The International Labour Organization

The International Labour Organization


The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The ILO was formed in 1919 as an agency of the League of Nations through the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles. It was created in response to labor and social movements that resulted in worldwide demands for social justice and higher living standards. In 1946, the League of Nations was dissolved, and the ILO became the first specialized agency of the newly formed UN. It received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1969 for its work in social justice and its ability to institute positive change throughout its history. The overarching purpose of the ILO is to promote humanitarian labor standards and labor rights and improve worldwide labor conditions so that social justice and economic health are supported and maintained. Its goals are to strengthen worker rights, improve working conditions, create employment, and provide information and training opportunities. It fulfills its mission and goals with its unique structure, the annual International Labour Conference, and through its Governing Body and the International Labour Office. The ILO has a unique tripartite structure composed of representative governments, employers, and workers, all participating as equal partners. The Governing Bodies include 28 governmental members, 14 employer members, and 14 worker members. Ten of the government seats are held by countries of primary industrial importance, and the remaining 18 seats are elected every 3 years from countries representing a broad geographic distribution. The employers and worker members elect their own member representatives in separate electoral colleges.

The International Labour Conference is held each year, convening member country delegates who represent the tripartite structure: government, employers, and workers. The conference provides an international forum for discussion of world labor and social problems. Minimum international labor standards and the broad policies of the ILO are adopted at the conference. These standards are presented in the groups’s Conventions and Recommendations and may address issues such as freedom of association, the right to organize, the right to engage in collective bargaining, the abolishment of forced labor, equality of opportunity and treatment, and other standards regulating conditions of work-related issues. In addition, the governing bodies are elected, and work programs and budgets are adopted at the conference every 2 years. The work of the ILO is guided by its constitution and its governing body throughout the year. The directorgeneral oversees the ILO’s secretariat, known as the International Labour Office (Office), where the operational headquarters, research center, and publishing house are located. The International Labour Office employs 1,900 officials of more than 110 nationalities in 40 field offices across the world. Its research and documentation center produces studies, reports, and periodicals. There are also 600 experts who participate as technical specialists. Technical specialists work with the field offices to promote the strategies and work of the ILO through the Technical Assistance Program for Cooperative Development. This program is one of the primary tools for translating the fundamental principles and rights of the ILO into practice.

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