News Release
Department of Labor and Employment
October 25, 2020

PH makes history in Intl labor; leadership role sign small nations to have voice in ILO

The Philippines recently made history in the stage of international labor when it became the first observer-nation to be elevated as vice chair of a powerful group in the International Labour Organization (ILO), the labor department said yesterday.

In a report to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Geneva said this is the first time in the 100 years of the ILO that an observer nation is elected as vice chair of its government group, the body that represents governments in the tripartite global labor organization.

Labor Attaché Cheryl Daytec said the Philippines will automatically take the chairmanship of the government group in 2021 when its term as vice chair expires next year.

Bello described the feat as “the dawning of a new hope for the voiceless in the ILO.”

“I congratulate the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN and our POLO in Geneva for judiciously pursuing our country’s long quest for substantial seat in the ILO,” Bello said.

“This milestone, I believe, gives hope to countries that have no voice and no vote in the ILO,” he added.

To mark the ILO centenary last year, its highest governing body the International Labor Conference adopted the 2019 Centenary Declaration which called for “full, equal, and more democratic” participation of all its constituents in the crafting of global labor standards, policies and programs.

The ILO, the United Nations’ oldest specialized agency, is comprised of titular member states, deputy member states and observer states. The first two have speaking rights, with only the titular member states bestowed with the right to vote. Observer nations have neither the speaking nor voting rights.

With its election, world labor observers say the Philippines, long consigned to an observer status, could now play a pivotal role in the clamor for equality by smaller countries, especially those from Africa, Asia and others.

The ILO has long been embroiled in a festering issue of unequal representation. The problem was highlighted in 1986 when the ILC passed a landmark amendment to the ILO constitution that called for the “democratization” of the organization’s membership and which, in effect, meant to level the playing field between rich nation members and its member countries belonging to the world’s historically poorer states and regions.

However, nearly four decades after its adoption, the 1986 Amendment remains unratified.

Having been a long member of the voiceless observer states, the Philippines could play a leadership role in helping achieve the ILO’s long dream of institutionalizing democratic participation in its affairs, labor observers say.

The Philippines will chair the powerful government group in time for the 2022 ILC.

Being the Philippine labor secretary, Bello will sit as chair of the government group during that conference.

Observers say that chairmanship of the body is a key position in the setting of global labor standards and in helping achieve the ILO’s goal of effecting social justice across the globe through poverty eradication and economic development. ###

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