The rural economy has been globally challenged by persistent and often structural gaps that negatively affect a rights-based approach to development, the promotion of full and productive employment, and the possibility of sustainable livelihoods. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has combatted these challenges through its Decent Work Agenda, with a critical focus on standards and rights at work. The 2008 International Labour Conference (ILC) Resolution on Promoting Rural Employment for Poverty Reduction highlighted the role of governments in ensuring that the internationally recognized framework for rights at work inspires national legislation and policy, and can be fully implemented in rural areas. Special attention should therefore be paid to rights at work in the rural economy, because the vast differences in the nature of work relationships and the remoteness of rural communities often mean that certain population groups and areas are either not covered by the scope of national labour legislation, or that the applicable laws simply do not have any practical effect. The ILO’s focus on the rural economy over the next years will bolster national policies and laws with international labour standards that have specific relevance to promoting dignity and rights. This will include the enabling and human rights enshrined in fundamental principles and rights at work, fostering development and productive employment, and reducing poverty.