International Labour Organization

Nobel Lecture

Nobel Lecture*, December 11, 1969

ILO and the Social Infrastructure of Peace

“Universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice.” This statement, which opens the preamble to the ILO’s constitution, clearly and unmistakably places on the ILO a major role in the maintenance of peace. It shows that the founders of our organization in 1919 were convinced that there was an essential link between social justice within countries and international peace, and that this link was so strong and significant as to make it indispensable that an organization to deal with labor matters should be set up as an integral part of the new institutional framework for the promotion and protection of world peace after the First World War.

The founders of the ILO had good reason indeed to hold this belief. For the century which preceded the establishment of the ILO had been one of profound economic and social change in Europe which had played a large part in bringing about the war that Europe had just passed through. Industrialization had in particular led to an unprecedented growth of the economic power of European nations and to increasingly fierce competition between them, a competition which soon had an impact on the political plane and, ultimately, contributed to the outbreak of war. It had also led to serious social tensions within nations. By the end of this century a large industrial working class had become an organized, vociferous, and in many cases revolutionary force in society, often in open conflict with the established order.

Throughout the nineteenth century, however, and in the early years of the twentieth century, some farsighted men had raised their voices in an attempt to avoid the social and political catastrophe towards which Europe appeared to be heading. As early as the 1830’s and the 1840’s, such humanitarian industrialists as Charles Hindley1 in England and Daniel Le Grand2 in France had proposed that coordinated action should be taken at an international level to regulate conditions of labor in order to ensure that no country which provided its workers with improved conditions would be at a competitive disadvantage in the international market.

These men were ahead of their times. But as trade unions emerged as an organized political and social force in Europe’s industrialized states, they were able not only to make some notable social gains for their members at home, but also to begin forging links of international solidarity among workers in different countries. The first International Working Men’s Association had been formed in 1864, and although this and similar subsequent attempts to achieve true and lasting unity among the working classes of Europe were to fail, the workers nevertheless rapidly became a force to be reckoned with, internationally as well as nationally. Their attempts to prevent the outbreak of war between their countries were recognized by the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament itself when it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1903 to the British trade unionist and pacifist, Sir William Randal Cremer, and much later, in 1931, to the great French trade unionist, my good friend the late Léon Jouhaux. The revulsion against war and the aspirations for peace on the part of workers were clearly and forcefully expressed by Jouhaux when he was here eighteen years ago to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. “War”, he said, “not only kills workers by thousands and millions, and destroys their homes … but also, by increasing men’s feelings of impotence before the forces of violence, it holds up considerably the progress of humanity toward the age of justice, welfare, and peace.”3

But the workers’ movement had from the beginning been divided, as it still is today, between those who preached revolution and those who thought that greater social justice could and should be brought about by practical political and social reforms within the existing framework of society. And there were many men who at the end of the last century and the beginning of this were deeply alarmed at the prospects of revolutionary upheavals in society and the threat that this might present to the peace of the world. Alfred Nobel himself, in one of his most famous phrases, warned in 1892 of the dangers of an impending social revolution, of a “new tyranny … lurking in the shadows”, and of its threat to world peace; and Frédéric Passy, the founder of the Ligue internationale de la paix, who was awarded the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, stressed the need for governments to ensure internal stability through social reforms if international peace was to be preserved. Thus, even before the First World War very different trends in thought and action among very different classes of the population had led the peace movement to become inextricably linked with a movement for international action to promote improved conditions of labor.

When the First World War came to an end in 1918, many of the industrialized countries were passing through a critical period of social tension and unrest. The old regime in Russia had been overthrown, and revolution seemed on the point of engulfing much of Europe. The demands from the workers that the peace settlement should include measures to promote international labor legislation and trade union rights were so insistent that delegations to the Peace Conference included leading trade unionists such as Samuel Gompers4 from the United States and Léon Jouhaux from France. In these conditions it was hardly surprising that one of the main concerns of the Peace Conference should have been with “unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperiled”; or that one of its concrete – and, as it turned out, most lasting – achievements was the establishment of a permanent international organization to promote improved conditions of labor.

Thus was the ILO born fifty years ago – a product of several different currents in nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century humanitarian, reformist and socialist thought and action in Europe. Its structure and its action since its inception have reflected these different – and in many ways conflicting – currents. The workers’ demands for effective international action have often been in contrast with the views of governments which have seen in the ILO an instrument for strengthening the stability of the sovereign nation state. And while the ILO has of course lived and operated in a world of sovereign states, it has nevertheless gradually extended the scope and possibilities of transnational action. In this way, and in spite of the political calamities, failures, and disappointments of the past half-century, it has patiently, undramatically, but not unsuccessfully, worked to build an infrastructure of peace.

The ILO has provided the nations of the world with a meeting ground, an instrument for cooperation and for dialogue among very different interests, at times when men were more disposed to settle their differences by force than by talk. Let us consider in this connection two essential features of the ILO’s structure: tripartism and universality.

Tripartism was both the most daring and the most valuable innovation of the Peace Conference when it set up the ILO. The ILO’s constitution provides that each member state shall send to the International Labor Conference a delegation consisting of two government delegates and two delegates representing respectively the employers and workers, each of whom is entitled to vote individually and independently of each other. It further provides that the Governing Body, which has the responsibility of planning, reviewing, and coordinating the activities of the Organization, shall have this same tripartite composition, its members being elected independently by the three groups at the Conference. This composition is reflected here by the presence of the officers of the Governing Body who have accompanied me to Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, H. E. Mr. Gros Espiell5, chairman of the Governing Body, and Mr. Gullmar Bergenström6 and Mr. Jean Möri7, respectively the leaders of the Employers’ and Workers’ groups of the Governing Body.

If the ILO had done nothing more than offer the world a forum for tripartite discussion, it would already have rendered a great service to the cause of peace. In 1919 the concept of tripartism was hardly known, even at the national level. By insisting on tripartite delegations to its Conferences and meetings, the ILO made it essential for governments and employers to accept trade unions as equals and as valid bargaining partners, at least for the purposes of representation at the ILO. And if the concept could be accepted and applied in Geneva, why not at home?

The implications of this were far-reaching. It resulted in trade unions and organizations of employers acquiring a position at home which they would not otherwise have had, and encouraged the growth of independent interest groups where they might otherwise never have developed. It also gave the world a new approach to the resolution of social conflict, an approach based on dialogue between the two sides of industry, and between them and the state. The ILO in short offered the world an alternative to social strife; it provided it with the procedures and techniques of bargaining and negotiation to replace violent conflict as a means of securing more human and dignified conditions of work.

If the ILO has in this way helped to create the conditions for labor peace within countries, its tripartite structure has also enabled it to broaden the scope of cooperation between countries. The ILO is still the only worldwide organization where international cooperation is the business not only of diplomats and government representatives, but also of the representatives of employers and workers. It thus provides opportunities for contacts and for greater understanding within as well as among the three groups. It is only in the ILO that the different trends in the international trade union movement, which is today as divided as it was a hundred years ago, can come together to seek common solutions to common problems. And it is only in the ILO that free enterprise employers meet regularly with managers of state enterprises in socialist countries.

This brings me to the second aspect of the ILO’s structure which has enabled it to make an important contribution to peace – its universality. The members and leaders of the ILO have constantly striven to make it a worldwide organization – universal in composition, in spirit, and in influence. They have done so because, as the preamble to the constitution states: “the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labor is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve conditions in their own countries”; or, in the succinct words of the Declaration of Philadelphia, adopted in 1944: “poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere”. Today, with 121 member states, we are far along towards the goal of universal membership.

A question which has often been raised in this connection is whether the ILO can properly aspire to universality. The very concept of tripartism, it is argued, presupposes an organization of society which is peculiar to countries which have so-called “market economies”. Is the system in socialist countries not incompatible with membership in the ILO? And in the developing countries, which now form the majority of the ILO’s membership, are not trade unions often too weak or too severely controlled by governments, to play an active, independent role in the ILO? In other words, can the ILO be both tripartite and universal?

Experience during the past few years has shown that it can; not only that it can, but also that it must if it is to make a major contribution to peaceful cooperation and mutual understanding among all the nations of the world. The fact of the matter is that while tripartism may not have the same meaning or take the same form in all countries of the world, and while governments, employers, and trade unions may perform different functions in society in different countries, they nevertheless face a number of similar problems. Today, despite the very great differences among the ILO’s member states, governments, workers, and employers have at least learned to live together in the ILO, and, after years of mutual suspicion, are beginning to find a larger measure of common ground.

Thus, the ILO has not only served as a meeting ground for the nations of the world, as a “market place” for ideas and ideologies, and as an instrument for adjusting conflicting interests. It has also put forward a set of goals, and programs for attaining these goals, with which the entire ILO membership can be identified. It has constantly sought to widen the areas of “common ground” in order to focus the attention of the nations of the world on those problems in which they have common interests and concerns, and to unite them in a major international effort to eliminate poverty and injustice wherever they exist.

There are two elements in the ILO’s program of activities to which I would draw particular attention in this respect – its international labor standards and its technical cooperation activities.

The setting of international labor standards – that is, internationally recognized principles and objectives of social policy – is the traditional function that the ILO was originally set up to carry out. These standards which are adopted by the International Labor Conference – that is, by the entire membership of the ILO – take the form of Conventions (which are open to ratification by governments) and Recommendations (which create no formal obligation for governments, but which are intended to guide their social policies).

The original aim of this international legislative function was to protect the worker against exploitation and against excessively hard and unjust working conditions (for example, his hours of work, his protection against industrial accidents, the elimination of child labor). As a result of progress in the elimination of such unjust and inhuman practices, increasing emphasis has been placed, particularly since 1945, on the promotion of effective measures guaranteeing him such basic human rights as freedom of association, freedom from forced labor, freedom from discrimination, and on the promotion of policies for social advancement which contribute to the achievement of economic development – relating, for example, to employment policy, minimum standards of social security, and labor-management relations in the enterprise.

The ILO has not been content simply to set these standards; it has also sought to supervise their effective application in member states, by pioneering a unique system of enforcement machinery. Thus, governments are obliged to report annually on the effect given to ratified Conventions; and their reports are analyzed by an independent Committee of Experts whose conclusions are submitted to a special Committee of the Conference. In addition, special machinery and procedures have been set up to ensure respect for the ILO’s standards and principles on freedom of association, which are essential to the functioning of the ILO’s tripartite machinery.

While it is impossible to measure in precise terms the impact which these standards have had on national legislation and practice, there can be few countries, if any, whose social legislation and whose practices in the formulation and implementation of social policy do not bear the imprint of at least, some of the ILO’s standards.

In this way the ILO has made a major contribution to international law, in broadening its scope to cover almost every conceivable area of social and labor policy and in seeking to ensure its wide and effective application. The ILO has thus proved that, despite the continuing primacy of the sovereign state, moral persuasion and moral pressure can be highly effective instruments to secure the observance of the rule of law at the international level, at least in the fields of social policy in which the ILO is competent.

While standard-setting remains an important function of the ILO today, it has been supplemented by another form of action, namely the provision of direct technical assistance to the developing countries. For, as more and more of these countries became independent and joined the ILO as full members, it became clear that the problems they faced in giving effect to the ILO’s principles and standards were often due not to perverse and reactionary policies on their part but rather to the degree of backwardness and stagnation of their economies.

The idea of giving direct assistance to member countries was not new to the ILO. During the prewar years, and even during the Second World War, the ILO was occasionally called upon by its member countries to give advice and assistance, particularly in the field of social security. It was not, however, until the 1950’s, with the launching of the United Nations Expanded Program of Technical Assistance, and subsequently the Special Fund (which are now merged in the United Nations Development Program) that sufficient funds became available to the ILO for it to take a major role in the massive attack on poverty in the developing countries. This has made it possible for the ILO to contribute actively and on a relatively large scale to what the Administrator of the United Nations Development Program has called the “peace-building” activities of the whole United Nations family of organizations.

In what way does assistance to the developing countries constitute an effort of “peace-building”? It could be argued, and with some justification, that economic development results in social changes and social tensions in a developing nation that can, and often do, have very serious consequences for both internal stability and international peace. But this should not, I suggest, be taken as an argument against assistance for development. After all, what is the alternative? Many developing countries are so weak, politically and economically, and so lacking in social cohesion and stability, that they could offer little resistance to subversion or aggression by an ambitious outside power. To provide these countries with the resources, the technical and managerial know-how, and the institutional and administrative framework which are essential for viable nationhood in the modern world, while at the same time providing their populations with the benefits of some social progress during the difficult transitional period of modernization – this, it seems to me, is an essential aspect of the problem of peace-building in the modern world. And it is for this reason that the ILO gives top priority in its work today to the strengthening of developing nations.

It may even seem paradoxical that the ILO, which has devoted so much effort to enlarging the scope and effectiveness of international action, should at the same time be giving priority to strengthening the nation state in the developing world. But the paradox is more apparent than real. We are strengthening the nation state because it is still the only viable framework within which economic and social progress can take place. And it is only if each developing nation can become independent in fact as well as in law that each can play its full part in the institutions of the wider international community.

Where do we stand today in our efforts to build a more peaceful world? The day which Alfred Nobel predicted seventy-seven years ago “when two army corps can annihilate one another in one second” has long since come. It is now almost possible for whole nations to be annihilated in one second. But this has not, as the inventor of dynamite optimistically predicted it would, led all nations to “recoil from war and discharge their troops”. Quite the contrary. The major powers continue to build up their stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, while even many small countries are investing heavily in the production and acquisition of weapons and the strengthening of their armed forces. The peace of today’s world rests on a “balance of terror” which is based on the assumption that the destructive capability of modern weapons is such that no country will dare to be the first to use them. But this balance is now widely recognized as a precarious one.

Some small progress towards disarmament and towards limiting the spread of nuclear weapons has been and is being made. This is certainly of great importance. But full and effective disarmament cannot take place until we have eliminated the need for armaments, until we have laid the infrastructure of peace and thus established a climate of confidence in relations between nations and among men. For the tragedy of the modern world is that the immense progress that has been achieved in various branches of science and technology, and which is rightly recognized by the award of other prizes from Alfred Nobel’s bequest, has not been paralleled by similar progress in social, human, and international relations.

As I have already stressed, very considerable efforts have been deployed to assist in the development and modernization of the developing countries. This has been a vast and unprecedented effort of international solidarity to which the ILO has been proud to contribute. What has been the result of this effort? Significant economic progress has clearly been made. Many developing countries achieved quite respectable rates of economic growth during the past decade – the first United Nations Development Decade – and creditable progress was made in building up the administrative and institutional framework necessary for development and modernization. But the balance sheet has a negative side which provides us with some somber warnings for the future.

What concerns the ILO in particular is the fact that the economic progress which has been achieved has benefited only a small sector of the population. To some extent, the ILO itself may have contributed to this situation. By assisting in the development of institutions similar to those existing in the industrialized societies of Europe and North America – such as social security systems, trade unions, and collective bargaining – it may have helped to strengthen the position of the privileged sectors of society the civil servants, the managers, and the skilled workers. I am not suggesting that the ILO should now abandon its fundamental principles; but I am suggesting that it should make every effort to redress the alarming imbalances that have arisen in the societies of developing countries.

Rural areas have been left to stagnate, while dynamic modern industries have provided jobs for only a small proportion of the urban population. Large numbers of rural dwellers have abandoned the land in the hope of finding jobs and higher standards of living in the cities – a hope which all too often turns out to be vain, with the result that they swell the ranks of the unemployed and live in conditions of appalling squalor in vast slum areas. The slums, and the countryside in some areas, have become a breeding ground for seething violence, frustration, and discontent. Revolutionary movements are developing, particularly among younger people. And the problem is compounded by the explosive growth of the population in these countries, which is adding a new element of discontent to a turbulent social situation.

There is no need for me to stress to an audience such as this the dangers of this situation for the stability and prosperity of developing countries and hence for world peace. In my view, it is of the utmost urgency that a way be found of making economic development a meaningful term for the dispossessed masses before it is too late. That is why the ILO has decided to make the creation of higher levels of employment and employment opportunity the cornerstone of its action in the next decade – through a World Employment Program. For employment is a prime source of income, and a family’s very existence will depend on whether or not the breadwinner is able to earn a decent livelihood from work. Today some 300 million workers are deprived of this opportunity in the developing countries. During the next decade we estimate that an additional 226 million men and women will be added to the ranks of job-seekers. That is the magnitude of the challenge before us.

The ILO will be tackling the problem on several different fronts at once. We shall try to contribute to the reduction or halting of the drift of the population to the cities by making rural areas more attractive for the peasant, the agricultural laborer, and the artisan, through enabling them to earn a better living off the land, and encouraging the growth of industries in the countryside. We shall encourage the use of labor-intensive techniques of agricultural and industrial production wherever it is economically feasible to do so. We shall attempt to mobilize the energies and enthusiasm of young people by giving them a role to play and a livelihood to earn in their country’s development.

When I say “we”, I refer, of course, not only to the ILO, since we cannot do this job by ourselves. I refer particularly to the governments of the ILO’s member states, who have unanimously committed themselves to the objectives of the World Employment Program, and who will now, with the stimulus and support of the ILO, be called upon to fulfill that commitment by making policies for employment a central feature of their development policies. I refer also to the whole United Nations family of organizations and the regional organizations who have agreed to assist the ILO in the task of implementing the World Employment Program, and whose collaboration, within the framework of the Second Development Decade which is expected to begin in 1970, will be an essential ingredient in the success of the program. We will also look to workers’ and employers’ organizations for active support and for the kind of innovative thinking that the World Employment Program will require.

While the creation of productive and remunerative employment will be the ILO’s principal concern in the developing countries during the next decade, we shall also be concerned with the adoption of other measures which will raise the living standards of the very poor – for example, the extension of social security schemes to new categories of workers, the provision of housing, and improved living and working conditions. And we shall continue to encourage the establishment and improvement of such vital institutions as trade unions and cooperatives and other rural organizations which will facilitate the participation of all sectors of society – rather than just a privileged few – in the economic and social life of their countries. In all these ways we hope to make our contribution to improving the social climate and defusing the potentially explosive situation in the developing world today.

While the developing countries have claimed, and will rightly continue for a long time to claim, the priority attention of the international community, it would be erroneous to assume that all is well in the so-called advanced nations. The ILO must continue to be concerned with the problems here as well. In fact, the way in which the issues with which we are concerned in the developed countries are resolved will to a large extent determine the future balance of relationships with the developing countries and directly affect man’s efforts to build a peaceful world.

I would like to elaborate on this point for a moment. For the majority of the population in Europe and North America, the past half-century has brought impressive improvements in standards of living, in economic security, and in material comforts. Unemployment is no longer regarded as an unavoidable evil; on the contrary, full employment has now been embraced as a central goal of economic policy-making in most of these countries, and unemployment has in most cases been reduced to very small proportions, thanks very largely to the development of active labor market policies in which Scandinavian countries have played a pioneering role. Social security and welfare programs, in which the Scandinavian countries have again given the world a lead, have been adopted to cover virtually the entire population; and numerous indices – such as the growing numbers of private cars, and the purchases of consumer goods such as television sets and washing machines – point to high incomes from work among large sectors of the population.

These are extremely encouraging developments. And yet there are two broad groups of problems which give cause for alarm in our industrialized societies. There is first of all the plight of those who live, often in misery, on the fringe of affluence – the lowest paid workers; the racial or religious minorities; the migrant workers and their families from the countries of southern Europe or from other continents; the unemployed in the so-called “backward regions” and in the slum areas of some of our large cities; the elderly people, many of whom end their lives with pitifully small pensions, unprotected against rising prices and forgotten by a society to whose affluence today they contributed yesterday. Some of these – the elderly, for example – may not present a serious danger to social peace and stability. That may be why they are sometimes overlooked by society, although it is certainly no reason why they should be. For one test of the success of any political or economic system must surely be the extent to which the weakest and most defenseless elements in society are cared for and are made to feel deeply involved in the aspirations of that society. But others among the disinherited do present such a danger. In recent years and months we have been forcibly reminded that certain categories of the population are not sharing in the benefits of our technological societies; to enable them to do so is a challenge of some magnitude for many industrialized states. And the ILO must consider one of its most important tasks in the coming years to be the promotion of policies to eliminate discrimination in all its forms, and to ensure a decent standard of living for all the inhabitants of the developed nations. For, unlike the developing countries, they have at present adequate resources to banish poverty among their citizens for good if there is a political will to do so. By so doing, they will at the same time lay the groundwork for a deeper sense of international solidarity; for only when the poor and the weak are properly cared for in their own countries can the need for helping the poor and the weak in the world as a whole be given the full attention it requires.

There is a second problem area in the developed countries which is particularly difficult to solve, in part because it has not yet been successfully defined. I refer to the growing social unrest among young people, many of whom can scarcely be considered underprivileged in any material sense. Universities and youth organizations have, of course, long been an arena where the most vocal forms of discontent with existing systems of authority have developed. But what is new in the present situation is that unrest among the young has found an echo among other sections of the population – especially among workers.

This is a novel situation, because the men and women involved are not revolting because they are the victims of poverty, injustice, or oppression. While it has not yet been possible to define precisely the cause of the present malaise in industrial societies, many eminent social scientists have attempted to do so. I venture to suggest that it may be a sign of widespread boredom and frustration at the colorless technological civilization in which we live and in which we are prepared to make too many sacrifices to material progress; that it may be a reaction against the horrifying human, material, and moral waste of war; that it may be frustration over the seeming inability of the existing institutions of industrial societies to seize the almost unlimited opportunities offered by today’s technology, opportunities for greater freedom and for all people to lead fuller and richer lives in a spiritual as well as a material sense. Whatever the reasons, it is clear that the creation of all the comforts and the security, of all the social and medical services of the modern welfare state, important as they are, is not enough to satisfy the deepest-felt needs of the population. The challenge before us now is to make industrialized societies more human, to make man the master rather than the slave of modern technology, to offer more possibilities for the constructive use of leisure, for greater freedom, for greater participation, for more effective dialogue. For there is a serious danger that the fabric of these societies will be torn asunder by the complete disruption of the economic, social, and political life of the nation, unless ways can be found of developing new institutions, new forms of authority, even new social values, which are acceptable to the population as a whole.

This raises far-reaching questions concerning the organization and structure of society, many of which are far beyond the ILO’s competence, though none are beyond our concern. But there is one important aspect of this vast problem that does directly involve the ILO – the organization of life and work in industry and in particular the relationships between employers and workers and between workers and trade unions. The days of the autocratic and paternalistic employer are long since past; the employer can no longer claim to be, and is no longer accepted as, the sole source of authority in the enterprise. The workers and their organizations demand to share in the authority as well as the responsibilities of management. But at the same time, new problems of communications have arisen between workers on the shop floor and the leaders of the organizations representing their interests; workers sometimes even appear to see their own trade unions as part of the “establishment” against which they are in revolt. The resulting situation, at least in certain countries, is alarming: greater absenteeism, more and more wildcat strikes, in short an erosion of industrial discipline which is the basis on which rests the progress and prosperity of society and, ultimately, of the workers themselves.

This, I suggest, is a major problem for consideration by the ILO and its membership in many industrialized states. And it can only be resolved if there is far more informed and meaningful dialogue: more dialogue between employers and workers, on a far wider range of questions concerning the undertaking as a whole, than is yet the case; more dialogue between the trade unions and their members, so that the eventual terms of a plant-level or nationwide settlement concluded by the leadership are broadly acceptable to the members. Such dialogue has unfortunately all too frequently been lacking; but it is the only means by which the workers’ grievances and frustrations – whether or not they are substantial – can be known and understood. It is the only means by which the industrial enterprise can be humanized and the element of drudgery in work can be reduced.

But we also need more dialogue with and between those not represented in the giant organizations of modern society; and this may entail a thorough-going revision of the structures and decision-making processes of society. For these are the only means that I can see by which the growing frustrations and discontent can be prevented from becoming a truly explosive – or at least seriously erosive – force in society.

The ILO has given the world the concept of the industrial dialogue; in the years to come it must seek to broaden the scope, and increase the substance, of that dialogue. And it will be for other organizations – national and international – to transpose both the concept and the substance to all aspects of national life – to the schools and universities, to the churches, to the political parties and central and local government, to the youth clubs and welfare services – if society as a whole is to attain the cohesion and the sense of collective responsibility which are so essential to its survival.

Much has been achieved over the past half-century. There has been a growing awareness and acceptance of man’s economic, social, political, and civil rights; a far greater effort than ever before has been made to give each man a decent standard of living and a dignified place in society; men have become far readier to accept and live with people of different races, interests, and ideologies; and there has been growing recognition of the need for a truly worldwide solidarity in the fight against poverty and injustice, with the aim of building a more peaceful world.

The ILO is proud to have played its part in these achievements. But as we know and as you see from the horizon that I have sketched, the task is still far from finished. The goal of “social justice” which the ILO’s founding fathers wrote into the Treaty of Versailles has proved to be a dynamic concept. As soon as one problem has been successfully tackled, new and unforeseen problems arise which present a major challenge to the social conscience of mankind. Thus, the ILO has never seen, and will never see, its role as that of a defender of the status quo; it will continue to seek to promote social evolution by peaceful means, to identify emerging social needs and problems and threats to social peace, and to stimulate action to deal with such problems. For there are still, to paraphrase the words of Frédéric Passy, dangerous explosives in the hidden depths of the community – the national community and the world community. To the defusing of these explosives, to the building of a truly peaceful world order based on social justice, the ILO, with the immense encouragement it derives from the unique distinction of the Nobel Peace Prize, solemnly dedicates its second half-century of existence.



*This Nobel lecture was delivered in the auditorium of the Nobel Institute by David A. Morse, who spoke in behalf of the International Labor Organization. Mr. Morse (1907- ), American lawyer and former assistant secretary, undersecretary, and acting secretary of labor (successively in the period 1945-1948), had been the director general of ILO since August 24, 1948, an office which he held until 1970. The text of his lecture is taken from Les Prix Nobel en 1969.

1. Charles Hindley (1800-1857), cotton spinner, founder of Aston and Dukinfield Mechanics Institute; member of Parliament (1835-1857).

2. Daniel Le Grand (1783-1859), French industrialist, philanthropist, and writer; early advocate of better labor conditions.

3. See Léon Jouhaux Nobel Lecture.

4. Samuel Gompers (1850-1924), president of American Federation of Labor (1886-1895; 1896-1924).

5. Héctor Gros Espiell, Uruguayan professor and diplomat; chairman of the ILO Governing Body.

6. Stig Gullmar Bergenström (1909- ), Swedish administrator; president of the Executive Committee of the International Organization of Employers (1963- ); employers’ vice-chairman of the ILO Governing Body.

7. Jean Möri (1902- ), Swiss trade union official; secretary of Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (1946- ); workers’ vice-chairman of the ILO Governing Body.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1951-1970, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1969

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