The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the only tripartite U.N. agency with government, employer, and worker representatives. This tripartite structure makes the ILO a unique forum in which the governments and the social partners of the economy of its Member States can freely and openly debate and elaborate labour standards and policies.
Today the ILO comprises 183 Member States. In addition to the States which were Members of the International Labour Organization on 1 November 1945, any original member of the United Nations and any State admitted to membership of the United Nations by a decision of the General Assembly may become a Member of the ILO by communicating to the Director-General its formal acceptance of the obligations of the Constitution of the Organization.
The General Conference of the International Labour Organization may also admit Members to the Organization by a vote of two-thirds of the delegates attending the session, including two-thirds of the Government delegates present and voting.
Free trade unions are democratic, self-organizing institutions of working people wishing to advance their rights as workers and citizens. Despite the denial of the right to organize in many countries the international trade union movement is the world’s largest and most representative organization based on voluntary membership.
Trade unions are key civil society institutions in most democratic countries. In a rapidly globalizing world the challenge of securing decent work, safe conditions of work, living wages, basic social security, gender equality and fair income distribution call for better global governance and universal application and enforcement of international labour standards.
Since its creation, trade unions have regarded the ILO as an essential institution for promoting the protection of workers through global social dialogue and standard setting. As the main link between the International Labour Office and workers, the Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV) - a specialized unit within the ILO Secretariat- coordinates all the activities of the Office related to workers and their organizations, both at headquarters and in the field.
The Mandate of the Bureau for Workers' Activities is to strengthen representative, independent and democratic trade unions in all countries, to enable them to play their role effectively in protecting workers' rights and interests and in providing effective services to their members at national and international levels, and to promote the ratification and implementation of ILO Conventions.
Employers' Organizations are institutions set up to organize and advance the collective interests of employers. They are crucial for shaping an environment conducive to competitive and sustainable enterprises that can contribute to economic and social development, and by providing services that improve and guide individual performance of enterprises.
Employers’ organizations are a critical component of any social dialogue process, which can help to ensure that national social and economic objectives are properly and effectively formulated and enjoy wide support among the business community which they represent.
As one of the three constituents of the ILO, employers' organizations have a special relationship with the Organization. The ILO's Bureau for Employers' Organizations - a specialized unit within the ILO Secretariat - is responsible for the nurturing and development of that relationship. Its task is to maintain close and direct relations with employers' organizations in member States, to make the ILO's resources available to them and to keep the ILO constantly aware of their views, concerns and priorities.
The Bureau also runs a Technical Cooperation Programme, which provides assistance to employers' organizations in developing and transition countries.
ACT/EMP works in close cooperation with the International Organisation of Employers (IOE)
on the international labour and social policy issues the ILO deals with.