March 14, 2022

ILO to elect its new Director-General


In the last few months, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Geneva Office approached candidates from the Global South running for the Director-General position at the International Labour Organization. We had the opportunity to interview Mthunzi Mdwaba, who talked to us about his candidacy and his view of the ILO

In March 2022, the International Labour Organization elects a new Director-General for the first time since Guy Ryder, the current ILO DG, was elected ten years ago. His second term will end in October 2022, when he will make way for the new DG to take the ILO into uncharted waters.

The world of work is facing unprecedented challenges as the global pandemic, the increasingly irreversible effects of climate change, the transition towards a low carbon economy, digitalization trends, the spectre of armed conflict and other interlinked processes are wreaking havoc not just on the number of jobs and their quality, but also on communities, environments and economies around the world.

It is a fact that the Global South will face the brunt of the ongoing complex crisis. Both at the international level, as well as on the national and local levels within the countries of the Global South, those already vulnerable and marginalized, whether economically, socially, politically or environmentally, will be most affected. The effects of the pandemic have impacted workers and communities greatly, with the latest ILO figures projecting staggering losses of working hours and jobs in every region in the world, with women and young women in particular being most affected during the pandemic and the recovery.

The nominees to take on this challenge come from around the world, as well (in alphabetical order – for more information on each candidate, please visit the ILO election webpage):

  • Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development and former Deputy DG of the ILO, from Togo, nominated for election by the Government of Togo and the African Union
  • Kang Kyung-wha, former Foreign Minister of South Korea 2017-2021, from South Korea, nominated for election by the Government of South Korea
  • Mthunzi Mdwaba, Vice-President of the International Organisation of Employers to the ILO and Employers’ Vice-Chairperson of the ILO Governing Body, from South Africa, nominated for election by the Government of Lesotho and the Government of Malawi
  • Muriel Pénicaud, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of France to the OECD and former French Minister of Labour, from France, nominated for election by the Government of France
  • Greg Vines, Deputy DG for ILO Management and Reform, from Australia, nominated for election by the Government of Australia

The ILO is in a unique position within the international system, as the only organisation with a tripartite membership structure. Together, governments, trade unions and employers, organisations have the right to vote on all matters, unlike in other United Nations organisations where member states are represented only by their governments.

Behind the scenes / RLS

As a result, the ILO is a key battleground between labour and capital at the international level. In this election, however, none of the candidates have a trade union background – likely due to the fact that Guy Ryder, the current DG, is a former head of the International Trade Union Confederation, among many other positions he held in the trade union movement.

The Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung’s mission is to conduct progressive organisation for political education, and the focus of the Geneva Office is on strengthening ties between the Global South and the international system in Geneva. In cooperation with the RLS Southern Africa Office, we present an educational video with Mthunzi Mdwaba, one of the candidates for the DG position from the Global South. Watch as he explains the ILO structure and discusses his candidacy while cooking potjiekos, a South African heritage dish slow cooked in a three-legged pot over a fire – wait until the recipe at the end!