International Labour Organization definition

The International Labor Organization (ILO) is a United Nations agency responsible for dealing with employment-related issues across the world, including employment standards and problems of exploitation. The ILO registers complaints against organisations that violate established rules but does not sanction or disincentivise governments or organisations.

The ILO was established following the Treaty of Versailles as a formal agency of the League of Nations and in 1946 became the first agency of the newly-formed United Nations. Of the 193 UN member states, 185 are currently members of the ILO. In 1969, the ILO was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work.

The ILO’s remit covers a lot of ground – some of the major issues it addresses include child labour and exploitation, minimum wage laws and the use of migrant workers. Its public-facing work centres around two main areas of practice, conventions and recommendations.

Conventions are rules that members must adhere to if they have ratified them in a formal process. Recommendations are non-binding declarations or ideas that may support conventions or relate to different areas of practice. Conventions that are not ratified by members have the same weight as recommendations.

In 1998, the ILO adopted four fundamental policies that underline all its work. These were agreed at the 86th International Labour Conference as the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

These four policies are:

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