International Labour Organization (ILO)

Foundation Date : 29 October 1919

Headquarter: Geneva, Switzerland

Member Countries: 187

Director General: Guy Ryder

Origins and history

The ILO was founded in 1919, in the wake of a destructive war, to pursue a vision based on the premise that universal, lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice. The ILO became the first specialized agency of the UN in 1946.

The Constitution was drafted between January and April, 1919, by the Labour Commission set up by the Peace Conference, which first met in Paris and then in Versailles. The Commission, chaired by Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labour (AFL) in the United States, was composed of representatives from nine countries: Belgium, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. It resulted in a tripartite organization, the only one of its kind bringing together representatives of governments, employers and workers in its executive bodies.

The driving forces for ILO's creation arose from security, humanitarian, political and economic considerations. Summarizing them, the ILO Constitution's Preamble says the High Contracting Parties were 'moved by sentiments of justice and humanity as well as by the desire to secure the permanent peace of the world. There was keen appreciation of the importance of social justice in securing peace, against a background of exploitation of workers in the industrializing nations of that time. There was also increasing understanding of the world's economic interdependence and the need for cooperation to obtain similarity of working conditions in countries competing for markets. Reflecting these ideas, the Preamble states:

  • Whereas universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice;
  • And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled;and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required;
  • Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries.

Mission and objectives

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace. Only tripartite U.N. agency, the ILO brings together governments, employers and workers representatives of 187 member States , to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men. Today, the ILO's Decent Work agenda helps advance the economic and working conditions that give all workers, employers and governments a stake in lasting peace, prosperity and progress.

Programme and budget

The Programme and Budget of the ILO, which sets out the strategic objectives and expected outcomes for the Organization’s work in the biennium, is approved every two years by the International Labour Conference. The Programme and Budget establishes both a programme of work and a budget based on the priorities identified in the Strategic Plan. It describes what the ILO is expected to do and achieve within a specific biennium, specifies the strategies to achieve measurable results alongside the capacities and the resources required to deliver those results, and authorizes the relevant regular budget expenditure. The ILO’s biennial programme of work is delivered in member States mainly through Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCPs) , aligned with national development plans and UN planning frameworks.

The results and achievements of the ILO are financed through three main funding sources:

  • the Regular Budget, funded from assessed contributions by member States, based on the scale of assessments of the United Nations;
  • the Regular Budget Supplementary Account, funded by voluntary core contributions from key resource partners that provide fully unearmarked resources; and
  • Extra-Budgetary Technical Cooperation resources, funded by voluntary non-core contributions from over 100 different resource partners, including public and private organizations, IFIs and UN entities, in support of specific projects.

The close integration of the different budgetary resources available to the ILO to deliver an integrated results framework is central to its strategy to deliver successfully on priorities in countries, regionally and globally through outcome-based workplans.

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