Musings on the French Revolution at the Salon du Livre d’Histoire in Grasse

The first “Salon du Livre d’Histoire” in Grasse, also described as a “Bouquet d’Histoires”, was held the weekend of 12-14 April 2024. I was curious enough to venture out on a sunny spring Saturday afternoon to see what it was all about.  First, I joined a guided tour featuring the history of the French Revolution in Grasse itself.  I was surprised to discover many landmarks that I had not noticed before.  I then visited the salon’s official events in the Palais des Congrès. I met a young historian whose book on “Danton and Robespierre, Le choc de la Révolution” caught my eye. Continue reading “Musings on the French Revolution at the Salon du Livre d’Histoire in Grasse”

International Women’s Day 2024: France the Pioneer

With cold and stormy weather in southern France keeping me at home on International Women’s Day, I watched wistfully as the sunshine shone on the large crowds gathered in front of the Ministry of Justice at the Place Vendôme in Paris. We were witnessing the formalities of enshrining a woman’s right to an abortion as an amendment to the French Constitution. And I didn’t have to be there in person to join the celebration.  France is definitely the pioneer in what President Emmanuel Macron described as the “beginning of a struggle” to establish the right to an abortion as a universal right everywhere. Continue reading “International Women’s Day 2024: France the Pioneer”

No Lockdown, After All

We were reminded during the flurry last week of failed formulas to avoid another shutdown, that the one in 2013 coincided with the Virginia gubernatorial election of Terry McAuliffe. Republicans had wanted to defund the Affordable Care Act then (and ultimately failed), but a side effect of the 16-day shutdown was a higher turnout for the Democratic candidates. The off-year cycle of Virginia elections in this latest federal budgetary confrontation does not involve a governor, but it does involve the 140 seats (40 for the Senate and 100 for the House) of the Virginia legislative assembly. Continue reading “No Lockdown, After All”

Democracy in Jeopardy: The French Case Study Round Four on the Legislative Elections of 2022

In my previous commentaries about French elections, I have expressed concerns about the apparent absence of substantive debate, declining voter turnout and weakness in sustainable coalition building.  These have been evident in the most recent presidential election, where 12 candidates operated at separate and often isolated levels, culminating with a run-off between two candidates (a centrist candidate who had moved increasingly away from the left and an extreme right candidate) that did not genuinely reflect the range of voter interests.  Voter turnout was down as a result, and there were no evident signs of institutionalized coalition-building.  This last point was especially significant, in my opinion, to the segue from the presidential to the legislative elections in the short span of time between the two rounds.  In this interim period prior to the June elections for the French National Assembly, I have some thoughts about the way that coalition-building is actually starting to happen.  Continue reading “Democracy in Jeopardy: The French Case Study Round Four on the Legislative Elections of 2022”

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”

Mthunzi Mdwaba – Candidate for ILO Director-General

Mthunzi Mdwaba from South Africa was the third person to be interviewed. Mr. Mdwaba has had direct experience with the ILO, all within the Employers Group and emphasized his commitment to “three-legged pot” of tripartism. He is listed as an Employer delegate to the ILO Governing Body as far back as 2010, but his biography only refers to his ILO-related credentials since 2017 when he was elected to lead the Employers’ Group in the Governing Body for a term that ran from 2017 to 2020. My recollection is that his competition for this position was Ed Potter, a long-standing American representative to the Employers Group and world-renowned expert on ILO labor standards. Mr. Potter’s last major leadership role was to represent the Employers Group in negotiations regarding a very controversial (to the Employers) normative process to cover global supply chains. Continue reading “Mthunzi Mdwaba – Candidate for ILO Director-General”