75th anniversary of International Road Transport Union (IRU)

Road transport is essential for human-centred development, inclusivity and prosperity

Speech by ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo to International Road Transport Union (IRU)’s 75th anniversary.

Statement | 12 May 2023
Thank you and good morning, dear colleagues,

Secretary-General de Pretto,

President Dinescu,

On behalf of the International Labour Organization, thank you for your invitation to address this august assembly.

For more than seven decades, the ILO and the IRU have enjoyed a long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship. So, I am delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this celebration of that collaboration and the benefits it has brought to workers, societies and businesses worldwide.

Road transport is essential for human-centred development, inclusivity and prosperity.

It binds together all other forms of transport.

It links families, friends, cultures, and societies.

Without it, production and distribution would fail and economies would grind to a halt.

In short, road transport is essential for creating and spreading prosperity, which, in turn, is linked to equality and peace in the world.

So, it is no exaggeration to say that efficient and effective road transport has an important role to play in strengthening and spreading social justice.

Dear colleagues,

Recent times have brought us many challenges. We know of the pandemic. The world is also confronted with conflicts in many parts of the world, economic disruption and a climate crisis.

Globally, millions of lives have been lost.

The transport sector did not escape these challenges. Both businesses and jobs have been destroyed.

And your challenges continue. These include attracting and retaining staff; the migration and movement of workers; and promoting a more inclusive and diverse workforce, let alone occupational safety and health which for the ILO is a new fundamental right.

These challenges are not new to your industry. You have seen them before and have dealt with them. I am confident you will do so again, now and tomorrow.

Above all, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the resilience of your industry.

In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the heroes who drove trucks, taxis and coaches throughout the pandemic. They delivered emergency equipment and humanitarian aid, and supported social cohesion by getting people to hospitals, supermarkets, and schools. Their courage and tenacity is richly deserving of our respect.

So, it is a great pleasure to see that some of these courageous drivers are being recognized today, and are receiving the IRU’s Grand Prix d’Honneur for their outstanding work.

Let me also commend the cooperation between IRU and the International Transport Workers’ Federation over many years.

Examples include IRU Secretary-General de Pretto travelling to the Transport Workers’ conference in Johannesburg in March; and Steve Cotton from the Transport Workers coming to Geneva today.

And later this month, we will hear the strength of their united voice once again, at the International Transport Forum in Leipzig.

For us, what has been particularly encouraging is seeing how this unified approach has turned the principles of the Decent Work agenda into practical change, and road safety in the transport sector.

Let me also highlight the very important approach to social dialogue of workers and businesses in your sector. We know sometimes it cannot solve 100% of the problems, but that is not a deterrent. We have to fight every challenge, and remain resilient.

Your celebrations today are further evidence of the vitality and value of your cooperation, and of the value of that said social dialogue.

Please rest assured, that the ILO will continue to work with you to strengthen your industry and to support social justice and peace in the world.

I look forward to continue “working together for a better future” for all!

Thank you.