Press releases, 08.05.2019

On 8 May 2019, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis travelled to Geneva to commemorate with António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The creation of the ILO and – in the same year – the League of Nations, marked the beginning of multilateralism in Geneva. The head of the FDFA took the opportunity to meet the 31 heads of the UN specialised agencies, which are holding a meeting from 8 to 10 May 2019 in Geneva.

Federal Councillor Cassis and UN Secretary-General António Guterres are standing next to a special stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ILO.
The ILO is the UN's oldest specialised agency and has contributed to a significant improvement in working conditions since its foundation. © FDFA

One of the oldest UN agencies, for 100 years the ILO has been instrumental in improving working conditions around the world. It has helped to guarantee fundamental labour rights, fight forced and child labour and promote gender equality in the workplace. A tree-planting ceremony on the Allée du Centenaire to commemorate the organisation's centenary was attended by Federal Councillor Cassis together with UN Secretary-General Guterres, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, the President of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva Antonio Hodgers and the mayor of Geneva Sami Kanaan.

For Switzerland, the ILO's centenary celebration is also an opportunity to commemorate Switzerland's traditions of social partnership and of labour peace – the resolution of industrial conflicts by negotiation – which are important to Switzerland's national identity. “The International Labour Organization is devoted to universal peace founded on the decent treatment of workers. This is also the vision that prevailed in Switzerland following the general strike of November 1918, the event which brought about the labour peace that is so dear to Switzerland," said Mr Cassis in his speech.

On the margins of the ceremony, Mr Cassis met with the members of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), also gathered in Geneva.

The CEB is composed of the heads of the 31 UN agencies (13 UN funds and programmes, 15 specialised agencies and three UN-related organisations), 10 of which are based in Switzerland. The head of the FDFA discussed with them major challenges of global governance, such as digitalisation and climate change, and the roles of multilateralism and Geneva in seeking answers to these challenges. He emphasised the important contribution that science and the private sector can make to these collective efforts.

The CEB coordinates and provides strategic direction for the UN system as a whole in the areas under the responsibility of the executive heads, with a focus on interagency priorities and initiatives. It therefore plays an important role in United Nations reform.

Further information:

Speech by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis

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