Mr Juan Somavia, Director-General, International Labour Organization



Mr Juan Somavia


International Labour Organization (ILO)


Juan Somavia, a national of Chile, has been Director-General of the International Labour Organization since March 1999.  From 1990 to 1999, he was Chilean Permanent Representative to the UN, during which he was actively engaged with civil society organizations.  He proposed the 1995 World Summit for Social Development and chaired its Preparatory Committee. He was twice President of ECOSOC (1998-99, 1993-94), and of the Security Council (1996 and 1997), and chaired the board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (1996-99).  He was Founder, Executive-Director and President of the Latin American Institute for Transnational Studies (1976-1990), and Founder and Secretary-General of the South American Peace Commission (1985-1990), and was actively involved in the restoration of democracy in Chile.

Mr. Somavia is the first representative of the southern hemisphere to head the ILO.  In 1999, he launched the Decent Work Agenda and under his leadership, the Organization established “Decent Work” as its primary goal.  It is a restatement of the ILO’s historic mission to promote social justice through the world of work.  At his initiative, the ILO created in 2003 the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization. Composed of heads of state, employers and workers representatives, policy-makers and academics and other social actors from all walks of life, it was the first official body to look systematically at the social impact of globalization and its operative recommendations include a call for decent work as a means of achieving a fair globalization that creates opportunities for all.

Mr. Somavia’s multifaceted career has been driven by a strong concern for social justice, peace, human rights and democracy. His pursuit of these ideals has earned him several citations and awards, among them the Leonides Proaño Peace Prize" from the Latin American Human Rights Association, the International Golden Dove of Peace awarded in July 2005 by the Italian NGO Archivio Disarmo, and most recently the Silver Rose Award from SOLIDAR for his vision of decent work and for defending the rights and freedoms of workers.


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