Opening of the ILO GB344
Delivered by Canada’s Ambassador Leslie E. Norton on March 15, 2022
I have the honour of delivering this cross-regional joint statement on behalf of 55 countries, namely: Albania, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Republic of Moldova, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, and my own country, Canada,
103 years ago, the ILO was created with a mandate to pursue universal and lasting peace through social justice.
As we meet today, these very aims are being violated. Russia’s unprovoked and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine is causing enormous suffering and tragic loss of life. It is an egregious violation of international law, the UN Charter, and the fundamental principles of the ILO.
We strongly condemn this senseless military assault, which is supported by the Belarusian government,and we call on the Russian leadership to cease its aggression immediately. No more precious lives should be lost.
The invasion has forced Ukrainian people, workers, employers, and their families, to flee their homes, their workplaces, their businesses, and their country. Those who stay to continue their livelihoods are risking their lives. Many have already died in the course of doing so.
The destruction of jobs, enterprises, and the forced displacement of the workforce, will have a long-lasting, devastating impact on the world of work in Ukraine—and beyond.
It is this Governing Body’s responsibility to call for the protection of workers, employers and their families in Ukraine, and to take measures - within its purview - to urge Russia to end its aggression.
ILO membership comes with duties and obligations, and all Member States must be accountable to them.
We, the ILO’s tripartite constituents, unanimously reaffirmed in the ILO Centenary Declaration what the ILO Constitution recognized more than a century ago – namely, that the concerted action of governments, employers and workers is essential to the achievement of social justice, democracy and the promotion of universal and lasting peace.
We also recognized that conflict and humanitarian emergencies are not only a threat to economic and social progress, but also to securing shared prosperity and decent work for all.
This Governing Body cannot remain indifferent whilst the ILO’s founding principles are treated with contempt and undermined by two of its members.
In the face of such suffering, our tripartite constituents are translating those principles into action.
Each day, we are witnessing incredible acts of solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who desperately need assistance. Trade unions and the business community from around the world are providing help and support to Ukrainian partners and their families. Governments, trade unions, employers and communities outside of Ukraine are also providing a safe haven and livelihoods for those who have fled.
We are proud of the joint efforts of the ILO community, but this should never have happened.
The brave Ukrainians who are fighting for their freedom, and for the right to choose their own future, should have been safe at home and at work.
We must stand up for international law and the principles on which this Organization is founded.
We must stand in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity.
We must stand, hand in hand, with the workers, employers and people of Ukraine.
We welcome the addition of this urgent matter on the agenda and we urge this Governing Body to voice its unequivocal support to the the tripartite constituents of Ukraine in this most difficult time.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unprecedented in nature, and it requires a strong and urgent response from this room. The Governing Body cannot stay silent.