The International Labour Organization (ILO) deals with the whole range of labour issues. It attaches particular importance to basic economic and social as well as civil and political rights, as an essential element to improve the conditions of workers. It endeavours to implement these principles by adopting standards on subjects of concern. These ILO standards take the form of international labour conventions and recommendations.
ILO’s Conventions are international treaties, subject to ratification by ILO Member States, whereas recommendations are non-binding. Until January 2010, 188 conventions have been adopted by the ILO. The application of international labour standards is subject to constant supervision by the ILO. Due to its long-standing experience but also because of its unique tripartite structure (bodies are composed according to the 2+1+1 formula: two government representatives and one representative each of employers’ and of workers’ associations), the procedures of adopting and implementing ILO conventions form part of a most effective mechanism for the protection of human rights within the UN system.
According to the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, all ILO Member States have an obligation to respect, to promote and to realize, in good faith and in accordance with the Constitution, four categories of principles and rights at work, even if they have not ratified the ILO Conventions to which they refer:
These fundamental principles and rights at work are universal and applicable to all human beings in all States, regardless of the level of economic development. They are the essence of the eight „core“ ILO Conventions, which express in more detail and in a formal legal structure the scope and content of these fundamental principles and rights:
All ILO Member States which have not yet ratified those eight core conventions, must report annually about the progress being made.
The regular supervision of ILO conventions encompasses measures such as required reporting activities of each Member State of the ILO at regular intervals. These reports are first examined in closed meetings by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) composed of 20 independent legal experts which meets every November. The Committee of Experts comments are made in the form either of observations, which are published in the Committee’s report on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, or of requests dealing with more technical questions, addressed directly to the Governments, which remain unpublished. The Committee’s report is then considered at the annual session of the International Labour Conference by a tripartite Conference Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations ("Committee on Application of Standards").
In addition, Member States have the obligation to submit reports on conventions they have not yet ratified showing the position of the law and practice in regards to the matters dealt with in the conventions and indicating the difficulties having prevented or delayed ratification (each year a limited number of conventions are selected for this procedure). The information supplied provides the basis for a separate report of the Committee of Experts - a general survey of the subject in question. In parallel with these regular supervisory mechanisms, there is a complaint procedure for governments and ILO delegates to examine allegations that the provisions of a ratified convention are not effectively being observed in one country.