Gilbert Houngbo elected first African to head International Labour Organisation

Gilbert Houngbo becomes first African to head International Labour Organisation

Former Prime Minister of Togo Gilbert Houngbo was on Friday elected the next head of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), becoming the first African to head the United Nations (UN) agency.

After two rounds of voting, the ILO’s governing body elected the 61-year-old to succeed British trade unionist Guy Ryder, who steps down at the end of September, after 10 years in the job.

“You have made history,” Houngbo told the governing body after the election.

“I am deeply and absolutely honoured to be the first representative of the African region to be selected to lead the ILO after 103 years.”

Houngbo was chosen from among five candidates and had been seen in a strong position after the African Union threw its weight behind him.

He was in 2017 appointed as the sixth President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized United Nations agency and international financial institution that invests in eradicating rural poverty in developing countries around the world.  

He has previously held several high-level positions within the UN system, such as finance director at the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and deputy director-general of ILO itself, from 2013-2017.

His opponents in the race were former French labour minister Muriel Penicaud, South Korea’s ex-foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha, South African entrepreneur Mthunzi Mdwaba, and ILO deputy Greg Vines of Australia.

Houngbo’s win marks a dramatic shift for the ILO, which since its founding in 1919 has been led by men only from Europe or the Americas.

The oldest specialised UN agency has 187 member states, which are, uniquely in the UN system, represented by governments, employers and workers.

The organisation’s governing body counts 56 members, with half of them representing governments, and a quarter each representing employers and workers.

The vote took place by secret ballot behind closed doors.

Source, AFP News

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