
Mme CUVILLIER Rolande 09.06.22
Mme DAURAU Marguerite 26.12.21
M. DAVERIO Pierre 28.05.22
Mme DE BENEDETTI Agnès 22.02.22
Mme DOSSO Christiane 06.03.22
M. FALAIZE Robert 27.02.22
Mme FINKELSTEIN Caroline 16.07.22
Mme FLATEAU Mildred 15.11.22
M. FRICK Hans-Jürgen 11.07.22
M. FURTH Warren 30.06.22
M. GEMMET Yvon Sr. 01.03.22
Mme GUERTCHAKOFF Marianne 08.10.22
M. HABTE MARIAM Haile Michael 15.01.22
Mme HARTSHORN Judith 06.03.22
M. HOSSENMAMODE Hakim 09.02.20
Mme JENKS Jane 13.07.22
Mme JORDAN Margaret 29.06.22
M. KABELKA Vladimir 24.02.22
M. NARASIMHAN Krishnamurti 04.09.22
M. LESUEUR DE GIVRY Jean-Marie 05.04.22
M. MCDONALD Robert 02.07.22
Mme Vve MEYLAN Jeannine 23.01.22
Mme MITCHELL Monica Th. 27.05.22
Mme MONAT Mariana 17.10.22
Mme Vve PALLUD-GARIN Violette 18.05.22
Mme Vve PANT Bhagwati Devi 01.02.22
Mme Vve PUYSSEGUR Marie-Rose 21.09.22
M. QUINTER FERRO Carlos Arturo 07.06?22
M. RAM Balak 01.09.22
Mme RATAJSKI Charlotte 13.12.21
M. RICHARD KEITH Johanson 06.03.22
Mme RIVA Maria 25.12.21
M. RYS Vladimir 15.05.22
Mme ROSSI Christiane 08.04.22
Mme SHACKLADY Barbara Joan 24.11.22
M. SCHULZ Hans Dieter 01.02.22
M. SCHREGLE Johannes 27.04.22
Mme TAMISIER-CAZELAIS Suzanne 25.05.22
M. TCHAPTCHET Jean Martin 19.11.22
Mme THEVENOT Clorinda 20.02.22
Mme THOMPSON Joyce Mary 04.06.22
M. THUKRAL Tilak Raj 17.02.22
M. THULLEN George 17.08.22
Mme UMPLEBY Evelyne Cécile 03.08.22
Mme URIZAR Patricia 18.09.22
Mme VAN ZWEEDEN Cornelia 16.09.22
M. VITEK Jan 15.11.22
Mme WANNAZ Marie-L. 03.01.22
M. WEDER Gérald 04.02.22
M. ZHANG Jiawang 07.02.22
M. ZWAHLEN Gerald Marcel 19.10.22







Tribute to Hélène Pour: EARLY RETIREMENT- More work or something new?

Category : Message69

Coping admirably with complications of a lung disease, Hélène Pour left us on 8 April 2022, shortly after her 81st birthday. Her final message was “Toujours à la recherche d’un monde meilleur” She insisted that there be no ceremony or speeches. In lieu of those formalities, this tribute presents a short recap of her ILO journey and nearly 30 years of her retirement.

Many of us wonder what retirees do after the ILO. Do they (or we) wander from the familiar path followed throughout a career? What particular goals motivate them (or us) to turn to new horizons? This is one story, certainly among many, and a simple way to say adieu to a dear friend and colleague.

Hélène joined the ILO in 1965 in the Press Department. She loved to write – and somehow managed to keep most of her work (philosophical and political musings and poetry) to herself, which we discovered after she died. But as a young official she quickly worked for UNION on the editorial board. Her articles were sprinkled throughout issues of UNION in the late1960s and the 1970s. Her interviews gave the staff insights into the backgrounds and personalities of new high level officials (Bertil Bolin and Albert Tevoedjre) and a personal exchange with David Morse on art in 1970. She organized a round table of “young professionals” to discuss their attitudes to and expectations of work in the ILO, and wrote a long summary (UNION no. 11 & 12). This summary intrigued Francis Blanchard, who later made it a point to seek out the work of young professionals. When equality of treatment and opportunity for women came to the fore in the 1980s, Hélène interviewed Antionette Beguin who had led a task force, which included SUC members, The Task Force recommendations had little impact for many years, but laid the basis for later progress.

On the professional front, Hélène was never far from information, education and communication (IEC). From writing extracts on vocational training and editing reports on management development, she moved to Workers’ Education with a UNFPA funded programme and later to the Employment Department. Developing and producing educational and communication materials on population issues, conducting training programmes in many countries in Asia and Africa and providing technical backstopping to IEC projects in Africa, she considered this work one of the highlights of her career. After a leave of absence for about 2 years with UNFPA /FAO programmes, she returned to the ILO’s Employment and Development Department in 1992. Shortly thereafter she took a gamble: early retirement with a huge cut in retirement benefits at the age of 52.

So what do young retirees do with their “free” time? Like many of her colleagues, for a number of years Hélène continued along the familiar path of IEC, focusing increasingly on communications as a consultant. The horizons widened and she turned to films, always on substantive issues. She produced, for example, the ILO film “Tremors” marking the ILO 75th anniversary. And then older stronger sirens called, linked to the arts, building and antiques. Delving into interior design and ecological questions, Hélène embarked on renovating properties with friends. The result was a lovely cottage in the Touraine (complete with a sculpture garden one summer), an unfinished flat and a large apartment in Thoiry. Along the way she pursued her passion for antiques and “brocante”, going to different fairs, setting up stands, buying and selling. Her last brocante was in Ferney Voltaire in October 2021. The arts took on a bigger role year after year. She would not miss the Avignon Theatre Festival, nor would she miss the annual photojournalism exhibit Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan.

While she never lost her interest in development cooperation and the Third World, she became increasingly indignant about the state of the world and the planet. She channeled some of her combative energy into the Cercle Condorcet-Voltaire du Pays de Gex in which she served as Vice-President and played a large role in identifying and inviting speakers on topical and challenging issues of the day. Indignant about social injustices, political oppression, human rights violations, racism, violence against women and environmental destruction, among others, Hélène also became more and more of an activist. She participated in every march and demonstration that her health would allow, and then some.

Leaving behind the status and decorum of an international civil servant, perhaps many retirees become more militant and speak out more freely. I am not sure this was a rationale for Hélène. But her acts spoke for themselves. It came as no surprise that her final message was “toujours à la recherché d’un monde meilleur”. And it should come as no surprise that she left the bulk of her wealth to a number of human rights, refugee and women’s and feminist organisations.

Sally Christine Cornwell
October 2022

Pension Fund

Category : Message69

1 July 2022

Pedro Guazo is the Representative of the Secretary-General for the investments of the UNJSPF assets.

Dear participants, dear retirees and dear beneficiaries,

As confirmed by the last actuarial valuation, our Pension Fund is in a strong financial position and fully funded, even under the difficult global financial circumstances we are all facing. At the Office of Investment Management (OIM), we are ever mindful of our responsibilities not only as employees of the Fund, but also as participants and future retirees. Please be assured that the interests of the Fund are of paramount consideration in every decision we take.

Our Fund operates according to these three important values stemming from the values and principles of the United Nations:

1) we embrace our fiduciary duty to protect the assets of our Fund;

2) we are open and transparent and will always share information in a truthful way;

3) we are accountable to all our stakeholders, and we value productive and respectful dialogue.

As such, in keeping with our continuous commitment to transparency, we want to update you on the status of the plan to migrate – safely and effectively – the fixed income portfolio to the new asset allocation and benchmarks by September 2022, as endorsed by the Fund’s governing bodies in 2021.

Given the recent positive trend in the performance of two sub-asset classes of the fixed income portfolio, US Treasuries and Mortgage-Backed Securities, OIM Fixed Income team will continue to manage 100 per cent of these two portfolios internally, compared to the previous plan to manage 50 per cent internally and 50 per cent externally.

Regarding the fixed income credit portfolio, the team will temporarily manage between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of this portfolio internally, and between 80 per cent and 85 per cent externally. This is a shift from the previous plan to temporarily manage the credit portfolio 100 per cent externally. Overall, the total part of the fixed income portfolio that will be temporarily managed externally will represent between 5 to 7 per cent of the Fund’s total assets, compared to 18 per cent under the previous plan.

As we have previously stated, these are short-term tactical decisions that will provide additional support in the management of certain portfolios to bridge capacity gaps inside the Office of Investment Management and ensure the safe and efficient management of the portfolios. Our Pension Fund has done this several times over its many years of successful operations without any issues in portfolios such as small capitalization public equities and even fixed income.  As such, it is foreseen that once the Fixed Income team reaches full capacity, including the recruitment of additional investment officers with the necessary expertise, the credit portfolio will be entirely managed on an internal basis. The OIM Fixed Income team will reassess this whole approach by 31 March 2023.

We are committed to the principle of managing the maximum percentage of our portfolios internally, since it is the most cost-effective approach.  However, we must also continually seek to mitigate risks in the management of those portfolios.

We are aware of the cost-benefit analysis undertaken by a group concerned about the plan to use external managers on a temporary basis for a part of the fixed income portfolio. We have reviewed the analysis and find it to be static and partial, without consideration of implementation risks or the current capabilities of the team, even suggesting that we tolerate underperformance for certain portfolios.

For those who wish to better understand what the fixed income portfolio is and the factors that the experts consider in its management, we once again invite you to follow the sessions being conducted by Mr. Tomasz Wojciechowski, Head of OIM Fixed Income team. You can find the recordings of the first five of the eight sessions and the meeting links to follow the forthcoming sessions on our website here. The remaining sessions will take place every Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. New York time in the next three weeks.

Let me reiterate that the use of external managers is a short-term tactical approach to support the OIM teams with the capacity to manage specific portfolios or sub-portfolios. There is no strategy nor plan to completely outsource the management of the Fund’s assets. We are committed to continuing to manage the Fund’s portfolios safely and efficiently as ever. We hope that such assurances will provide peace of mind regarding the financial health of your pension.

Report on the 80th General Assembly of AAFI-AFICS

Category : Message69

(Association des anciens fonctionnaires internationaux/Association of Former International Civil Servants)

On Tuesday 21 June 2022, after a three-year hiatus, AAFI-AFICS held its 80th General Assembly at the Geneva International Conference Centre (CICG).

The Former Officials Section is a member of the AAFI-AFICS Committee through its status as a “sister association”.

Participation in AAFI-AFICS meetings is of interest for several reasons. It allows us to keep in touch with the associations of former officials of other international organizations in Geneva, keep ourselves informed about their activities and familiarize ourselves with the role of the umbrella organization, FAFICS (Federation of Associations of Former International Civil Servants).

Focusing on the activity report, without going into every agenda item, we should highlight an interesting presentation (especially as a comparison with our own SHIF) on the functioning of the health fund of UN Geneva, UNSMIS (United Nations Staff Mutual Insurance Society). After many years of struggle, AAFI-AFICS succeeded in getting the Executive Committee of this fund to agree that a representative of retired members, who previously had the status of observer, could now sit with full voting rights. This is clear progress, but as if to show that nothing is perfect in the best of all possible worlds, the member in question is chosen by co-option, unlike in the SHIF, where for many years there have been six members, either active or retired, who are ELECTED. We also learned that after a few years as members of the Cigna private fund – whose reputation needs no comment from us – insured staff at the ITU (having quit the SHIF a decade or so ago) noticed the exponential growth in their insurance premiums and the limits on the benefits received and decided to join the rather more solidarity-based and mutual UNSMIS fund. This is good news and brings things full circle.

At this session, in addition to the regular agenda items, participants were able to attend a presentation by representatives of the UNJSPF. An update was provided on the progress of computerization and facial recognition enabling the annual DCE (Digital Certificate of Entitlement) to be introduced alongside the existing system of submission by post or via the internet (Member Self-Service). The DCE app has so far been downloaded by about 11,000 retired staff out of a total of 60,000. To facilitate access, measures to simplify the process are under way: step-by-step videos are available in English and French on the UNJSPF website. For those who do not like the automated approach, the original paper-based system is still available.

Another point of clarification, intended to be reassuring, was also offered by the UNJSPF representatives concerning the controversy last spring (2022) over the possible outsourcing of part of the investment portfolio and the petition circulated against it. This is a thorny issue on which not all current or former staff associations and unions necessarily agree with their elected representatives on the Joint Staff Pension Board: some justify the need for external expertise lacking within the Fund, while others warn of the risk of opaque investments attracting the voracious wolves of finance. As for the Board itself, following its recent reform, it met for the first time in April 2022 and will have its plenary meeting, as usual, this summer. We will follow its developments and decisions closely.

Aperitifs in hand, the meeting ended on a festive and musical note, much appreciated by participants starved of opportunities to get together for the past three years.

Catherine Comte Tiberghien, 28 June 2022

Tribute to Robert Falaize (1925-2022)

Category : Message69

Robert Falaize’s coffin was bedecked with the tricolour of France at his funeral ceremony in the church of Notre Dame in Geneva on 8 March 2022. Robert had begun his life of activism at an early age: as mentioned in his ILO job application, at just 17 he became a member in 1942 of the civil and military organization known as the Resistance. Robert was born in Caen in 1925 and his city experienced weeks of fierce fighting and destruction after the June ’44 Normandy landings. He then volunteered for the Free French Forces and was a trainee pilot from 1944 to 1946.

As a teenager, Robert obtained a commercial education diploma. After his military service, he worked for various French local papers as a reporter and subeditor, as well as on the technical side and in sales, and held a press card. In 1949 he was accepted by the ILO for a job as a French-language shorthand typist, category III. In parallel, between 1953 and 1957 he resumed his studies in political science, obtaining a doctorate in Lausanne.

An article he wrote for a French newspaper in 1955 on working conditions in the textile industry brought him to the attention of his superiors. He became secretary/registrar of the ILO Administrative Tribunal. From 1960 onwards, he carried out several missions in Latin America, in particular to the Autonomous Trade Union School in Lima, then to Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, becoming a point of reference in the area of workers’ education through the publication of manuals and bulletins. In 1969 he was assigned to the Mexico Office, then returned to Geneva before being seconded in 1974 to the Paris Office as Deputy Director. He was appointed Director of the Mexico Office in 1979 and awarded the Medal of the Order of the Aztec Eagle of Mexico. In 1982 he retired.

I first met Robert when I joined the Bureau of the Former Officials Section. I was 60 and he was 85. Still a very active member of the ILO’s retiree structure, he had been a founding member of the Section in 1982, feeling the need with a few Union colleagues to set up a body where retired staff could voice their concerns as well as allowing a valuable link to be maintained with ILO employees, the Staff Union and the administration. Robert was, at the time I knew him, still a member of the Editorial Board of Union, the Staff Union magazine, and continued for several years until his strength began to fail him. In 1987 he was the first editor of the Letter to Former Officials, which was succeeded by Message. He was available in 2012 to help revamp the ILO Arts Circle whose president had just passed away. When he left the Bureau of the Former Officials Section in 2016, he was made an honorary member. His wife Carmen, a member of the Arts Circle, was always very much alongside him and a great support.

Robert leaves us at the age of 97 after a long and fulfilling life of service to others and many years of struggle with illness and the inexorable ageing process. His fight for life was the equal of all his engagement over the best part of a century. Robert has entered into our consciousness and remains the exemplar of a militant for us all to follow.

François Kientzler
Executive Secretary
ILO Former Officials Section

Tribute to Gérald Weder (1930-2022)

Category : Message69

Gérald Weder passed away in early February 2022. His funeral at the Petit-Saconnex temple was attended by many of his former ILO colleagues as well as family friends. I hadn’t had the opportunity to know him during his working life: he retired in May 1987, and I started at the ILO in November that same year. I first met Gérald in 2009 when I joined the Bureau of the Former Officials Section. He had just stepped down after standing in as interim Executive Secretary following the death of Mario Tavelli. Gérald was a member of the Bureau for more than two decades and before that had been Chair of the Staff Union Committee.

Gérald took a particular interest in health issues, a field in which he gladly offered advice to former colleagues. Between 2012 and 2014 he was a member of the SHIF Management Committee and had a number of solidly argued articles on these matters published in the Former Officials’ magazine Message. Gérald was a determined person, open to dialogue and always ready and available to others. In the summer of 2020 he came to see me in Ferney-Voltaire accompanied by a retired lady who had administrative problems; he was then 90 years old, always prepared to be of service, to help and advise. I called him many times to seek his counsel.

I had a chance to get closer to him after the death of the ILO Arts Circle’s president when we set about revamping it. Several members of the Former Officials Section saw the need to maintain support for the Circle, and together with Gérald and Robert Falaize we drew up statutes in line with the requirements of ILO Sports and Leisure. Gérald became the treasurer, with annual exhibitions being held in the Colonnades to the satisfaction of the Circle’s artist members, ILO staff and visitors.

Gérald was born on 13 June 1930 in Nyon. After high school he studied at the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce in Geneva before working as an accountant in the commercial sector. In his application to the ILO in 1951, he indicated that he had mastered the products of the major calculating machine brands. He also listed his typing and shorthand skills, an essential asset to any job application at the time. Successfully applying for the post of administrative assistant, he began his career with the ILO as a G2, going on to end it as a P4. This shows how career development was possible: in 1953 he became a G3, in 1955 a G5, in 1966 a P1 and in 1977 a P4. During his career he held positions in the Administrative and Finance Branch both at headquarters and in Africa, in Addis Ababa as well as Abidjan and Lagos for limited periods.

After taking retirement at the end of March 1987, Gérald had a continuous involvement with retired ILO staff. He participated in all the events organized by the Former Officials Section and was present with his wife Huguette at the twice-yearly receptions for retirees as well as all Arts Circle exhibition openings. Thank you, Gérald, for your constant commitment to the service of others. We will not forget that look, determined yet always genial.

Attached: copy of the letter sent by David A. Morse, ILO Director General, upon his appointment

François Kientzler
Executive Secretary
ILO Former Officials Section

Tribute to Anees Ahmad (1942-2022)

Category : Message69

    Photo Raphael Crowe, Mai 2009

Anees Ahmad, a chartered accountant by training, joined the ILO in 1966, in the Finance Department. He worked his way up to Head of the Regular Budget Unit. He was transfered to the Cabinet of the ILO Director General in 1979, and rose to the position of Chef de Cabinet. From there, Anees was appointed Director of the Financial and Administrative Services Department in 1987. In 1988, he was promoted to Assistant Director General as Treasurer and Financial Comptroller of the ILO. He retired in 2002.

The author of the tribute Zafar Shaheed joined the ILO in 1979, in the Labour Law and Labour Relations Branch, to work in the area of wages until 1999. For the last ten years of his career, he was Director of the Department of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. He retired in 2009, following which he enjoyed working as Co-Editor of ILO Friends’ Newsletter.


How many things could be said about our Anees, from so many people, so widely was he appreciated and loved. Others in a better position than me could tell you about his brilliant professional career at the ILO. I would like to tell you some personal anecdotes.

Our family’s connection with Anees goes back to his father, who was a senior colleague of my father in the Ministry of Labour in Pakistan. That jovial gentleman then became Director of the Standards Department of the ILO. When my father visited Geneva in the early 1950s as a Government delegate to the Governing Body and the Conference, he continued to see Anees’ father. Once, my father asked him, “Ahmad Sahib, what exactly does your work consist of?” Mr.Ahmad’s response was, “Oh, I don’t do any work. I get people like that excellent Valticos to work. And that’s easy, because he loves work.” An early statement regarding the essence of direction and delegation in bureaucracies. Mr. Valticos became a life-long family friend of the Ahmads, and would take Anees and his elder brother Zaheer skiing and other outings.

Anees would often visit us, once he completed his studies and joined the ILO. When I turned sixteen, he asked my father if he could take me flying. Naturally my father agreed and I was thrilled  at this birthday present. I recall vividly that day, as we flew over the Salève and then the Jura, and he gave me the controls for a while. How exciting. A man of tradition, but abhorring sentimentalism, Anees approached me in turn when my son Ameer turned sixteen: “If your son would like it, I should like to take him flying, with your permission.” Naturally I agreed, and Ameer was as delighted as I had been at the prospect and then the reality of flying with Anees Chacha (uncle).

There are many memories from the ILO, naturally. One is from 1983, when I had gone on home-leave to Pakistan, and returned with the news that I was married, my bride soon to join me. Everyone greeted me with congratulations, except Anees. He hurriedly took me down for a coffee, and with a look of great concern: “What happened? Tell me about it, yaar (buddy). They forced you into getting married, right? You poor fellow…” The confirmed bachelor was convinced that in all sanity, I could not have wilfully gotten married! He may have hoped that I might well be a bachelor-type in the making. In the event, of course, he welcomed my wife Shahnaz with open arms, they became friends and she naturally shares my grief today.

An earlier memory relates to China resuming its rightful seat at the ILO.  Anees had accompanied the Director General Blanchard to China, to open the door. Upon return, he called me to brief me on their visit. Then he said, “Now, we need to introduce the Chinese to our Office and the way it works. Of course, they know all this in theory. But its important that they learn the ropes of the reality that awaits them. There is a special delegation of three officials arriving soon, and I am supposed to guide them. However, I don’t do that sort of work any more. So I would like you to do it.” He obtained permission from my bosses that I be seconded to this task. When I look back at it, it was very much also an introduction to the ILO for me. After all, I was also new to the ILO, and this gave me the intensive opportunity to meet all the technical and administrative units of the Office, along with their bosses, and to learn what they do. Anees made it sound as if I were taking a burden off his hands, but he actually did me a favour, in his unique straightforward manner.

He had such natural charm and vivacious warmth. For me the greatest thing about Anees was his equality of treatment. He treated the Office Director the same way as he treated the doorman or the driver, and treated a Minister the same way as he did a messenger. He treated all alike, and all loved him, women and men, young and old.  In many ways, Anees was larger than life, a big presence difficult not to be impressed by. Only once did I see him looking in awe of someone – and that was with his brother Zaheer. You should have seen the admiration and adoration in Anees’ body language, basking in the glory of his big brother. He seemed delighted to just relax in the shadow of this fellow who was even more daunting a character than himself.

Now that he’s left us, Anees’ shine is even greater. He has gone ahead, and I imagine him standing at the door, holding it ajar for us – with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, and his laugh, guffawing just like his father and his brother Naseer , and smiling bright just like his mum. He’s now reunited with this core family, all beaming out to us down here. Cheers, mate.

Zafar Shaheed
May 2022