ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

271st Session
Geneva, March 1998

Committee on Technical Cooperation



Information on the development of
new global programmes


  1. Introduction
  2. Background to the development of global programmes
  3. What are global programmes?
  4. Global programmes in the context of the APP
  5. Global programmes and the ILO structure
  6. Global programmes and other ILO technical cooperation activities
  7. Problems and challenges
  8. Conclusions

Appendix: Current status of the global programmes

  1. International programme on More and Better Jobs for Women
  2. Strategies and Tools against Social Exclusion and Poverty (STEP)
  3. The International Small Enterprise Programme (ISEP)
  4. Global programme on Occupational Safety, Health and the Environment (OSHE)

I. Introduction

1. In November 1997 the Committee on Technical Cooperation requested information on the global programmes being developed and implemented as part of the Office's overall technical cooperation programme. This paper responds to that request: the main text traces the evolution of this modality of technical cooperation, clarifies the designation of certain programmes as "global" and places the approach in the context of the ILO's overall strategy for technical cooperation. Information on the substantive content of specific programmes is provided in the appendix.

II. Background to the development of
global programmes

2. External factors, as well as impetus from within, generated a process of reform in the Office in the early 1990s aimed at achieving greater relevance and impact in all aspects of its work. Key elements of the reform were (i) the introduction of the Active Partnership Policy (APP), designed to bring the Organization closer to its tripartite constituency and to enhance the coherence and quality of its technical services, including more integrated use of the different instruments of action available to the ILO; (ii) a stronger focus on the core mandate of the ILO and its role in promoting social justice; and (iii) emphasis on providing quality services and support for capacity building to constituents in areas of comparative advantage. The APP framework and the orientations described above set the scene for a rethinking of technical cooperation. Following the confirmation of technical cooperation as an important means of action of the ILO during the discussion at the International Labour Conference on technical cooperation in 1993 and the directions for its future orientation which emerged from it, a strategy for technical cooperation was prepared by the Office and approved by the Governing Body in 1994.

3. The technical cooperation strategy referred to the need to develop a new approach to technical cooperation to respond effectively, inter alia, to changes in the global economy as well as emerging political, economic and social trends at national level. The Office also needed to take into account the results of various critical analyses of the UN system as well as developments within the system, such as the renewed emphasis on national execution and national capacity building. In addition, if the ILO was to be successful in attracting adequate levels of extrabudgetary funding for technical cooperation, it had to be able to deal effectively with the repercussions of declining official development assistance (ODA) funds: increased competition for resources; the need to meet higher donor standards and expectations; and strengthened emphasis on results and effectiveness, efficiency and impact from the projects and programmes financed by donors.

4. To meet the challenge of the new environment and the ILO's own reform objectives, a major thrust of the strategy was the development of substantial and coherent programmes in priority areas of the ILO's mandate, grounded in its value system as defined by international labour standards, which would give greater impact, quality and visibility to the work of the Office. It was foreseen that these orientations would facilitate mobilizing the external resources required for the realization of the new initiatives. This is the context for the development of global programmes, which constitute a particular category of the ILO's technical cooperation activities.

5. Active programmes include the well-established International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), and two programmes that are currently at the start-up stage (More and Better Jobs for Women, and Strategies and Tools against Social Exclusion and Poverty (STEP)). The International Small Enterprise Programme (ISEP) should be launched in the first half of 1998. Work is continuing on the development of the Global Programme on Occupational Safety, Health and the Environment (OSHE). The Programme and Budget for 1998-99 highlighted the development of three of these programmes (More and Better Jobs for Women, ISEP and the OSHE programme).

III. What are global programmes?

6. The programmes are global in the following respects: (a) they will have a truly global geographical coverage extending beyond single countries and regions, which will serve as a foundation for extracting significant value added; (b) they are also intended to focus on obligations of a global nature which are conferred on the ILO, for example through international UN summits, which require responses on a global scale; (c) they are global in a qualitative sense, based as they are on a comprehensive, integrated, multidimensional and multi-level approach where the advantages of scale can be used to maximize impact, efficiency and visibility; and (d) from a financial point of view, implementing these programmes is dependent on external funding. Many donors have been kept informed of progress in developing the new programmes and they have welcomed the ILO's initiatives in key areas of its work. The pertinence of the objectives to global concerns and to the ILO's mandate, the substantial gains in quality and impact expected, as well as the visibility of the programmes, should make them attractive to donors. The challenge will now be to secure their commitment and to expand the community of contributors.

7. A number of design features allow the global programmes to achieve the improvements in quality, and the kind and level of impact targeted in the ILO's reforms. A key characteristic is that they reconcile effectively national specificity and national capacity building with the advantages of a global approach. A major advantage of scale is that, systematically and independently of any particular national project, the programmes can have strong programme-specific support mechanisms for research and development, exchanges of experience, the integration of and feedback on standards-related issues, promotion of multidisciplinarity, monitoring, evaluation and the refinement of approaches and coordination within the ILO. This capacity makes a major contribution to enhanced quality, impact and added value, without duplicating or detracting from national activities, but complementing and strengthening them. Moreover, organization on a global scale facilitates advocacy, cooperation with relevant international organizations, and promotional and resource mobilization initiatives.

8. The positive results obtained from this combination of extensive field experience and strong technical support mechanisms enhance the reputation of the ILO and make a strong contribution to its goal of being a recognized centre of excellence in certain fields. More significant results also open up possibilities for stronger impact on, and greater credibility with organizations such as the European Union and the World Bank.

9. In sum, in certain priority areas, the global programmes represent a more effective means of organizing to advance the Organization's values while supporting development efforts, an objective shared by all technical cooperation activities.

10. Finally, these programmes are intended to be flagships for the practical application of the ILO's values. They should reflect the ILO's core mandate in their design as well as in their implementation. They articulate a clear statement of the ILO's position on issues which emerge as global concerns in the Organization's mandate and which it seeks to advance in its cooperation with member States. Moreover, each programme will represent a major response to the established ILO priorities of supporting democracy and fundamental workers' rights, promoting employment and combating poverty, and protecting working people.

IV. Global programmes in the
context of the APP

11. Through the APP, the ILO was expected to move forward in the directions for technical cooperation indicated by the Conference: greater emphasis on strengthening national capacity, and achieving greater coherence among the different forms of action. The global programmes respond to these aims as well as to the objectives of bringing the Organization closer to its constituents and improving the quality and relevance of the ILO's services. First, they provide a framework for developing national interventions defined in a consultative process with constituents on the themes covered. Secondly, while operating in a global framework, national action plans/programmes are designed to address specific national situations. Thirdly, the conceptual basis and organizational arrangements for the global programmes are clearly focused on maximizing quality and impact. Fourthly, although global in perspective, the programmes are centred on the goal of national capacity building and on establishing a lasting competence locally to deal with national needs and problems. Hence, activities based on national ownership, and national execution as far as possible, are the heart of any global programme and programme strategies at all levels are designed with these objectives in mind. These guiding principles help to ensure that short-term benefits of scale are not achieved at the cost of local relevance and sustainability.

12. Finally, the APP sought to achieve greater coherence in the ILO's means of action: by virtue of their scale, methods of operation and potential for vastly increased impact, the global programmes will be powerful vehicles for promoting international labour standards, providing pragmatic support for their application and strengthening the coherence between the Office's normative and technical cooperation activities. The global programmes, being multidimensional, will necessarily incorporate the various dimensions of the Office's work (standards-related activities, analysis and advisory activities) pertinent to the themes covered. In so doing, they will complement related work of the Office while concretely advancing development objectives at field level.

V. Global programmes and the ILO structure

13. In view of their nature and scope, responsibility for developing and coordinating the new global programmes has been assumed by headquarters. However, an integral part of the process is the involvement of the field structure and consultation with constituents. At the implementation stage, consistent with the roles defined by the APP, field activities are the responsibility of the ILO field structure. Central functions are appropriately restricted to those providing specialist technical support and inputs that depend on the truly global nature of the programme.

14. With more effective integration of technical cooperation activities and personnel in the work of the ILO in the field and at headquarters, as envisaged in the new approach to technical cooperation, the significant additional technical support that the global programmes can mobilize, can reinforce the technical presence, credibility and capability of the ILO in the field and at headquarters, and enhance the services offered to constituents and development partners. In this way, the global programmes not only work within the APP structure but also add to its effectiveness.

15. In organizational terms, each programme is located within a technical department at headquarters. However, as noted earlier, these programmes are necessarily multidimensional and multidisciplinary to achieve the results intended. It follows that an interdepartmental approach is critical to success. Therefore, although attached to particular departments, their methods and operations should transcend departmental lines and they should have an autonomy which allows them to pursue the programme objectives freely and to present a clear and distinctive identity which, inter alia, facilitate resource mobilization efforts.

16. The Organization's tripartite structure is reflected in the arrangements for developing and implementing the programmes. Apart from consultations at different levels in preparing the programmes, mechanisms such as project steering committees and advisory committees will be used to secure the ongoing participation of the social partners and other development partners in programme activities.

VI. Global programmes and other ILO
technical cooperation activities

17. The global programmes cannot cover the universe of ILO technical cooperation activities: they represent only one end of a continuum in terms of scale and coverage. In some cases it might be appropriate for the scope of a project or programme to be less than global. However, the aim should be to exploit linkages between the global programmes and other ILO technical cooperation activities, not least those of the Bureaux for Workers' and Employers' Activities, where possible, for their mutual benefit and to maximize the impact of the work of the Office as a whole.

VII. Problems and challenges

18. A major challenge faced by these programmes is to achieve the integration that transcends the traditional ILO technical department lines and to secure systematically the kind of collaboration required if the programmes are to have the intended results. Secondly, long-term linkage to regular programmes must be considered to ensure continuity, maintenance of institutional memory and sustainability within the ILO. Thirdly, targeted resource mobilization as an integral part of the strategy for each programme is vital. This is also required to promote expansion of the donor community to ensure that resources tapped for the programmes represent real additionality. Fourthly, as required in any process of change, the Office will need to sensitize all staff to the aims, objectives and desirable mode of operation of the global programmes. This will help to ensure that the global programmes represent in practice, and not only in theory, a new way of working to achieve better results on the selected priority themes.

VIII. Conclusions

19. Achieving the results expected from the global programmes is a major challenge which will require a concerted Office-wide effort, together with the support and involvement of the ILO's constituents. IPEC, which is the subject of a separate paper before the Committee, has been an important reference point for subsequent global programme development. The lessons learned from the IPEC experience should give the newer programmes a good head start in a competitive environment. Like IPEC, they too may change shape as they respond to internal and external changes, which may affect their objectives, strategy, coverage and organization. It is envisaged that the flexibility built into the design will allow the programmes to adapt quickly to changing conditions so that they do not outlive their relevance and usefulness.

20. The Committee will recall that the role of the ILO in technical cooperation will be the subject of a general discussion at the International Labour Conference in 1999. The relevant Conference document will contain an update on the status of global programmes, including those which at present are only at the conceptual stage.

Geneva, 3 March 1998.


Current status of the global programmes

A. International programme on
More and Better Jobs for Women


The programme was launched in June 1997.


This theme was selected because women's employment is central to achieving gender equality and is critical for poverty alleviation and sustainable development; because the ILO has a unique tripartite composition and mandate among the international organizations to address women's employment problems; and because the ILO has particular technical competence and comparative advantage, based on its long experience in technical cooperation and policy-oriented and applied research, which will enable it to achieve a major and lasting impact. The programme framework document was developed on the basis of extensive in-house consultations, discussions with representatives of international workers' and employers' organizations, and representatives of potential donors. This programme is also an ILO contribution to follow-up on the Fourth World Conference on Women and the World Summit for Social Development.

Links with the ILO's mandate and international
labour standards

Particular attention is given to measures to assist countries to ratify and implement fundamental labour standards relating to women workers, in particular Conventions Nos. 100 and 111.


Generally, the programme aims to reinforce the ILO's long-standing priority to promote employment in conditions of equality. It also aims:

Institutional arrangements

It was established as a technical programme within the Employment and Training Department in December 1997. The current staffing position provides for two Professional posts and one General Service, one intern, and an officer detached from the Department for International Development (United Kingdom). One or two associate experts will be assigned to the programme. Technical support is provided by gender specialists in MDTs and gender focal points in technical departments.


(i) creating a more enabling economic and social environment through institution building and national and local capacity strengthening;

(ii) model or pilot schemes to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of a set of coherently integrated interventions for target groups of women workers.

The programme also:

Implementation status

The countries selected for the first round of action plan development had demonstrated a commitment to action on women and employment in country objectives, and, at the Fourth World Conference on Women, they had shown political support and broad-based public concern to promote women's employment, and expressed interest in ratifying relevant ILO Conventions and in promoting a supportive legal framework. Finally, there were good indications that there would be an institutional structure for sustainability. Action plans prepared to date have involved widespread consultation and were drafted with reference to relevant development frameworks in the countries concerned, including follow-up on the Fourth World Conference on Women and UNDP gender strategies.

Examples of links with other programmes,
technical departments and organizations


A contribution from Japan finances some regional activities in the Asian and Pacific region. The United Kingdom is providing one official. Completed action plans are being submitted to donors.

* * *

B. Strategies and Tools against Social Exclusion
and Poverty (STEP)


The programme began in January 1998.


The programme addresses the global problems of large-scale poverty and social exclusion resulting from prevailing development patterns that are often associated with the process of globalization, the implementation of macroeconomic stabilization policies, structural adjustment programmes and transition strategies. It focuses on developing alternative, complementary and effective means of providing social protection and fostering development in favour of the poorest strata, based on the concept of social economy(1)  since it is unlikely that traditional mechanisms will be able to cope effectively with social development and social exclusion in the near future.

Social economy is a field in which the ILO has acquired a wealth of experience based on its work to promote social justice. Through STEP, the various elements of that experience will be integrated and further developed into a more flexible and coherent concept in support of the development process and in the service of constituents.

Experience to date suggests that the social economy approach is efficiently and most commonly applied in the field of social protection (for example, social, health and food security, insurance systems and social services), but that complementary action is also required in the area of social development (for example, community development, decentralization, the integration of women in the development process and grass-roots organizational development), and economic development (for example, local economic development, environmental management, financial services and the development of economic services for micro-entrepreneurs). The variety of elements that need to be considered to achieve good and sustainable results underscores the importance of an integrated and substantial approach.

Links with the ILO's mandate and
international labour standards

The programme will promote international labour standards related to social security, rural workers' organizations, cooperatives, child labour, women's employment, plantation workers and indigenous and tribal peoples. International labour standards will serve as the benchmark and framework for STEP activities and will be systematically integrated in the methodological tools on social economy as an instrument of development, which will be a key element of the programme.


The programme will contribute to the development of social economy as an instrument in the fight against poverty and social exclusion and to the preservation and strengthening of social cohesion and social protection in the context of globalization. It will contribute towards establishing social economy as a vector of sustainable development in the fight against poverty and social exclusion. It will make more accessible, promote, adapt, disseminate and apply pertinent methods and experiences for the development of social economy.

Institutional arrangements

The programme is located in the Social Security Department of the ILO. The central coordinating team comprises five high-level specialists with extensive field experience. Three are already in place. The team will perform the global functions and provide specialist support to field activities. Three associate experts are assigned to the programme, based in Geneva, Dakar and Manila. The subprogrammes implemented by and through national structures will be under the direction of the field structure.


Its activities will be complementary to and in synergy with other organizations promoting social economy. It will focus on delivering products (for example, methodological packages for the application of social economy) that are easily accessible and user-friendly, backed by consistent follow-up. It will focus on capacity building and the consolidation of partners' expertise, experience and capacity for innovation.

The central programme unit will discharge the global functions of:

In the national context, the programme will work at the micro level, engaging in concrete activities to develop and test methods; at an intermediate level, establishing capacity within local organizations to deliver programme services to the grass-roots level; and at the macro level, supporting the policy and legislative environment required for social economy to be effective.

The programme will:

Implementation status

Recruitment for the central programme is being completed. A series of missions to the various regions will take place to discuss the framework with the field structure and to begin preparing the subprogrammes that will respond to specific national needs. Work has started on the database, documenting competences and potential partners in the field of social economy.

Examples of links with other programmes,
technical departments and organizations


The programme started in January 1998 with a contribution of $8.2 million from Belgium (over a five-year period) for the central programme. Belgium also finances three associate experts. Financing for field programmes will be sought from other donors.

* * *

C. The International Small Enterprise Programme (ISEP)


The programme will be launched in the first half of 1998.


The small enterprise sector is currently the most important source of new jobs globally, regardless of the level of development. The ILO has acquired considerable experience in small enterprise development. ISEP intends to bring together more effectively different elements of the ILO's work in this field and to address a number of gaps in some critical areas to achieve greater impact. It will be the main ILO vehicle to promote growth-oriented and competitive micro-, small and medium enterprises in an increasingly globalized economy.

Links with the ILO's mandate and
international labour standards

Respect for international labour standards will be an integral part of the programme. It is also foreseen that ISEP will be the major vehicle to follow up on the Recommendation concerning general conditions to stimulate job creation in small and medium-scale enterprises, if it is adopted at the 1998 session of the International Labour Conference. The programme will aim to ensure that the ILO's mandate, core values and objectives, including those concerning job quality, are fully reflected in the ILO's programmes and activities in the field of small enterprise promotion.


ISEP broadly aims to contribute to the reduction of unemployment and poverty alleviation. More specifically it aims:

Institutional arrangements

The programme will be located in the Enterprise and Cooperative Development Department. The staffing situation is still to be determined. It will increase permanent coordination within and outside the Enterprise and Cooperative Development Department under the ISEP umbrella and draw fully on wider ILO expertise within other departments and the ILO's field structure.


The programme will:

Elements of this strategy will be combined at the global and national level to address shortcomings in the following areas relating to small enterprise promotion:


A resource mobilization drive will be initiated at the launch of the programme.

* * *

D. Global programme on Occupational Safety,
Health and the Environment (OSHE)


The framework document is being finalized. Launch date is to be determined.


The worldwide incidence of occupational accidents and diseases is still unacceptably high. Growing environmental degradation resulting from economic production activities is also a major concern. Nevertheless, prevention and protection have traditionally been relegated to low priority for investment and financing, because of the difficulty of measuring the cost of inaction with sufficient accuracy, and the timescale involved in such measurements. Moreover, there has been a tendency for the appropriate measures to be perceived negatively as constraints on activity.

The situation is aggravated with the impact of globalization and rapid technological progress, which foster a drive for competitiveness based on higher productivity and quality at lower cost. In this environment, Occupational Safety, Health and the Environment (OSHE) standards are perceived as a barrier to trade and therefore as detrimental to the success of enterprises.

The programme responds to the need for a global framework that can promote, structure and coordinate the implementation of better adapted and cost-effective OSHE delivery systems, management tools and programmes, as well as monitoring and information services designed to prevent occupational accidents and diseases and to protect the health and welfare of workers, their families and the environment. It intends to demonstrate and publicize the fact that OSHE objectives are positive values in the economic equation, and to create a positive perception of prevention and protection as an integral part of quality management. It is based on the premise that, when the total costs resulting from injury, illness and disability are taken into account in calculating the true cost of production, it is apparent that high productivity and quality can be reached economically only when requirements in these areas are integrated in the production process. Safety, health and environmental issues are integral elements of other priorities such as health, employment, industrial relations and enterprise development. The integrated and holistic management approach required at the national, regional and international levels will be adopted by the programme, which will associate all relevant stakeholders to its implementation.

The programme also follows up on the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, Rio de Janeiro, June 1992) and particularly on the environmental concerns arising from the world of work.

Links with the ILO's mandate and
international labour standards

Principles such as those underlining the provision of a safe and healthy working and living environment and the promotion of workers' well-being and dignity are part of the core mandate of the ILO concerning social justice and worker protection. The programme directly advances the objectives of a number of international labour Conventions, particularly the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155), the Chemicals Convention, 1990 (No. 170), the Occupational Health Services Convention, 1985 (No. 161), and the Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents Convention, 1993 (No. 174).


In general terms, the programme aims to contribute to a significant reduction in occupational accidents and diseases and environmental degradation resulting from the workplace. It aims to help countries strengthen their capacity to develop and implement cost-effective OSHE strategies that are compatible with the constraints of globalization while being conducive to a sustained, significant reduction in occupational accidents and diseases and in environmental degradation.


Institutional arrangements

The programme will be located in the ILO's Occupational Safety and Health Branch, which will ensure overall implementation, including the coordination of inputs by other ILO departments. Other central functions will include overall monitoring, reporting and evaluating; the initiation of catalysing activities, ensuring the inclusion of programme values in policies and strategies at the national level; technical cooperation with other international organizations; and participation in resource mobilization initiatives. The ILO's MDT network will help national stakeholders to identify their priorities and to determine the composition of national OSHE programmes.


Donors will be kept informed of the development of the programme, and concrete proposals will be submitted to potential financing partners in due course. Finland has already made a commitment of $1 million for activities to be conducted under the aegis of the programme.

1. Social economy, as defined in the programme, encompasses economic activities executed by entities presenting themselves mostly as cooperatives, mutual societies and other non-profit organizations which subscribe to the following fundamental principles: (i) finality of service to the members or collectivities rather than profit; (ii) managerial autonomy; (iii) democratic decision-making process; (iv) primacy of people and labour over capital in the distribution of income.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.