For other meanings of the ILO abbreviation, see ILO (disambiguation).
The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations to deal with labour issues. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.
Founded in 1919, it was formed through the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles, and was initially an agency of the League of Nations. It became a UN body after the demise of the League and the formation of the UN at the end of World War II. Its current charter, the Declaration of Philadelphia, was adopted in 1944.
The organisation seeks to strengthen worker rights, improve working and living conditions, create employment, and provide information and training opportunities. ILO programs include the occupational safety and health hazard alert system and the labor standards and human rights programs.
Historically, one of the functions the ILO has performed has been the establishment of international standards for workers' conditions, which have then become the basis for trade union and other activism in individual countries.
It is a relatively low-profile UN agency compared to some of those more active in crises like the World Health Organization.
The ILO hosts the International Labour Conference in Geneva every year in June. At the Conference conventions and recommendations are crafted and adopted by majority decision. The Conference also makes decisions on the ILO's general policy, work programme and budget.
Each member state is represented at the International Labour Conference by four delegates: two government delegates, an employer delegate and a worker delegate. All delegates have individual voting rights, and all votes are equal, regardless of the population of the delegate's member state. The employer and worker delegates are normally chosen in agreement with the most representative national organizations of employers and workers. Usually, the worker delegates coordinate their voting, as does the employer delegates.
The decision-making process of the ILO means that conventions need government support to be adopted. Despite this, not all governments voting for a convention end up ratifying it. For instance, after ten years, the Part-Time Work Convention adopted in 1994 had been ratified by only ten countries. On the other hand, a group of eight conventions, defined by the ILO as "fundamental", have enjoyed far wider recognition. These have all been ratified by a majority of the member states, and are known as the international labour standards.
With the ratification of a convention comes a legal obligation to apply its provisions. Governments are required to submit reports detailing their compliance with the obligations of the resolutions they have ratified. Every year, the International Labour Conference's Committee on the Application of Standards examine a number of suspected breaches of ILO labour standards. Cases can cover all areas of policy and practice, e.g. freedom of association, discrimination, child labour and maternity protection. In recent years, one of the member states that has received the most attention is Myanmar. The country has repeatedly been critizised for its failure to guarantee fundamental worker's rights. The ILO's repeated expression of "grave concern" in this case also illustrates the organization's lack of sanction possibilities.
The ILO maintains an International Training Center in Turin, Italy.
The organization received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969.