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CHILD Protection & Child Rights » VII. International Mechanisms » International Labour Organisation


The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was created in 1919, as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. The Constitutions of the ILO was drafted by the labour commission, a body set up by the allied countries during the Paris Peace Conference. The Labour Commission was chaired by the head of the American Federation of Labour and was composed of delegates from nine countries: Belgium, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The ILO is a tripartite organisation with representatives from governments, employers and employees part of the executive bodies. The driving force behind the creation of the ILO was the idea that peace could only really be achieved by social justice.

The areas of concern outlined by the ILO are still important today:

  • Regulation of working hours
  • Regulation of labour supply
  • Protection of workers who are ill or injured due to work
  • Protection of children, adolescents and women
  • Provisions for pension and social security
  • Up-holding the principle that pay should equal the value of the work
  • Up-holding the principle of freedom of association
  • Organization of technical and vocational training to meet labour demands

The objectives of the ILO are: i Promote and realize standards and fundamental principles and rights at work. ii Generate greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment and income. iii Improve the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all. iv Reinforce tripartism and mediate negotiation, consultation and exchange of information between, the three stakeholders on issues of common interest.

The representatives of member countries of the ILO meet once a year in June in Geneva for the International Labour Conference. There are a 183 member states in the ILO. Two government delegates, an employer delegate and a worker delegate represent each Member Country. The purpose of the conference is to decide on labour standards, discuss important labour issues as well as elect the governing body. The Governing Body meets three times a year in Geneva and is the executive branch of the ILO. The Governing Body makes proposals on budget, policy and programmes for the conference to adopt. It also elected the Director-General. The Body consists of elected representatives of all three parties of the ILO. The ILO also has a permanent administrative centre, called the International Labour Office. The Office comes under the supervision of the Governing Body and Director-General.

The Director-General is elected for a five-year term. The current Director-General is Juan Somavia. He was elected to his first term as the ninth Director-General of the ILO in 1998. He was re-elected for a second term in 2003 and a third term in 2008. He has held many positions in the UN such as Chairman of the Social Committee of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

The ILO has a number of areas of work:

  • International Labour Standards: these standards aim at giving equal opportunities of employment to all people in conditions promote safety, security and dignity.
  • Official Meetings: ILO holds meetings not only at the international level but also at the national, state and sectoral level to discuss labour issues affected those areas.
  • Events and Campaigns: are organised to increase awareness and participation of the public in resolving labour issues.
  • Projects: ILO engages in technical cooperation projects to carry forth the objective of providing decent work for people. One of the projects the ILO is engaged in is International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC)
  • Training: offers information and training packets to states and employers to improve their skilled human resources for better work.
  • Publications
  • Statistics and Databases

Note on IPEC: The ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour was started in 1992 with the overall goal of the ordered elimination of child labour. India was the first country to join it in 1992 when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ILO. To achieve this ILO works to build the capacity of ILO agencies and NGOs to deal with the child labour causes and create programmes for child labourers. It researches intervention methods at the community level which as effective and can be replicated elsewhere. ILO also runs a mass awareness movement to create social mobilisation that aims at elimination of child labour. IPEC currently has projects in 88 countries. It is the biggest single operational programme of the ILO.

ILO Headquarters are located in Geneva:
4 route des Morillons
CH-1211 Gen�ve 22

Switchboard: +41 (0) 22 799 6111
Fax: +41 (0) 22 798 8685

For more information visit the ILO website