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ILO activities in the post-war world (Part 1: 1946-1959)

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  1. Key documents

ILO technical cooperation programmes are expanded

Technical cooperation, like international labour standards and research activities, is a fundamental ILO mission under the Organization’s Constitution.

In the 1930s, ILO technical assistance consisted in sending advisory missions to countries wishing to receive advice on the application of standards. As of 1949, however, under the United Nations Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA), technical assistance became more systematic and was organized in project cycles comprising five main stages: identification, preparation, preliminary study, implementation and evaluation. In concrete terms, the technical assistance ILO provided to the Member States consisted in making available experts and equipment and in putting together vocational training programmes. In 1960, at the first African Regional Conference, the concept of assistance was officially replaced by that of technical cooperation.

Technical cooperation has played a key part in ILO’s history and cannot be considered separately from the Organization’s international labour standards It is the genuine synergy between the two that lends coherence to ILO action: “The true nature of the link between technical cooperation and standards is therefore naturally brought out by an examination of these reciprocal obligations: member States help the Organisation to promote its objects by participating actively and in good faith in its standard-setting activities; while the Organisation ‘furthers’, through its operational programmes, the efforts of the member States to attain the same objectives […] To achieve that synergy, the ILO must work in partnership with its member States. Such a partnership requires a joint determination of specific objectives and a mutual commitment on the principles to be observed. It requires, above all, a constant dialogue among the ILO and its tripartite constituents” (see International labour standards and technical cooperation, pp. 4-15).

Technical cooperation is thus a key means of ensuring the fundamental principles and rights at work are applied on the ground.

In 1966, the founding of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), replacing EPTA and the Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development (SUNFED, established in 1958), gave fresh impetus to technical cooperation activities. From the outset, the UN’s specialized agencies were tasked with implementing the various projects forming part of this global development network. Under this division of tasks, ILO was quite logically put in charge of labour.

Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98)

“This fundamental convention provides that workers shall enjoy adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination […] Workers' and employers' organizations shall enjoy adequate protection against any acts of interference by each other […] The convention also enshrines the right to collective bargaining” (see Rules of the game: A brief introduction to International Labour Standards, p. 24).

In June 1994, at the 81st session of the International Labour Conference, a clear consensus emerged among ILO’s constituents to step up promotion of fundamental social rights. The World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen in March 1995, bolstered ILO’s efforts by inviting the governments to protect and promote “respect for the fundamental rights of workers”. It was in this favourable international context that ILO defined as “fundamental” the conventions dealing with matters considered to be fundamental principles and rights at work. On 25 May 1995, ILO Director-General Michel Hansenne, sent a letter to the Member States with a view to obtaining universal ratification of these fundamental conventions, of which there were seven at the time. The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998), a promotional instrument drawn up specifically to strengthen application of the fundamental legal principles for social justice, gave a considerable boost to the ratification campaign.

In 2008, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia, drew attention to the importance of accelerated ratification of the fundamental conventions and proposed the goal of universal ratification by 2015. (See Ratification and promotion of fundamental ILO conventions, p. 1.)

There are currently eight fundamental conventions:
  1. Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
  2. Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87)
  3. Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98)
  4. Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100)
  5. Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)
  6. Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)
  7. Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)
  8. Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)
  1. 1946-1959:
    ILO activities in the post-war world (Part 1: 1946-1959)
    1. 1946
    2. 1947
    3. 1948
    4. 1949
    5. 1950
    6. 1951
    7. 1952
    8. 1953
    9. 1955
    10. 1957
    11. 1958
  2. 1919-1939
  3. 1940-1945
  4. 1960-1988
  5. 1989-1998
  6. 1999-

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Last update: 23.02.2015 ^ top