Washington, DC – The Fair Labor Association (FLA) today announced the selection of Claudia Coenjaerts, a longtime official with the International Labor Organization (ILO), as President and CEO. Her appointment is effective as of Jan. 6, 2014.
“Claudia Coenjaerts has devoted her life to promoting the rights of workers and improving the conditions in which they work, and she has demonstrated the vision, leadership, excellent judgment, and strong management skills that we want in our president,” said Kathryn “Kitty” Higgins, the chair of the FLA Board of Directors. “She brings a global outlook, years of experience with multi-stakeholder initiatives, and a commitment to collaboration, as well as a reputation for creative problem-solving, effective outreach, strong analytical skills and empathy for others. In the course of a four-month search we were repeatedly impressed by her fairness, determination, dedication, resourcefulness, integrity, and passion.”
Coenjaerts was selected with the unanimous support of the FLA Board, which consists of six representatives each from participating companies, civil society organizations and universities, and an independent chair. She succeeds Auret van Heerden, who last summer announced his intention to step down as President/CEO after 12 years of service.
A native of Belgium with bachelors and masters degrees in sociology from Catholic University of Leuven, Coenjaerts joined the ILO in 1991 as gender associate expert and consultant in Bangkok, Thailand, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She worked on issues related to child labor and women workers in Bangkok, and then was named director of the ILO office in Bangladesh, followed by appointment as director of the ILO office in Sri Lanka. In 2005 she relocated to Geneva as a senior specialist for socio-economic reintegration in the ILO crisis response and reconstruction program and then took on increasingly senior management positions in areas related to employment.
In January 2012 she was named the deputy regional director for management, administration and operations in the ILO’s regional office for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Among her areas of special responsibility were youth employment and job creation in fragile states. Her areas of expertise include employment creation, youth employment, post-conflict job creation, international labor standards, child labor, workers’ rights, and gender equality.
Coenjaerts said, “I am very excited about this opportunity because it allows me to integrate the skills and work experience I have developed over the course of my career and to work closely with the dedicated staff of the FLA, the members of the Board, and a broad range of affiliates to strengthen the FLA and increase its impact and effectiveness on behalf of workers. I know how critical it is to establish a clear and shared vision and to align capabilities and scarce resources around the achievement of that vision, while providing an environment where all team members are encouraged to be dynamic, innovative and accountable, and where they are given the opportunity to fully develop their capabilities. Early in life I decided that I wanted to devote my career to the goals that are at the heart of the FLA’s mission, and I am grateful now to be entrusted with the responsibility of leading an organization I admire so much.”
The FLA (www.fairlabor.org) is a 14-year old organization whose mission is to combine the efforts of business, civil society organizations, and colleges and universities to promote and protect workers’ rights and improve working conditions globally through adherence to international standards. FLA conducts independent monitoring and verification to ensure that the FLA’s workplace standards are upheld wherever FLA affiliates source their products. In recent years FLA has increasingly sought to identify root causes of noncompliance with its code of conduct and develop improved methodologies for sustainable compliance. While initially focused on apparel and footwear factories, it has recently added major programs in agriculture and electronics. The FLA is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with other offices and staff around the world.