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Right to social security

Updated by Frank Hempel , Emmanuelle St-Pierre Guilbault , ursula kulke on 16.06.2011

The right to social security constitutes a basic human right and is enshrined as such in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights , and in other major United Nations human rights instruments .

Nonetheless, the international human rights instruments and their supervisory mechanisms have remained mostly silent as to the definition of this right. Also according to the aims and purposes set out in the Preamble to the ILO Constitution, the extension of social security worldwide has consistently been one of the main objectives of the Organization. This mandate, restated in 1944 in the Declaration of Philadelphia , part of the ILO Constitution, recognizes the "solemn obligation of the International Labour Organization to further among the nations of the world programmes which will achieve", among others, "the extension of social security measures to provide a basic income to all in need of such protection and comprehensive medical care", as well as "provision for child welfare and maternity protection", thereby extending the protection from workers to all those in need. In this perspective, at the International Labour Conferences in 2001 and 2008 , ILO constituents reaffirmed the Organization's fundamental role in the promotion and extension of social security and its obligations in this respect.

The extension of social security to all calls for the implementation of a basic social security benefit package for all those in need. The results of recent ILO research have shown that basic social security can be afforded by virtually all countries and that it would constitute an effective tool in the fight against poverty and in reaching the Millennium Development Goals .

Social security Conventions and Recommendations are the main tools through which the ILO pursues its mandate for extending social security coverage to all, through the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102) as the flagship Convention, as well as through other up-to-date social security Conventions.

Main Resources

The principal means of action available to the ILO for the realization of its mandate to extend social security are the international labour standards.

Since the establishment of the ILO, the International Labour Conference has adopted 31 Conventions and 23 Recommendations on social security. The first international Convention on social security (maternity protection) was adopted at the 1st Session of the Conference, in 1919, while the most recent one, revising earlier standards on maternity protection, was adopted in 2000. In 2002, the ILO Governing Body confirmed eight out of these 31 Conventions as up-to-date social security Conventions.

These are:

Corresponding to these eight up-to-date Conventions are eight up-to-date Social Security Recommendations, as follows:

The Income Security Recommendation, 1944 (No.67), together with the Medical Care Recommendation, 1944 (No.69), laid down for the first time in history the guiding principles for the eight classical social security contingencies, as well as medical care and benefits to be provided to all residents through social insurance and complemented by social assistance. (The Governing Body decided to maintain the status quo of Recommendation No.69, due to the strong link with Recommendation No.67). These two instruments, which were adopted in 1944 in Philadelphia at the 26th Session of the International Labour Conference , paved the way for the adoption of Convention No.102.