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International Labour Organization Guide: Home


The International Labour Organization ("ILO") is an international organization which works to improve working conditions and promote social justice and human rights. In 1969, on its 50th anniversary, the ILO was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The ILO's website, provides both general information about the organization and original documentation for scholars.

For more information, see the "About the ILO" page of the ILO website

By Charlotte Bynum
Revised in Oct. 2010 by Zachary D. Wellbrock '11


To address the problems caused by the industrialization of Europe in the 19th century, Robert Owen of Wales, and Jerome Blanqui and Daniel Legrand of France, among others, brought the need for international cooperation in setting labor standards to international prominence. The reasons articulated for the necessity of cooperation were both benevolent and economic. Cooperation was necessary to eradicate poverty and injustice, not just to protect workers, but also to prevent the social unrest these conditions could engender. Furthermore, international cooperation was necessary because each nation would be at a competitive disadvantage if it imposed higher standards unilaterally. Ultimately, these concerns led to the formation of The International Labour Organization on April 11, 1919 as an affiliated agency of the League of Nations. The original ILO Constitution was drafted as Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles. After the creation of the United Nations, the ILO became the first specialized agency to be affiliated with the UN in 1946.

For more information, see the "Origins and history" page of the ILO

ILO's Mission

The ILO website states the organization's goal as "bringing decent work and livelihoods, job-related security and better living standards to the people of both poor and rich countries." From its inception, the ILO has recognized social justice as a prerequisite to world peace. After the Second World War, its aims and purposes were reasserted and strengthened in The Declaration of Philadelphia, adopted on May 19, 1949, which states:

  • Labour is not a commodity;
  • Freedom of expression and association are essential to sustained progress;
  • Poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity anywhere; [and]
  • 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.

For more information, see the "Mission and objectives" page of the ILO

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