Appendix D
The International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

Several events led up to ILO approval in 1998 of a Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The ILO is a tripartite organization, affiliated with the United Nations and made up of representatives of workers, employers, and governments around the world. Traditionally, these three groups have established labor standards in the form of conventions. Under the ILO constitution, after the International Labour Conference (held each year in Geneva) has approved a convention and at least two nations have ratified it, the convention comes into force.1 Each member nation is then expected to ratify that convention, creating a binding legal obligation to carry out its provisions through changes in the nation’s labor laws and enforcement mechanisms. The ILO has created an extensive supervisory system to encourage nations to carry out the 184 conventions approved thus far. This system includes ongoing reporting, dialogue with member nations, complaints procedures, and special procedures focusing specifically on complaints related to freedom of association.

However, many ILO conventions have been ratified by only a few of the ILO’s 175 member states.2 At the same time, nations that do ratify conventions often do not carry out their legal obligations to change their

1  

International Labour Organization. ILOLEX “Ratifications.” Available: <http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm> [January 21, 2003].

2  

International Labour Organization. ILOLEX “Ratifications.” Available: <http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm> [January 21, 2003].



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Appendix D The International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Several events led up to ILO approval in 1998 of a Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The ILO is a tripartite organization, affiliated with the United Nations and made up of representatives of workers, employers, and governments around the world. Traditionally, these three groups have established labor standards in the form of conventions. Under the ILO constitution, after the International Labour Conference (held each year in Geneva) has approved a convention and at least two nations have ratified it, the convention comes into force.1 Each member nation is then expected to ratify that convention, creating a binding legal obligation to carry out its provisions through changes in the nation’s labor laws and enforcement mechanisms. The ILO has created an extensive supervisory system to encourage nations to carry out the 184 conventions approved thus far. This system includes ongoing reporting, dialogue with member nations, complaints procedures, and special procedures focusing specifically on complaints related to freedom of association. However, many ILO conventions have been ratified by only a few of the ILO’s 175 member states.2 At the same time, nations that do ratify conventions often do not carry out their legal obligations to change their 1   International Labour Organization. ILOLEX “Ratifications.” Available: <http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm> [January 21, 2003]. 2   International Labour Organization. ILOLEX “Ratifications.” Available: <http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm> [January 21, 2003].

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labor laws and enforcement systems accordingly.3 Some observers view the ILO as “toothless” because it lacks an enforcement system to address these problems. Activists have sought (and continue to seek) a link between labor issues and international trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), hoping that trade sanctions would provide a stronger “stick” to encourage developing countries to improve labor protections. Nations around the world responded to these problems and pressures by seeking a more focused approach to labor standards. At the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, nations affirmed that all workers are entitled to four basic rights—freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively; the prohibition of forced labor; prohibition of child labor; and the elimination of discrimination in employment. Later that year, the ILO identified eight conventions that addressed these four basic rights as “fundamental to the rights of human beings at work,” and launched a campaign to increase their ratification (see Table D-1 below). In 1996, the WTO in Singapore reiterated its longstanding opposition to addressing labor issues. At this WTO meeting, world leaders renewed their commitment to observe “internationally recognized core labour standards” and stated that the ILO was the appropriate body to set and promote these standards. The 1998 Declaration reflected these developments, focusing and strengthening the ILO’s approach to protecting workers around the world. The Declaration not only calls on the ILO and its member nations to promote the four basic rights identified in Copenhagen, whether or not they have ratified conventions corresponding to those rights, but also creates new promotional mechanisms. These include increased technical assistance from the ILO and increased reporting from member nations to move toward attainment of these rights. Although the Declaration represents a new approach to international labor standards, different from the use of conventions, most observers equate its four rights and principles with the eight “fundamental” ILO conventions. Thus, the term “core international labor standards” has come to mean not only the four broad principles in the Declaration but also the eight corresponding conventions. The text of 3   Compa, L. (2002). Assessing Assessments: A Survey of Efforts to Measure Countries’ Compliance with Freedom of Association Standards. Paper prepared for the National Research Council Workshop on International Labor Standards: Quality of Information and Measures of Progress. Available: <http://www7.nationalacademies.org/internationallabor/DQworkshop.html> [October 15, 2002].

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TABLE D-1 The Four Core International Labor Standards Fundamental Principle Corresponding ILO Conventions Number of Ratifications of Convention 1. Freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining C. 87: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 141   C. 98: Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 152 2. The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor. C. 29: Forced Labour Convention, 1930 161   C. 105: Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 159 3. The effective abolition of child labor. C. 138: Minimum Age Convention, 1973 121   C. 182: Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, 1999 132 4. The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment or occupation C. 100: Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 160   C. 111: Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 158 the Declaration is presented below,4 followed by a table comparing its rights and principles with the corresponding ILO conventions (Table D-1). 4   International Labour Organization. (1998b). ILO Declaration of Fundamental Rights and Principles at Work. International Labour Conference 86th Session. Geneva, Switzerland: Author.

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TEXT OF THE ILO DECLARATION Whereas the ILO was founded in the conviction that social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace; Whereas economic growth is essential but not sufficient to ensure equity, social progress and the eradication of poverty, confirming the need for the ILO to promote strong social policies, justice and democratic institutions; Whereas the ILO should, now more than ever, draw upon all its standard-setting, technical cooperation and research resources in all its areas of competence, in particular employment, vocational training and working conditions, to ensure that, in the context of a global strategy for economic and social development, economic and social policies are mutually reinforcing components in order to create broad-based sustainable development; Whereas the ILO should give special attention to the problems of persons with special social needs, particularly the unemployed and migrant workers, and mobilize and encourage international, regional and national efforts aimed at resolving their problems, and promote effective policies aimed at job creation; Whereas, in seeking to maintain the link between social progress and economic growth, the guarantee of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work is of particular significance in that it enables the persons concerned, to claim freely and on the basis of equality of opportunity, their fair share of the wealth which they have helped to generate, and to achieve fully their human potential; Whereas the ILO is the constitutionally mandated international organization and the competent body to set and deal with international labor standards, and enjoys universal support and acknowledgement in promoting Fundamental Rights at Work as the expression of its constitutional principles; Whereas it is urgent, in a situation of growing economic interdependence, to reaffirm the immutable nature of the Fundamental Principles and Rights embodied in the Constitution of the Organization and to promote their universal application; The International Labour Conference Recalls: that in freely joining the ILO, all Members have endorsed the principles and rights set out in its Constitution and in the Declara

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tion of Philadelphia, and have undertaken to work towards attaining the overall objectives of the Organization to the best of their resources and fully in line with their specific circumstances; that these principles and rights have been expressed and developed in the form of specific rights and obligations in Conventions recognized as fundamental both inside and outside the Organization. Declares that all Members, even if they have not ratified the Conventions in question, have an obligation arising from the very fact of membership in the Organization to respect, to promote and to realize, in good faith and in accordance with the Constitution, the principles concerning the fundamental rights which are the subject of those Conventions, namely: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor; the effective abolition of child labor; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. Recognizes the obligation on the Organization to assist its Members, in response to their established and expressed needs, in order to attain these objectives by making full use of its constitutional, operational and budgetary resources, including, by the mobilization of external resources and support, as well as by encouraging other international organizations with which the ILO has established relations, pursuant to article 12 of its Constitution, to support these efforts: by offering technical cooperation and advisory services to promote the ratification and implementation of the fundamental Conventions; by assisting those Members not yet in a position to ratify some or all of these Conventions in their efforts to respect, to promote and to realize the principles concerning fundamental rights which are the subject of these Conventions; and by helping the Members in their efforts to create a climate for economic and social development. Decides that, to give full effect to this Declaration, a promotional follow-up, which is meaningful and effective, shall be implemented

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in accordance with the measures specified in the annex hereto, which shall be considered as an integral part of this Declaration. Stresses that labor standards should not be used for protectionist trade purposes, and that nothing in this Declaration and its followup shall be invoked or otherwise used for such purposes; in addition, the comparative advantage of any country should in no way be called into question by this Declaration and its follow-up.