Gilbert Houngbo

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Gilbert Houngbo
11th Director-General of the International Labour Organization
Assumed office
1 October 2022
Preceded byGuy Ryder
6th President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development
Assumed office
1 April 2017
Preceded byKanayo F Nwanze
10th Prime Minister of Togo
In office
8 September 2008 – 23 July 2012
PresidentFaure Gnassingbé
Preceded byKomlan Mally
Succeeded byKwesi Ahoomey-Zunu
Personal details
Born (1961-02-04) 4 February 1961 (age 62)
Political partyIndependent
Alma materUniversity of Lomé
University of Quebec, Trois-Rivières

Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo (born 4 February 1961[1]) is a Togolese politician and diplomat who was Prime Minister of Togo from September 2008 to July 2012.[2] He has also held various positions within the United Nations System, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Office and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).[3] In 2022 he was elected as the 11th Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Education and early career[edit]

Houngbo was born in rural Togo, the eleventh of eighteen children,[4] and holds an advanced degree in business management from the University of Lomé in Togo.[5] He moved to Canada in 1983 on a graduate scholarship[4] and earned a degree in accounting and finance from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.[5] Houngbo stated in an interview in 2017 that this period deeply affected him and gave him a "sense of [his] place in the world". He obtained Canadian citizenship and worked at Price Waterhouse Canada,[4] and is a member of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.[5][4]

Prime Minister of Togo[edit]

On 7 September 2008, President Faure Gnassingbé appointed Houngbo as Prime Minister of Togo; he replaced Komlan Mally, who had resigned two days earlier.[6] His appointment as prime minister was read out in a decree by Kouessan Yovodevi, the Director of National Television.[7] Houngbo took office on 8 September.[2] Houngbo was a relatively obscure figure in Togo prior to his appointment, which was regarded as surprising.[5] The government said that he was a "man of consensus" who would facilitate national reconciliation. Some observers attributed his appointment to a desire to improve the image of the government; there were suggestions that Mally had appeared ineffectual.[8]

Houngbo travelled to the UN Headquarters in New York on 11 September for a visit to mark his departure from the UN. He met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 11 September, and Ban congratulated him on his achievements at the UNDP.[9] In Togo, Houngbo's government was named on 15 September 2008. It included 27 ministers, aside from Houngbo himself: 3 ministers of state (one of whom was Houngbo's predecessor, Komlan Mally), 20 ministers, 2 minister-delegates, and 2 secretaries of state.[10] Houngbo presented his general policy programme to the National Assembly on 16 September. Of the 80 deputies who participated in the vote on Houngbo's programme, 50 (representing the ruling Rally of the Togolese People) voted in favor of it; the opposition Union of Forces for Change voted against it, while the opposition Action Committee for Renewal abstained.[11]

Gnassingbé was re-elected in the March 2010 presidential election and sworn in on 3 May 2010. Houngbo accordingly resigned as Prime Minister on 5 May,[12] and Gnassingbé re-appointed him as Prime Minister on 7 May.[13] His new coalition government was announced on 28 May,[14] which included seven members from the UFC, Togo's main opposition party.[15]

Houngbo resigned on 11 July 2012,[16] and was succeeded in office by Kwesi Ahoomey-Zunu on 23 July.[17]

Career within the United Nations System[edit]

Houngbo was a member of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Strategic Management Team and was its Director of Finance and Administration before being appointed UNDP Chief of Staff in 2003. He was subsequently appointed United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator of the UNDP and Director of the UNDP's Regional Bureau for Africa[18] by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan[18][6] on 29 December 2005.[6][19]

Following his term as Prime Minister of Togo, Houngbo returned to the United Nations System in 2013 as Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnership at the International Labour Office.[20]

IFAD, 2017–2022[edit]

In 2017 Houngbo was appointed President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).[3] In 2020 he was also appointed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to serve on the Advisory Committee for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, chaired by Inger Andersen.[21]

International Labour Organization, 2022–present[edit]

On 25 March 2022 Houngbo was elected to succeed Guy Ryder as Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), becoming the first African selected for the position.[22] His term began on 1 October 2022. Since 2023, he has been an ex-officio member of the United Nations High-level Panel on the Teaching Profession, co-chaired by Kersti Kaljulaid and Paula-Mae Weekes.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Houngbo is married and has three children.[1] The two eldest children live in Canada.[4]


  1. ^ a b "Démission du Premier ministre" [Prime Minister resigns] (Press release) (in French). République Togolaise website. 5 May 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Reprise de la coopération et gestion de crise"[permanent dead link], République Togolaise website, 8 September 2008 (in French).
  3. ^ a b "Former Prime Minister of Togo to head United Nations rural poverty agency". (Press release). Retrieved 2017-02-14.
  4. ^ a b c d e Lyman, Eric J. (4 December 2017). "How Canada shaped Gilbert Houngbo's journey from Togo to the UN". The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ontario. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d "Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, "l'oiseau rare"" [Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, "the rare bird"]. République Togolaise website (Press release) (in French). 2008-09-09. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
  6. ^ a b c "Le patron du Pnud Afrique nommé Premier ministre" (Press release) (in French). République Togolaise website. 7 September 2008.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Togo appoints new prime minister". AFP. 8 September 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-09-12.
  8. ^ John Zodzi, "Togo names new premier", Reuters, 8 September 2008.
  9. ^ "Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo fait ses adieux au Pnud"[permanent dead link], République Togolaise website, 12 September 2008 (in French).
  10. ^ "L'équipe autour de Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo" Archived 2008-09-18 at the Wayback Machine, République Togolaise website, 15 September 2008 (in French).
  11. ^ "Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo préconise une nouvelle politique de l'emploi"[permanent dead link], République Togolaise website, 16 September 2008 (in French).
  12. ^ "Togolese government resigns", République Togolaise website, 6 May 2010.
  13. ^ "Houngbo II", République Togolaise website, 7 May 2010 (in French).
  14. ^ "31 ministres dans la nouvelle équipe", République Togolaise website, 28 May 2010 (in French).
  15. ^ "Historic agreement between the RPT and the UFC", République Togolaise website, 27 May 2010 (in French).
  16. ^ Jean-Claude Abalo, "Togo : démission du Premier ministre Gilbert Houngbo et de son gouvernement", Jeune Afrique, 12 July 2012 (in French).
  17. ^ "Pas d’autre solution que le dialogue et la concertation", République Togolaise website, 23 July 2012 (in French).
  18. ^ a b "Secretary-General appoints Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo of Togo as Director of UN Development Programme's Bureau for Africa" (Press release). United Nations, Secretary-General SG/A/967 BIO/3727 DEV/2559. 30 December 2005.
  19. ^ "UN Development Programme names new officials to head 3 regional bureaus" (Press release). UN News Centre. 29 December 2005.
  20. ^ "Report of the Director-General; Sixth Supplementary Report: Appointment of a Deputy Director-General", International Labour Office, 25 February 2015 (in French).
  21. ^ [1] United Nations, press release of June 29, 2020.
  22. ^ [ ILO, "New Director-General of the International Labour Organization elected", 25 March 2022. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  23. ^ United Nations Establishes Teaching Profession High-Level Panel to Build on Outcomes of Transforming Education Summit United Nations, press release of 19 June 2023.

See Also[edit]

Positions in intergovernmental organisations
Preceded by Director-General of the International Labour Organization
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Togo
Succeeded by