ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

Index of Volumes

VOLUME 137, NUMBER 2 1998/2




The year 1998 signals a double anniversary - the adoption of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 50 years ago. While the high hopes of the time have not all been realized, these instruments have contributed to the substantial progress achieved in human rights. The Convention in particular is a continuing means of making progress and opposing backsliding, thanks to ILO supervision of its application. How, to what effect, and what next, are the subjects of the articles in this special issue on labour rights and human rights.

International labour standards and human rights: Approaching the year 2000


Setting the context for this special issue, Valticos explains the relationship between human rights instruments of the United Nations and of the ILO - particularly the common inspiration of the two major instruments whose 50th anniversary is celebrated here. The sense in which labour rights and human rights are collective and not just individual rights; why civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are indivisible; the universality of fundamental rights; he takes up all these difficult themes. Given "as yet unbridled globalization and economic liberalism" he calls for adapted forms of standard-setting and re-regulation to confront the danger to social justice.

The origins of Convention No. 87 on freedom of association and the right to organize


Though Convention No. 87 provides protection for freedom of association of both employers and workers it is of primal importance to workers, and something they fought to achieve over a great many years. Dunning outlines the history of that effort and provides highlights of the discussions and the gradual process of institution building, including the creation of the ILO, that finally resulted in the adoption of this major instrument in international labour law. Even as workers around the world celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, with so many still deprived of their rights there is little joy.

Human rights law and freedom of association: Development through ILO supervision


Tracing the development of international legal protection of freedom of association, Swepston highlights the pioneering role of ILO Convention No.87 and the consistency of the relevant provisions in a number of subsequent UN and regional instruments. Over the years the ILO's supervisory bodies have refined the legal implications of that protection by underlining links between freedom of association and the whole range of civil rights and liberties. The vitality of the ILO's supervisory process is evident in developments within subjects covered by Convention No. 87, including establishment of organizations, their activities, the right to strike, affiliation, and many more.

Freedom of association: The impact of Convention No. 87 and ILO action

Geraldo von POTOBSKY

During the nearly 50 years that the ILO has been overseeing the application of this Convention there have been many cases of progress to cite, but also complaints received and dealt with to varying degrees of satisfaction. With the power of law and moral sanction, it has helped to achieve a trend improvement in respect for freedom of association and protection of the right to organize. Von Potobsky explains the mechanisms at the ILO's disposal, the process of supervision and the obstacles encountered. Most importantly, he summarizes the significant impact this Convention has had, in a wide range of countries.

The ILO Declaration of 1998 on fundamental principles and rights: A challenge for the future


In one of its rare solemn declarations, the International Labour Conference has just reaffirmed, without opposition, the obligation of all ILO member States to adhere to the fundamental principles underlying the ILO's fundamental Conventions - freedom of association and the elimination of forced labour, child labour and discrimination in employment. With the aim not of punishment but of promoting respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, the Declaration sets out procedures for follow-up. In fact, a remarkable text to have been adopted in the political context of the late 1990s. The next step is to put the procedures into practice.

Appendix I

Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87)

Appendix II

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Appendix III

Excerpt from the Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Appendix IV

ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

International protection of freedom of association: An annotated bibliography

Part I: Universal sources of international law and related material

International Labour Organization

United Nations

Part II: Regional sources of international law and related material

Council of Europe

European Union

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Organization of African Unity

Arab Labour Organization

Organization of American States


Part III: Independent reporting of violations

Part IV: Selected secondary sources

Reference works

Articles published in the International Labour Review

References cited in Parts I and II

ISSN 0020-7780

Updated by MCN. Approved by MFL. Last update: 9 November 1999.