“Universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice”: says the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) created in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles.
Since then, the first-ever UN specialised tripartite agency has adopted a series of international labour standards (legally-binding Conventions and advisory Recommendations). These standards on work–life balance, freedom of association, the right to organise, the right to equal pay for an equal job, the right to choose one’s own job and eliminate forced labour, etc. have made a huge impact on our everyday lives. Over the decades, the ILO’s role continued to evolve to meet changes in the world of work, notably the growing march of globalisation, its work expanding to encompass a more diverse range of issues, including the rights of indigenous peoples, HIV/AIDS in the workplace, migrant and domestic workers.
At the occasion of its 100th anniversary, the ILO launched, on 21 January, the report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work. By means of the report, the ILO calls on all stakeholders to take responsibility for building a just and equitable future of work. Urgent action is recommended to strengthen the social contract in each country, requiring increasing investment in people’s capabilities and the institutions of work and harnessing opportunities for decent and sustainable work.
It may be 100 years old, but its standard setting role as well as its key principles remain as necessary, relevant and current as ever: "labour is not a commodity”; “all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity".
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in September 2015, has provided the international community with a new impetus to work together to turn the current economic development system into one that respects social and planetary boundaries and promotes social justice, and shall boost the progressive, full implementation of International Labour Standards as well as the role of multilateral institutions, such as the ILO.