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ILO instruments: preparatory reports work

International Labour Standards. The need for social justice

Since 1919, the International Labour Organization has established and developed a system of international labour standards aimed at promoting opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity. In today’s globalized economy, international labour standards are an essential component of the international framework for ensuring that the growth of the global economy provides benefits for all. (See Rules of the game:  brief introduction to international labour standards, p. 7).

Conventions and Recommendations

International labour standards are legal instruments drawn up by the ILO's constituents (governments, employers and workers) and setting out basic principles and rights at work. They are eleven Conventions (or Protocols), which are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member states, or Recommendations, which serve as non-binding guidelines. In many cases, a Convention lays down the basic principles to be implemented by ratifying countries, while a related Recommendation supplements the Convention by providing more detailed guidelines on how it could be applied. Recommendations can also be autonomous, i.e., not linked to a Convention.

Conventions and Recommendations are drawn up by representatives of governments, employers and workers and are adopted at the annual International Labour Conference. Once a standard is adopted, member states are required under article 19(6) of the ILO Constitution, to submit it to their competent authority (normally Parliament) within a period of twelve months for consideration. In the case of Conventions, this means consideration for ratification. If it is ratified, a Convention generally comes into force for that country one year after the date of ratification. Ratifying countries undertake to apply the Convention in national law and practice and to report on its application at regular intervals. Technical assistance is provided by the ILO, if necessary. In addition, representation and complaint procedures can be initiated against countries for violations of a Convention that they have ratified (see  “Applying and promoting International Labour Standards ”)

There are currently 191 Conventions, six Protocols and 208 Recommendations, some dating back as far as 1919.