Ed Potter’s record of achievement at the ILO speaks for itself. He served 17 years as the U.S. Employers’ delegate to our annual Conference. During that time, he took on the responsibility of Spokesperson of the world’s employers in several key discussions.

The most recent resulted in this year’s adoption of a Protocol to the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention, and Ed’s contribution was crucial in equipping the Organization with a new and much needed instrument to rid the world of work of some its worst abuses.

But the one I remember most was his masterful negotiations of the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work – truly a historic definition of what human rights at work are, and of the responsibilities of the ILO and its member States to promote their respect. It would not exist without Ed.

Ed Potter at ILO Conference
Ed Potter and Guy Ryder, Director General of the ILO, at Potter's farewell dinner.

For seven years, Ed also led the Employers in the ILO Conference Committee on the Application of Standards – a keystone of everything we do to make sure that Governments live up to their international treaty obligations. The Committee is complex, demanding, and often politically highly-charged. On this stage, his legal, diplomatic and negotiating skills found fullest expression combined with a readiness to listen and reach out to Government and to Worker representatives in the search for consensus. Those are qualities the ILO badly needs today.

There is much else, and if this extraordinary record does speak for itself, it nevertheless does not say everything.

Because what Ed brought to the ILO, above all else, was an unchanging and unalterable commitment to the ILO’s values of social justice and fundamental rights. That commitment has been all the more powerful for being delivered in understated rather than rhetorical style, calmly rather than in anger, and on all occasions rather than merely when convenient.

For all these reasons, all those who have known and worked with Ed at the ILO can and will look back on his 33 years of contribution to our Organization and conclude, to paraphrase the bard, that “this was a man… of principle”.

We are proud to have been his colleagues, grateful that he devoted so much of his time and talent to the ILO.

Guy Ryder is Director-General of the International Labor Organization (ILO).