An Awesome Visit to the OCA Observatory on the Plateau de Calern

My partner and spouse Ralph Doggett and I are living the idyllic life in Grasse, France, where we enjoy exploring the region for the cultural and photographic opportunities it brings us. These opportunities are often an unexpected combination of adventures. On one recent occasion, we accepted an invitation that surprised us in a variety of ways – starting rather unexpectedly with one of those hikes that the French call a “rando” along the “Plateau de Calern” near Grasse on an unusually hot day in June.  Our hiking adventure, however, was only the beginning of several surprises – discovering a chapel inside a cave, for one, but most especially seeing for the first time a laser-driven telescope. This was, after all, an invitation to visit the famed Observatory of the Cote d’Azur (OCA) – an awesome learning experience for us in and of itself. But the visit proved to be a fabulous combination of unexpected adventures.  Here is a brief commentary with a photo collection  of the hike (“rando”) on the plateau, the cave and the observatory(plus a delightful dinner in the middle of it all). Continue reading “An Awesome Visit to the OCA Observatory on the Plateau de Calern”

Democracy in Jeopardy: Rounds Three and Four French Presidential and Legislative Elections 2022

French elections have been held at the municipal level in 2020 (Round One), regional level in 2021 (Round Two) , and now at the presidential (Round Three) and legislative (Round Four) levels in 2022.  I have been writing about them in the context of an American living in France,, with a deep interest in how even the strongest of democracies are in jeopardy of succumbing to the forces of authoritarian populism.  My interest extends, furthermore, to looking at the similarities and differences between French and American political cultures and systems of governance.  In my last essay on France, written just as the presidential election was “officially” underway, my focus was on three leading concerns – the absence of real debate among the candidates, the anticipated low voter turnout, and the spillover potential of  this election (in April)  on the building of coalitions for the legislative elections (in June). In this essay, I assess the significance of the final outcome of the presidential election on all three of these concerns – but  especially on the spillover effects for the forthcoming legislative elections. Continue reading “Democracy in Jeopardy: Rounds Three and Four French Presidential and Legislative Elections 2022”

ILO Election Notes – from The Geneva Observer Briefing, 31 March 2022

Katherine Hagen’s ILO Election Notes – as published in The Geneva Observer Briefing, 31 March 2022

Congratulations to Gilbert Houngbo. His is an historic accomplishment: the first African to be elected to this position at the ILO—an organization that was established over 100 years ago without the participation of any African government, as he himself pointed out in his acceptance speech. This is undeniably a significant landmark for the organization. Continue reading “ILO Election Notes – from The Geneva Observer Briefing, 31 March 2022”

Congratulations to Gilbert Houngbo

The International Labor Organization has a new Director-General-elect who will succeed Guy Ryder on 1 October 2022. Congratulations to Gilbert Houngbo for winning on the second round of voting in the ILO Governing Body on Friday, 25 March 2022! This is indeed an historic occasion for the ILO, and I personally welcome its significance for the future of the ILO.  Here is my commentary in full on the significance of his election. Continue reading “Congratulations to Gilbert Houngbo”

Democracy in Jeopardy: The French Presidential Election in Progress

The European response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has upended the political scene across Europe – and around the world. While the Americans and President Joe Biden may take the credit for leading the global response to a deranged Vladimir Putin, the French President Emmanuel Macron has taken on a truly pivotal role in the search for a ceasefire and a peaceful resolution to the conflict. As a result, the French presidential election has been dramatically shaken by the crisis. In this continuing series of commentaries on “Democracy in Jeopardy”, this election in France has taken on a far more significant role. Continue reading “Democracy in Jeopardy: The French Presidential Election in Progress”

Perspectives on the Five Candidates for ILO Director-General

Five candidates are standing for election for a five-year term as the next Director-General of the International Labor Organization.  All five are credible candidates, one of whom will be chosen by the ILO Governing Body by secret ballot in late March for a term beginning on 1 October 2022. The Governing Body took the unusual step of holding a series of “public dialogues” with each of the candidates on 20 and 21 January 2022.  As a former Deputy Director-General with no preferred candidate, I followed these interviews with a personal interest in what each candidate had to say on four specific of issues.  I have prepared here an explanation of how and why I chose these four specific issues. This is followed by my reflections on how each of the candidates addressed these four issues in their interviews.  The ILO Governing Body will be meeting again with the candidates on 14 and 15 March, and I look forward to following their deliberations and then, starting on 25 March, the outcome of their balloting.

Continue reading “Perspectives on the Five Candidates for ILO Director-General”

Greg Vines – Candidate for ILO Director-General

What stands out in the candidacy of Greg Vines is the sentence, “I know the ILO and the ILO knows me.” This is a very credible claim. With extensive experience in labor relations in his home country of Australia, he came to Geneva as his country’s representative to the ILO and served as GB Chair in 2011-12 when Guy Ryder was first elected to the post that Mr. Vines is now seeking for himself. Mr. Ryder then appointed Mr. Vines as Deputy Director-General for ILO Management and Reform, a position he has held for the past 10 years. It is no wonder that he gave the most well-informed responses to the questions in his open interview. And it should come as no surprise when he asserted: “I am the right person with the right experience for the crises we are facing”, rolling out a long list of crises – including the pandemic, technology, climate change, demographic change plus women, youth and people with disabilities. He is, nonetheless, only one of the five candidates each with a different set of credentials – and policy positions and leadership styles. In this commentary, the focus has been on getting a sense of what each of these five candidates had to say on the four issues of informality, gender equality, multilateralism and the normative future of the ILO. Continue reading “Greg Vines – Candidate for ILO Director-General”

Kang Kyung-wha – Candidate for ILO Director-General

Kang Kyung-wha from the Republic of Korea was the second candidate to be interviewed. I had not met her before but recognized her immediately as someone whom I had seen over the past twenty years as she moved around the UN system between Geneva and New York. Although it isn’t mentioned in her biography, she was originally active in international women’s circles and even chaired the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women in 2004 and 2005 before being appointed by Kofi Annan as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. She spoke knowledgeably and with confidence about her experiences in the UN system. Continue reading “Kang Kyung-wha – Candidate for ILO Director-General”

Muriel Pénicaud – Candidate for ILO Director-General

As the last candidate to be interviewed, Muriel Pénicaud had a tough act to follow but held the advantage of having heard all the previous candidates before she was placed in the spotlight. She is the only candidate who has served as a Minister of Labor, where she oversaw a number of labor reforms domestically and supported President Macron at the G7 and OECD. Also, a large portion of her professional career has been in the business and global corporate world (e.g. Danone). She emphasized her deep commitment and experiences supporting tripartism and universal social protection. Continue reading “Muriel Pénicaud – Candidate for ILO Director-General”

Gilbert Houngbo – Candidate for ILO Director-General

Gilbert Houngbo from Togo was the first candidate to be interviewed. He started by explaining his perspective growing up with hardship and poverty in Togo and his determination to address the hardship and poverty of others. He touched on the current trends (pandemic, climate change, deglobalization) for which the ILO is well placed to mobilize people-centered action toward a “new global social contract”.  He drew on his extensive experiences in the UN system specializing in development, his four years as a DDG at the ILO and his current leadership of IFAD, as well as his four-year tenure as a prime minister in his home country of Togo.

Continue reading “Gilbert Houngbo – Candidate for ILO Director-General”