Since its adoption in June 1998, the Declaration has been widely cited by world leaders, international and regional organizations, policy makers, ILO constituents and the press. The values in the Declaration represent a global consensus on social and labour issues, and serve as the major reference point in this sphere.

The Annual Reviews, Global Reports, and technical cooperation programmes will continue to generate information on and attention to efforts being made to ensure universal respect for Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.


The ILO Constitution is written by a Labour Commission brought about through the Paris Peace Conference that marks the end of the First World War. The Constitution, incorporated in the Treaty of Versailles, establishes for the first time a link between peace and social justice, stating that, "universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice"


The Declaration of Philadelphia expands the reach of the original Constitution - moving the Organization's mandate beyond improving working conditions, to promoting more equitable growth in the post-War economy. It recognizes the rights of all people to pursue their material well being and spiritual development "in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity".


The ILO becomes a specialized agency of the newly-formed United Nations. The United Nations Charter, drawn up by representatives of 50 countries, had been signed the previous year, answering calls for an international organization to maintain peace and security. The UN's forerunner was the League of Nations, which ceased its activities after failing to prevent the Second World War.


The United Nations World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen declares that four categories of principles and rights at work are fundamental, and invites all governments to protect and promote respect for these. The Summit has brought together an unprecedented number of heads of State and government, responding to rising concerns about human security, and focusing on increasing employment, reducing poverty and promoting social integration. In this same year, the ILO Director-General begins a campaign to increase ratification of these core Conventions.


Trade Ministers at the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Conference in Singapore in 1996 renew their States' commitment to observe internationally recognized core labour standards - and state that the ILO is the competent body to set and deal with these standards. The Ministers note that economic growth and development can contribute to the promotion of those standards, and reject their use for protectionist purposes. The statements came at a time when there was much debate over a proposal for a "social clause".

Also in 1996, a Trade and Labour Standards Study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development endorsed standards from an economic point of view, noting that "..labour standards that embody basic human rights can stimulate economic development and are therefore in the interest of all workers (and countries) in the world.." Although it was not definitive, the OECD study suggested that higher labour standards were not a barrier to foreign investment.


Addressing the International Labour Conference, the Director-General calls on delegates to strengthen the ILO's standard-setting functions. He says the time has come to sum up debates, and to adopt a solemn declaration reaffirming universal respect for fundamental rights.


The International Labour Conference adopts, by an overwhelming majority, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up. The Declaration commits all ILO member States to respect the principles in four areas, whether or not they have ratified the specific Conventions. Those four areas are: freedom of association and collective bargaining; the elimination of forced labour, the elimination of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.


In June, the International Labour Conference unanimously adopts a further instrument dealing with these fundamental rights - the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) - bringing the number embraced by the Declaration to eight. The new Convention for the first time describes the worst forms of child labour, and calls for their immediate elimination. It is "a gift for our children worthy of the millennium", says US President William Clinton in an address to the Conference.

In October, the InFocus Programme on Promoting the Declaration is established, charged with promotional activities, technical cooperation, research, and with preparing reports to promote fundamental principles and rights at work. Technical cooperation activities begin in several countries shortly afterwards.


The vitally important Follow-up procedures to the Declaration take visible effect, with the presentation to the ILO Governing Body of the first set of Annual Reports. The Follow-up obliges member States which have not ratified one or more of the core Conventions to report to the ILO on their position on the principles and rights concerned. The States also describe efforts to ensure these rights are realized; employers and workers can also comment. The first of the Global Reports provided for in the Follow-up is also produced, on freedom of association and collective bargaining. Global Reports examine in turn the four areas of principles and rights.


The ILO Governing Body recommends the establishment of a new Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour, within the In-Focus Programme on Promotion of the Declaration. The programme's work now includes research, awareness-raising and technical cooperation, working with governments, employers, workers and others to abolish forced labour. The programme's work now includes research, awareness raising and technical cooperation, working with governments, employers, workers and others to abolish forced labour.