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Five questions about the ILO Centenary Declaration

The International Labour Conference, held in June, adopted a landmark ILO Centenary Declaration. We look at the meaning of the declaration, which is focused on the future of work, but also reaffirms the 100-year-old mandate of the ILO.

Comment | 01 July 2019
Greg Vines, ILO Deputy Director-General for Management & Reform
The ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, 2019 was adopted at the 108th International Labour Conference, which marked the 100th anniversary of the ILO. We asked Greg Vines, ILO Deputy Director-General for Management & Reform, about its significance.

What is the ILO Centenary Declaration?

It is a short but crucial statement that looks at the major challenges and opportunities for the future of work, ranging from technology to climate change, from demographic shifts to the need for new skills. It provides guidance for dealing with these pressing issues and a platform for cooperation with other organizations in the international system. It is also a strong reaffirmation of the social justice mandate we were given 100 years ago, and the critical role of social dialogue and international labour standards. In short, the Declaration acknowledges our successes, recognizes where we are now, and most importantly looks at where we need to go in the future.

What are its recommendations for the world of work?

In order to move forward and create the perspectives for a just and sustainable future we need to invest in people through a human-centred approach to the future of work. That means investing in jobs, skills and social protection. It means supporting gender equality. It also means investing in the institutions of the labour market so that wages are adequate, working hours are limited, and safety and health as well as fundamental rights at work are ensured. And it means adopting policies that promote an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises, economic growth and decent work for all.

© Marcel Crozet / ILO
Why this Centenary Declaration?

The ILO marks its Centenary at a time of transformative change in the world of work, driven by technological innovations, demographic shifts, climate change and globalization, which have profound impacts on the nature and future of work, and the place and dignity of people in it. The path outlined by the Declaration will set the way forward for the ILO. It is imperative to act with urgency to seize the opportunities and address the challenges if we are to shape a fair, inclusive and secure future of work, with full, productive and freely-chosen employment and decent work for all.

How did the Declaration come about?

It is the culmination of years of work within the framework of the ILO’s Future of Work initiative. As a first step, member States held tripartite dialogues, which provided a rich discussion of priorities, challenges and opportunities at national and international levels. The outcomes of these dialogues informed the work of the Global Commission on the Future of Work, whose recommendations, in turn, helped craft the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.

What are ILO Declarations?

Declarations are resolutions of the International Labour Conference used to make a formal and authoritative statement and reaffirm the importance that the constituents attach to certain principles and values.

Although declarations are not subject to ratification and are not binding, they are intended to have a wide application and contain symbolic and political undertakings by the member States.

In 1944, the Declaration of Philadelphia set out the aims and purposes of the ILO. The fundamental principles it spells out are as relevant as ever today, and are reaffirmed in the Centenary Declaration.