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Good morning, this is Paula. As the International Labour Conference kicks off today, a number of recent events put into question how well the UN labour agency is representing workers’ rights.

Less than two weeks from Switzerland’s peace summit on Ukraine, the attendance list is turning into a real headache. And last week's AI for Good Summit showed how brains and machines could work together to improve health.

photo journaliste

Paula Dupraz-Dobias


On our radar

Photo article

Ahead of the International Labour Organization’s annual conference, observers ask how well are workers protected. 29 May 2024. (Geneva Solutions/Paula Dupraz-Dobias)

Mixed signals for workers' rights as UN labour meet opens. A year after the controversial election of Qatar to preside over the International Labour Conference, questions about workers’ protection persist at this week’s annual meeting. Recent events signal that the ILO may be sending mixed messages on human rights, starting with the possible election of a Russian trade union to its governing body.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

What to watch this week

🛠️LABOUR MEETING POLITICS. A year after the International Labour Conference made headlines for selecting Qatar to preside over the annual meeting, European trade unions will be keeping a close eye on how a seat on its governing body gets filled as Russia’s biggest trade union vies for a spot at the ILO’s executive body. Governments, employers and workers will cast their ballots on 7 and 10 June to elect 56 new members for a period of three years.

Palestinian workers in focus. On Thursday, the conference will discuss the crisis faced by workers in Gaza and the West Bank. According to Palestinian Authority figures reported by Unctad, joblessness rose to nearly 80 per cent in the last quarter of 2023, following the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel and the subsequent military response. That is nearly double the unemployment rate before the attacks when it stood at 45 per cent.

Belarus under scrutiny. On Wednesday, the ILC will also hear about Belarus’s blatant disregard for labour rights, after members condemned last year the detention of unionists and activated an article only used once in its century-long history against Myanmar.

Other items. Over the ILC’s two weeks, a standard-setting committee will also discuss future regulations on protecting from biological hazards in the workplace. Also, the care economy – employing mostly women in jobs such as childcare, domestic work, healthcare and education – which has recently gained greater attention will be the focus of debates.

📬YOU’VE GOT MAIL. Kyiv is looking forward to Switzerland’s upcoming peace summit on Ukraine, where it will seek to rally support behind its vision of what the end to its war with Russia would look like. But the guest list – or, more precisely, who’s not in it – has caused a stir among the invitees. The ICRC’s invitation stayed on the draft pile, as our partners in Le Temps report, perhaps to avoid putting the neutral humanitarian organisation in an awkward position.

Summit snub. Others have also taken issue with Russia’s exclusion, namely China, which said it would skip the conference as it “doesn’t meet expectations”.

Moscow rejoices. All this appears to suit Moscow well, as it has been working tirelessly to discredit the Swiss-led initiative, with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov floating the idea of China as a better host for a potential Ukraine-Russia peace conference and Russian TV getting personal in a smear campaign against Swiss president Viola Amherd.

⚕️QUO VADIS PANDEMIC TREATY? After agreeing to approve amendments to International Health Regulations in 11th hour talks at the World Health Assembly, countries gave negotiators another year to wrap up talks to achieve a pandemic treaty draft.

In case you missed it

Photo article

Luis, an ALS patient from Lisbon, has been piloting Unbabel’s Halo AI system allowing him to communicate with his family. (KJefford)

🧠 Move over robots: AI for Good summit shows off machines connecting brains to the outside world. From brain-computer interfaces that allow locked-in patients to send WhatsApp messages or Parkinson's sufferers to regain muscle movement: inventors at this year's ITU AI for Good summit went to lengths to show AI-machines working for humans, and not the other way around.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

Also on the agenda

  • 📌 4 June | Who's online? Inspired by the Cold War-era hotline between Washington and Moscow famously known as the red telephone, this exhibition lends an ear to the history of international Geneva through the speeches of prominent figures given during the 20th century from Geneva. A discussion with the creators from online platform GeneveMonde.ch.
    Ville de Genève (FR)
  • 📌 5 June | Is International Law Dead? Reporter Imogen Foulke’s flagship Inside Geneva Podcast will be live to record an episode on the challenges international law and the Geneva Conventions face as they turn 75 this year.
    Graduate Institute (EN)
  • For more events, visit the Genève Internationale website.

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