The Hon. Francis Blanchard

Francis Blanchard (July 21, 1916 – December 9, 2009) was the second longest-serving Director-General of the International Labour Organization and served on Legacy’s Advisory Board from 2005.

The Hon. Francis Blanchard began his career in 1947 when, at the age of thirty-one, he joined the International Refugee Organisation (IRO). Mr. Blanchard remained at the IRO until it ceased to function and was actively associated with the setting up of its two successor bodies, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration.

In 1951, Mr. Blanchard joined the ILO where his first assignment was as deputy chief of the Manpower Division, in which capacity he was involved with the ILO’s initial technical cooperation activities in vocational training and manpower, which were financed by the United Nations and the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation.

In 1956, then-Director-General David A. Morse appointed Blanchard to the position of Assistant Director-General. In 1968, Blanchard was appointed Deputy Director-General with responsibility for technical cooperation and field activities. In 1973, he was appointed Director-General of the International Labour Organization. During his tenure as Director-General, the ILO saw the withdrawal of the United States from the Organization between 1977 and 1980, an action which led to the loss of a quarter of the Organization’s budget. In 1989, Blanchard retired from the ILO, ending 38 years of service to the Organization and making him the second longest-serving Director-General in the Organization’s history.

As Director-General, Mr. Blanchard oversaw the expansion of ILO technical cooperation programmes, and therefore, to some extent changed the image of the Organisation. Mr. Blanchard succeeded in averting major damage to the Organisation when a crisis resulted in the withdrawal of the United States from the Organisation (1977-1980), resulting in the loss of a quarter of the ILO’s budget. Mr. Blanchard fought hard to uphold the universality of the Organisation. The United States returned to the ILO at the beginning of the Reagan Administration, and in 1983 China returned to active membership of the Organisation, thus making universality of the Organisation a reality, as well as greatly increasing its responsibilities in Asia.

Under Blanchard’s leadership, the ILO continued its work in defense of human rights. In the 80s the ILO played a major role in the emancipation of Poland from dictatorship, by giving its full support to the legitimacy of the Solidarnosc Union based on respect for Convention No. 87 on freedom of association which Poland had ratified in 1957. Indeed, in Blanchard’s Legacy interview, he reveals never-before released details about his meeting with Lech Walesa behind the iron curtain to engineer workers’ freedom.

Another landmark of Mr. Blanchard’s term as Director-General was the High-level Meeting on Employment and Structural Adjustment held in 1987. This was the first time that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund participated actively alongside governments, trade union and employer members of the ILO’s Governing Body. Because of his personal initiative and leadership, the ILO and many other international agencies became involved in devising strategies and implementing policies to overcome poverty and adverse social changes as a result of international debt and structural adjustment.

Francis Blanchard was born in Paris, France. After studying at Sorbonne, Blanchard undertook military service in the air force from 1937 to 1940. During World War II, Blanchard worked as an assistant to a member of the Vichy government, but was involved in the Resistance.

On 26 January 1990 he was appointed an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), Australia’s highest civilian honour, “in recognition of his service to humanity”.[4]

We invite you to watch Dr. Blanchard’s Legacy interview highlight here.