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Dublin Castle hosts national ILO Centenary Conference “The Declaration of Philadelphia Revisited”

Dublin Castle, Tuesday 17th September The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the National University of Ireland are today hosting a national conference “The Declaration of Philadelphia Revisited”, the centrepiece in a day of celebration of the centenary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). In keeping with the Tripartite structure of the ILO, Ibec and ICTU have been partners in the preparations for this important event. 

The conference takes its inspiration and theme from the 1944 Declaration of Philadelphia, whose principal author was Irishman, Edward J. Phelan, then Director general of the ILO.  In that year, with the end of the war in sight, the ILO sought to reaffirm its founding principles and adapt them to emerging new realities and the aspirations for a better world. The Declaration of Philadelphia was the articulation of this vision.

Work for a Brighter Future, the Report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work, published earlier this year, has highlighted forces that are transforming the world of work today: technological development, environmental and climate change, demographic shifts and globalisation.  Through the lens of the 1944 Declaration, and in the context of the work done by the ILO Global Commission and the recent ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work (June 2019), the conference will consider the impact of these transformations on working life and the challenges and opportunities arising in this changing environment.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys said “The theme of the conference is very timely. Adapting to the realities of the future world of work will require us to prepare ahead and resonates strongly with Future Jobs Ireland, the Government’s framework for ‘preparing now for tomorrow’s economy’. It is essential that we anticipate the challenges and the transition required and in doing so ensure our people are at the centre of our approach to the Future of Work.”

The Conference will be opened by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.  A variety of speakers drawn from academia, employer and trade union bodies will offer different perspectives on some of the major issues,  including Minister Heather Humphreys, Minister Pat Breen, Guy Ryder, Director General of the ILO, Professor Virginia Doellgast, Chair of International and Comparative Labour at Cornel University, Mark Connaughton, SC and Professor Ciaran Ó hÓgartaigh, NUI Vice-Chancellor and President of NUI, Galway. The conference workshops will provide opportunities for conference participants to engage actively in further discussion of topics relevant to working life and the changing workplace.

Minister Breen said, “This centenary year coincides with Ireland’s first ever term as a full member of the ILO Governing Body, which is a source of great pride for us. Ireland has a rich history with the Organisation, as the first international organisation we joined in 1923. We are particularly proud of Edward Phelan’s role in shaping the ILO from its foundation in 1919”

It is hoped that through revisiting the fundamental principles, as they apply to contemporary and projected future conditions, the conference presentations and the ensuing discussions will provide fresh insights and heightened understanding on the challenges for work in the 21st century in Ireland and beyond. The general objective of the conference is to promote the ILO’s objectives of advancing social justice and promoting decent work.

NUI Vice-Chancellor Professor Ciarán Ó hOgartaigh said “NUI’s connection with Edward Phelan goes back to 1944 the year of the Philadelphia Declaration. In that year, the Senate of the University decided unanimously to award him an honorary LLD. We are delighted to collaborate with the Department in organising this conference in celebration of the centenary of the ILO. It is also a timely honour to the memory of Edward Phelan and his exceptional contribution to the ILO.”

The conference will be followed at 6.30pm approximately by the 2019 Edward J. Phelan Lecture which will be delivered this year by the distinguished Nobel Peace Laureate, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi. Mr. Satyarthi won the Nobel prize in 2014 for his contribution towards the ending of child labour and his advocacy of the rights of children and young people to education. His lecture is entitled ‘Globalisation of Compassion for a Child friendly World’.

Respondents to the lecture will be Guy Ryder, Minister Humphreys, Danny McCoy, Chief Executive Officer, IBEC and Patricia King, Secretary General, ICTU.   This lecture series was established in 2013 by the NUI and the ILO to honour Edward J. Phelan and it is held biennially.

Notes for Editor

International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Ireland

  • The ILO is a Geneva based UN agency, founded in 1919, which aims to promote decent work. It does this by creating international labour standards (conventions), greater opportunities for people to secure decent employment, enhancing the coverage of social protection for all and strengthening tripartism and social dialogue. 187 of the 193 UN countries are members of the ILO.  The ILO’s tripartite structure, in which Governments, Workers and Employers have an equal voice, is unique in the UN system. 
  • Ireland became a member of the ILO in 1923, the first international organisation which the new State joined. It has ratified 73 ILO conventions out of a total of 189, including the 8 fundamental conventions. In June 2017 Ireland was elected to a Titulaire (speaking and voting) seat on the ILO’s Governing Body for the first time. Ireland’s annual contribution to the ILO in 2019 was €1.09m. In addition, Irish Aid has a four-year (2017-2021) development cooperation partnership with the ILO, with a commitment to provide approx. €2 million per year. 

The Edward Phelan Lecture

  • An Irishman, Mr Edward J. Phelan, who was a civil servant in the UK Ministry of Labour, was very prominent in the foundation and development of the ILO in 1919. He became the ILO’s first official and rose thought the ranks to become Director in 1941. He was the innovator of the ILO ‘tripartite’ formula which forms the basis of representation at International Labour Conferences. Each country’s delegation includes not only Government delegates, but also representatives of workers’ and employers’ organizations, a model for social partnership
  • He was the principal author of the ‘Declaration of Philadelphia’. The Declaration is considered one of the visionary documents which contributed to shaping the global order after the Second World War, and which set out the guiding principles for national economic and social policies within that order. In 1946, the Declaration was annexed to the ILO Constitution. Since then it has served to inspire other international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 
  • This Edward Phelan lecture series was established in 2013 by NUI and ILO to honour Edward J. Phelan and are held biennially. This year’s lecture will be a particularly auspicious occasion as it takes place in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Centenary year and will be preceded by a National ILO Centenary Conference (arranged by DBEI & NUI) to mark the centenary year on the theme of “the Declaration of Philadelphia Revisited”.
  • Nobel Laureate Mr. Kailash Satyarthi will be in Dublin to deliver the biennial ILO/ NUI Edward Phelan lecture in Dublin Castle on the evening of 17th September. The title of his address is ‘Globalisation of Compassion for a Child friendly World’

 National ILO Centenary Conference (Dublin Castle 17th September)  

  • The Conference seeks to examine the Future of Work through the lens of the 1944 Declaration of Philadelphia and combines a combination of keynote addresses with workshops on themes taken from the Declaration. President Michael D Higgins is opening the conference and speakers include Ministers Humphreys, Minister for State Breen, Mr Guy Ryder, ILO Director General and Professor Virginia Doellgast, Chair of International Comparative Labour, Cornell University and Mr Mark Connaughton, SC.
  • The conference is being organised in partnership by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the National University of Ireland, ICTU and Ibec. 

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) plays a key role in implementing the Government’s policies of stimulating the productive capacity of the economy and creating an environment which supports job creation and maintenance. The Department has lead responsibility for Irish policy on global trade and inward investment and a remit to promote fair competition in the marketplace, protect consumers and safeguard workers.

For further information please contact Press Office, D/Business, Enterprise and Innovation, or (01) 631-2200

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