IPEC originated at a meeting in Bonn, in September 1990, between the ILO Director-General, Michel Hansenne, and the German Labour Minister. The preparatory work carried out during 1991 led to the establishment of an initial programme. In December 1991, ILO and the German Government signed an agreement on a contribution amounting to 50 million Deutsch marks over five years. The Programme was officially launched in 1992.
IPEC's overall objective is to gradually eliminate child labour by bolstering national capacities to tackle the problem and to promote a global anti-child labour movement. At present, IPEC acts through technical cooperation in 88 countries. It is the most far-reaching programme of its kind worldwide and ILO’s largest operational programme.
Although IPEC’s initial objective was the gradual elimination of child labour, it has since set as a priority the struggle against the worst forms of child labour, as defined in the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182).
(Photo: Child labour being exploited by a small company in the informal sector. Undated.)
“This fundamental Convention defines as a “child” a person under 18 years of age. It requires ratifying states to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, including: all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; child prostitution and pornography; using children for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs; and work which is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children. The Convention requires ratifying states to provide the necessary and appropriate direct assistance for the removal of children from the worst forms of child labour and for their rehabilitation and social integration. It also requires states to ensure access to free basic education and, wherever possible and appropriate, vocational training for children removed from the worst forms of child labour.” (See Rules of the game: a brief introduction to international labour standards, p. 37).
(Photo: Child working in a cotton field during the harvest. Sudan)
“The primary goal of the ILO today is to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity” (Juan Somavia, ILO Director-General).
Initiated in 1999 by ILO Director-General Juan Somavia, the Decent Work Agenda promotes a development strategy that recognizes the central role of work in everyone′s life. The Organization provides support in the form of integrated decent work programmes developed at country level with ILO′s constituents. These programmes set priorities and targets within national development frameworks and aim to tackle major decent work shortcomings through effective programmes that meet each of ILO′s four strategic objectives:
In his report to the 87th Session of the International Labour Conference, the Director-General recalled the issues inherent in the concept of decent work: “The ILO is concerned with decent work. The goal is not just the creation of jobs, but the creation of jobs of acceptable quality. The quantity of employment cannot be divorced from its quality. All societies have a notion of decent work, but the quality of employment can mean many things. It could relate to different forms of work, and also to different conditions of work, as well as feelings of value and satisfaction. The need today is to devise social and economic systems which ensure basic security and employment while remaining capable of adaptation to rapidly changing circumstances in a highly competitive global market.” (p. 4)
On 10 June 2008, at its 97th Session, the International Labour Conference adopted the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization, which is to be implemented in the context of the Decent Work Agenda and its four strategic objectives.
(Photo: The Right Honourable Mr. Mosisili, Prime Minister of Lesotho, delivers his address to the ILC. High-Level Panel on the Food Crisis, Production, Investment and Decent Work. 97th International Labour Conference. Geneva, 11th June 2008.)
(Photo: HIV/AIDS Human Red Ribbon at ILO headquarters on World AIDS Day, 1 December 2010, Geneva.)
At its 24th special session (26 June – 1 July 2000), the United Nations General Assembly recognized “the need to elaborate a coherent and coordinated international strategy on employment to increase opportunities for people to achieve sustainable livelihoods and gain access to employment” (p. 1). The Millennium Declaration, adopted in September 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly, highlighted a number of global goals to be met by 2015, in particular to reduce by half the number of people earning less than one dollar a day worldwide.
The Global Employment Agenda is ILO′s response to both the United Nations General Assembly resolution and the goals set out in the Millennium Declaration. In November 2001, ILO organized the Global Employment Forum in Geneva ; the Forum ended with the launch of a 10-point programme to curb the mounting unemployment and impoverishment caused by global recession and the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The programme gave rise to the Global Employment Agenda, which was adopted in March 2003 by the ILO Governing Body by a broad tripartite consensus and whose aim is to place employment at the core of the economic and social policies implemented by governments.
The Global Employment Agenda thus constitutes a frame within which ILO can establish partnerships within the multilateral system and approach governments and the social partners, at both national and regional level, with a view to promoting the creation of productive jobs.
(Photo: Speech of the Director-General of the ILO, Juan Somavia, at the Opening session of the Global Employment Forum. Geneva.)
The 94th Session of the International Labour Conference, which took place in Geneva from 7 to 23 February 2006, dealt exclusively with the maritime sector. The Conference set an objective of unprecedented ambition, namely the adoption of a global international convention encompassing almost all the conventions and recommendations on maritime labour currently in force (more than 60 texts) with a view to ensuring decent working conditions in an increasingly globalized sector. The convention has not yet entered into force.
(Photo: Life saving drill at sea by the crew of a cargo ship. Greece, 1991.)