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History of the ILO

ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998)

The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998), a promotional instrument drawn up specifically to strengthen application of the fundamental legal principles for social justice, provided a considerable boost to the ratification campaign. 
In June 1994, at the 81st Session of the International Labour Conference, a clear consensus emerged among ILO’s constituents to step up promotion of fundamental social rights. The World Summit for Social Developmentheld in Copenhagen in March 1995, bolstered ILO’s efforts by inviting the governments to protect and promote “respect for the fundamental rights of workers”. It was in this favourable international context that ILO defined as “fundamental” the conventions dealing with matters considered to be fundamental principles and rights at work. On 25 May 1995, ILO Director-General Michel Hansenne, sent a letter to the Member States with a view to obtaining universal ratification of these fundamental conventions, of which there were seven at the time.

In June 1998, the 86th Session of the International Labour Conference adopted the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The Declaration, which asked the States party to the corresponding ILO conventions to give full effect to them and all others, made a decisive contribution to the objectives defined at the Copenhagen Summit. It reasserted the commitment of ILO′s Member States to respect, promote and universally fulfill the principles relating to four fundamental rights at work:
  • freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  • elimination of all forms of forced or obligatory labour;
  • effective abolition of child labour;
  • elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation.
“By adopting this Declaration, the ILO has taken up the challenge presented to it by the international community. It has established a social minimum at the global level to respond to the realities of globalization and can now look ahead to the new century with renewed optimism.” (Presentation of the Declaration by ILO Director-General, p. 3, Michel Hansenne). The InFocus Programme on Promoting the Declaration, launched in 1999, generated a new category of technical cooperation projects conceived and funded by ILO.
In 2008, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia, drew attention to the importance of accelerated ratification of the fundamental conventions and proposed the goal of universal ratification by 2015. (See Ratification and promotion of fundamental ILO conventions, p. 1)

Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)

“This fundamental convention prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labour […] Exceptions are provided for work required by compulsory military service, normal civic obligations, as a consequence of a conviction in a court of law […], in cases of emergency, and for minor communal services performed by the members of a community in the direct interest of the community. The convention also requires that the illegal extraction of forced or compulsory labour be punishable as a penal offence, and that ratifying states ensure that the relevant penalties imposed by law are adequate and strictly enforced.” (See Rules of the game: a brief introduction to international labour standardsp. 40)

Freedom of Association and the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87)

“This fundamental convention sets forth the right for workers and employers to establish and join organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization. Workers' and employers' organizations shall organize freely and not be liable to be dissolved or suspended by administrative authority, and they shall have the right to establish and join federations and confederations, which may in turn affiliate with international organizations of workers and employers.” (See Rules of the game: a brief introduction to international labour standardsp. 33).

Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100)

Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)

“This fundamental convention prohibits forced or compulsory labour as a means of political coercion or education or as a punishment for holding or expressing political views or views ideologically opposed to the established political, social or economic system; as a method of mobilizing and using labour for purposes of economic development; as a means of labour discipline; as a punishment for having participated in strikes; and as a means of racial, social, national or religious discrimination” (See Rules of the game: a brief introduction to international labour standards, p. 40).

Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)

“This fundamental convention defines discrimination as any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation. [...] It requires ratifying states to declare and pursue a national policy designed to promote, by methods appropriate to national conditions and practice, equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of employment and occupation, with a view to eliminating any discrimination in these fields. The Convention covers discrimination in relation to access to education and vocational training, access to employment and to particular occupations, as well as terms and conditions of employment.” (See Rules of the game: a brief introduction to international labour standards, p. 47).

Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)

Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)

“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. 42).

Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187)