Alumna Portrait
16 July 2019

An Alumna's Reflection after 34 Years at the ILO

Azita Berar Awad (MA, '79) is the former Director of the Employment Policy Department of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

An Iranian and Swiss national, I joined the Institute in 1977 in my third year of the Licence ès sciences politiques (études internationales), then jointly delivered by the University of Geneva and HEI. I chose the Institute for two reasons: first, I could pursue my interests in political science and economics  simultaneously; second, teaching was delivered in both English and French.

Following the completion of the Licence, I pursued postgraduate studies at the Institute, during which I was rapidly attracted by the surrounding international environment. After a few short-term research assignments with UN agencies, I joined the ILO in 1983, on a new programme of cooperation for the socio-economic integration of refugees in the Horn of Africa. In my subsequent 34 years at the ILO, until December 2017, I worked on a range of global challenges and policy responses, including gender equality, rural employment and poverty eradication, combining perspectives of inclusive development, economic efficacy and social justice.

Applying the interdisciplinary methodologies acquired at the Institute to my professional responsibilities proved to be an invaluable asset and a systematic reflex. I held positions such as Director of the Multidisciplinary Team of ILO’s Regional Office for Arab States in Beirut and Director of the National Policy Group in the Policy Integration Department. From 2006 until 2017 I was Director of the Employment Policy Department, leading the ILO’s global team in supporting the design and implementation of national employment policies for promoting full, productive and freely chosen employment and decent work.

In 2016 I designed and launched the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, which brings together 22 UN entities, governments, private sector and other partners to scale up action and impact in support of the 2030 SDG agenda. I also played a pivotal role in promoting new international labour standards. With respect to the informal economy, I led the ILO work that resulted in the 2015 International Labour Conference's adoption of the Recommendation (204) on the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy, and in 2017 of the Recommendation (205) on Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience in countries affected by conflicts and/or disasters.

Interdisciplinary analysis, dialogue and international collaboration for addressing global challenges are common threads linking my studies at the Institute with this professional journey. I met my spouse, Ibrahim Awad, at the Institute. A PhD holder from the Institute, Ibrahim is himself a former senior official of the UN system, who has also pursued a career in academia.

This article was originally published in Globe #21

Mrs Awad is part of the class of 1999, which will celebrate it's 20th graduation anniversary at the Gala Dinner during the annual Alumni Reunion on 2 November at the Mandarin Oriental. The Reunion is the perfect occasion to meet up with your former classmates, professors and staff from the Graduate Institute. For more information or to book a table, contact us!