ILO begins its Centenary year in 2019

2019 marks the International Labour Organisation’s 100th anniversary. This makes the ILO older than the United Nations, one of the oldest international organisations active and relevant today, and still unique in its tripartite structure.

News | 23 January 2019
The centenary will be an opportunity not only to look back and to celebrate the ILO’s history and achievements but also to look forward to its future. 

The creation of the ILO in 1919 commenced with the preliminary work on drafting of the ILO Constitution in January 1919 followed by its adoption in June 1919 and the first meeting of the International Labour Conference and ILO Governing Body in November 1919. Our centenary year will recognise these as well as with many other key dates in the ILO’s history.

The Centenary has kicked off on 22 January 2019 with the launch of the report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work, which was commissioned as centrepiece for the year.  This be followed by a rolling series of international, regional and national events throughout the course of 2019, including in Myanmar.
The ILO in Myanmar
The Government of Myanmar joined the ILO in 1948.  Its constituent employers’ organisation, the UMFCCI, will also celebrate its centenary in 2019.  Trade unions also have a proud history in Myanmar, having spearheaded both the independence movement and democracy struggle.  They were banned under military rule from 1962, functioning largely in exile, but since 2011 have been legal again since 2011.

The ILO’s engagement with Myanmar therefore continued throughout its long years of military rule and international isolation.  Actions taken at the International Labour Conference culminated in 1998 in the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry under Article 26 of the ILO Constitution found widespread and systematic use of forced labour.  The Commission of Inquiry report in turn led to the ILO adopting in 2000 special measures on Myanmar under Article 33 of the Constitution which remain unprecedented to this day.

Nevertheless, ILO’s engagement continued and in 2002 a formal Understanding was negotiated which permitted the appointment of a liaison officer in-country to work to support Myanmar for the elimination of the use of forced labour. This was supplemented in 2007 by way of a Supplementary Understanding which put in place a complaints mechanism on forced labour. The operation of the complaints mechanism enabled the ILO to build  both a working relationship with the Government which was  based on respect, and  a  very  close  relationship  with  the  Myanmar  people who have grown to trust this mechanism and the ILO’s role.  It has been widely commented that ILO’s engagement through these years played a pivotal role in Myanmar’s transition to democracy and its re-engagement with the international community. This was recognised in June 2012 when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, now State Counsellor, spoke at the International Labour Conference in Geneva. 

Building  on this history, ILO is now embarking on a new phase of its engagement with Myanmar with the signature in September 2018 of the first ever Decent Work Country Program for 2018-2021 which has been developed in full consultation by its tripartite constituents. During 2018-2019, the Government of Myanmar will also serve as a member of ILO’s Governing Body.