International Labour Organisation

The International Labour Organisation (ILO)

The International Labour Organization was created in 1919 on the basis of Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles. The ILO, although having the same members as the League and being subject to the budget control of the Assembly, was an autonomous organization with its own Governing Body, its own General Conference and its own Secretariat. Its constitution differed from that of the League: representation had been accorded not only to governments but also to representatives of employers’ and workers’ organisations. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the only tripartite U.N. agency with government, employer, and worker representatives. This tripartite structure makes the ILO a unique forum in which the governments and the social partners of the economy of its 185 Member States can freely and openly debate and elaborate labour standards and policies.

The ILO successfully restricted the addition of lead to paint,[56] and convinced several countries to adopt an eight-hour work day and forty-eight hour working week. It also campaigned to end child labour, increase the rights of women in the workplace, and make shipowners liable for accidents involving seamen.[54] After the demise of the League, the ILO became an agency of the United Nations in 1946.

With its HQs in Geneva (Switzerland), the ILO is the international organization responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standards. It is the only ‘tripartite’ United Nations agency that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programmes promoting Decent Work for all. This unique arrangement gives the ILO an edge in incorporating ‘real world’ knowledge about employment and work.

The Administrative Tribunal examines employment-related complaints by officials of the International Labour Office and of the other international organizations that have recognized its jurisdiction. It is currently open to approximately 46,000 international civil servants who are serving or former officials of some 60 organizations. How the ILO works: more…

Through July 2011, the ILO has adopted 189 conventions. If these conventions are ratified by enough governments, they gain the status of treaties. However, ILO conventions are considered international labor standards regardless of ratifications. When a convention comes into force as a treaty, it creates a legal obligation for ratifying nations to apply its provisions.

This impressive list of ILO Conventions can be found here. To be noted that many Conventions stem from the period of the League of Nations.

Every year the International Labour Conference’s Committee on the Application of Standards examines a number of alleged breaches of international labour standards. Governments are required to submit reports detailing their compliance with the obligations of the conventions they have ratified. Conventions that have not been ratified by member states have the same legal force as do recommendations.

The ILO has four strategic objectives

  1. Promote and realize standards and fundamental principles and rights at work
  2. Create greater opportunities for women and men to decent employment and income
  3. Enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all
  4. Strengthen tripartism and social dialogue


The World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization 

The Social Dimension of Globalisation

Globalisation is a term that is used in many ways, but the principal underlying idea is the progressive integration of economies and societies. It is driven by new technologies, new economic relationships and the national and international policies of a wide range of actors, including governments, international organisations, business, labour and civil society.

The social dimension of globalization refers to the impact of globalization on the life and work of people, on their families and their societies. Concerns and issues are often raised about the impact of globalization on employment, working conditions, income and social protection. Beyond the world of work, the social dimension encompasses security, culture and identity, inclusion or exclusion and the cohesiveness of families and communities.  More>>

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Latest News – 28 September 2012:

Changing of the guard – Outgoing ILO head hands over to Guy Ryder

Guy Ryder received three keys that symbolize the tripartite structure of the ILO, ahead of his first day as Director-General. Outgoing ILO head, Juan Somavia, handed over the golden keys, and his functions.
Outgoing International Labour Organization (ILO) head, Juan Somavia, has formally handed over his functions to Guy Ryder, who takes office as Director-General on October 1.

You are now the guardian of our values and our traditions,” Somavia said, handing over the three keys to the gates of the original ILO building. The keys symbolize the UN agency’s unique tripartite composition, which brings together representatives of governments, workers and employers.
They are in good hands, in very good hands,” Somavia said.

Ryder, for his part, said: “When these three keys turn together, when governments, employers and workers are able to come together, doors open and social justice advances.

He said that while the goal of social justice still remains a distant prospect for millions of people, “the world is a better, fairer, safer place for what the ILO has achieved.