An important time
for promoting rights at work
n today’s universal market economy, economic growth is
essential although it is not sufficient to guarantee equity and
Over the past decades, the process of globalization has been unable
to provide the «promised» benefits for the majority of the world’s
population. Consequently, job security has become more unstable
and levels of income even more uneven. This situation has
increasingly driven people to seek livelihoods in the widespread
informal sector and in other precarious forms of employment at
times generating political and social instability.
In order to cope with these difficult challenges, the international
community has reaffirmed its commitment to support institutional
strengthening and to improve policies for the attainment of social
justice. In 1998, this commitment was enshrined in the
International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Declaration on
Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The ILO, a
specialised agency of the United Nations system, has a tripartite
structure and makes decisions through discussions with
governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations.
The Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
is a concrete expression and commitment to ensure the universal
values on which the ILO was founded. The objective of the
Declaration is to encourage efforts that ensure social progress
keeps pace with economic progress.
For this purpose, the Declaration covers four essential conditions
for the attainment of social justice, namely:
√ Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right
to collective bargaining;
√ The elimination of all forms of forced labour;
√ The abolition of child labour and;
√ The elimination of discrimination in employment and
The Declaration is applied to all ILO Members States (176 countries
and their respective workers’ and employers’ organizations)
regardless of their level of economic development or their cultural
and historical values. It contains the essential work-related
aspirations of all people. The Declaration establishes a framework
in which all people can freely choose from different labour options
considered to be the most equitable.
There are several international instruments that are based on these
principles and rights which seek to uphold respect for these basic
human values. These include: the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women, and; the Convention of the Rights
of the Child. There are also several regional instruments also
supporting these rights such as the American Declaration of the Work should be chosen freely and
Rights and Duties of Man. exent from threat and punishment.
From a legal viewpoint, the ILO recognizes that these international
instruments put these rights into practice, transforming them into
national laws, through ratification by Member States. By creating
national legislation, the application and benefits of these
fundamental principles and rights are assured surpassing a mere
general respect for the Declaration.
The rights stated in these instruments are considered the necessary
foundation to achieve sustainable economic growth and
development (paragraph 54, b of the Action Program of the World
Summit on Social Development held in Copenhagen). They
represent the irrevocable dignity as well as equality of the human
being within society. In accordance with the ILO Constitution,
these rights illustrate the conviction that labour is not a commodity.
ILO FUNDAMENTAL CONVENTIONS
The Declaration on Fundamental Principles an Rights at Work cover four essential
categories in the world of work. In each of these categories there are two Conventions
that further stipulate and define these rights. Presented here are the eight core labour
standards that further emphasize the commitment of the international community to
respect these basic human rights at work.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
√ Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948
√ Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (N° 98)
FORCED AND COMPULSORY LABOUR
√ Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (N° 29)
√ Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (N° 105)
√ Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (N° 138)
√ Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (N° 182)
√ Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (N° 111)
√ Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (N° 100)
To promote the Declaration:
a necessary objective
he ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights
at Work, adopted in 1998, is a vital instrument that puts
into practice human rights at work which draws it strength
from the recognition of the existence of certain basic workers’
rights. The Declaration is more than a mere expression of intent
by the international community. The Declaration includes a
promotional Follow-Up mechanism that provides concrete steps
and activities which Member States as well as the workers’ and
employers’ organizations can undertake to fully realise application
of these fundamental rights.
The Follow-up to the Declaration outlines specific mechanisms
by which the fundamental principles and rights can be
implemented and progress measured. The first mechanism is the
Annual Review which requires Member States that have not
ratified one or more of the fundamental Conventions in the
categories covered by the Declaration to provide information on
the measures taken to promote and respect these rights.
Additionally, workers’ and employers’ organisations provide
information and comments on the Governments efforts to realise
the fundamental principles and rights.
The second mechanism provided for by the Follow-Up to the
Declaration is the Global Report. The Global Report is an annual
dynamic snapshot of the activities and trends as they relate to the
relevant issues of the Declaration. The Global Report, which
focuses on one of the fundamental principles and rights each year,
highlights areas which require further attention and can play an
important part in determining the priorities for the technical
assistance to specific countries and regions.
The Declaration has become an indispensable tool in promoting
respect for these fundamental principles and rights, in terms of
increasing understanding about these issues as well as the
effectiveness of specific responses in the form of technical
assistance and awareness-raising. The Declaration is a living
instrument that supports and evolves in parallel with the ILO’s
fundamental Conventions and the recommendations of the
The Declaration also represents a renewed commitment by the
Member States to achieve an economic and social environment
that is firmly based on dignity people at work and full application
of these principles and rights. In this regard, it encourages
constituents to channel their efforts towards mobilizing resources
for the development and implementation of activities that are
essential to achieving universal realisation of the benefits of these
All workers and employers have the right
to freely form and join groups for the
promotion and defence of their
The Declaration and social partners
orkers’ and employers’ organizations are vital to the
full realisation of the Declaration because as members
of the ILO they are direct beneficiaries of all its activities
as well as spokespersons actively promoting the principles and
rights. The ILO considers it indispensable that these organizations
participate in deliberation on effective strategies for the application
of these rights in each of their countries.
The workers’ and employers’ organisations play a central role in
the Follow-Up to the Declaration through their provision of
information and data on the status of implementation as well as
support in drafting national legislation that is consistent with the
fundamental principles rights. Furthermore, since the members
Children have the right to be protected
from economic exploitation and from
work that is dangerous for their health
Promotion in the Americas
Promotional activities about the Declaration have been focused
on specific countries of the region essentially through the
dissemination of information on the principles and rights at work
through mass media. The theoretical and academic discussions
on the Declaration have yet to be sufficiently explored. Further
communication activities are being developed while the campaign
in Bolivia has been completed.
The overall impact of these programmes on the various target
audiences may be described as broad and general. There is basic
understanding by the public of the fundamental principles and
rights, however, there is no clear appreciation for their importance
and its specific context. Moreover, when the ILO is discussed there
is a certain misunderstanding between international conventions
and its ratification process, and the promotional nature of the
No work can be decent if a Declaration and its role as a minimum level recognized by the
promotion on equal international community.
treatment and opportunities
policy doesn’t exist. To date, activities have focused on general promotion of the
principles, although there is need arising for the development of
strategies at different levels to effectively apply the principles and
rights through collaborative activities.
Towards this end, efforts are being discussed for an in-depth
comparative analysis of experiences at the national level and the
development of effective initiatives based on economic and
technical possibilities of each country to determine a possible
national action plan.
In addition to the previously mentioned activities, specific
activities related to child labour, the promotion of labour unions No one shall work on a non-
and gender issues are being developed by the ILO in collaboration voluntarily basis and under
with the OAS. In the immediate term, linkages should be threat of being penalized.
established between the OAS and the Declaration’s website.
Make use of your right to
participate in issues which directly
affect work performance.
From principles to practice
The InFocus Programme on Promoting the Declaration has implemented many technical cooperation
projects that have focussed primarily on technical training, capacity and institution building, research
and analysis related to the challenges in realising these fundamental principles and rights. These
projects have shown that technical cooperation is an effective method to translate principles into
practice. Although these projects have been developed only in the last 24 months, substantial practical
progress has been made.
The projects developed for the Latin American region include:
√ Improvement of Labour Relationships and the Promotion of Economic Development for gender
equality in Colombia;
√ Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining in Central America and Belize (RELACENTRO);
√ The Promotion of Fundamental Rights in Bolivia (PRODEL);
√ Strengthening of Democracy and Social Dialogue in
√ Central America (PRODIAC)
√ Abolition of Forced Labour in Brazil
√ Promotion of Practices and Cooperation between Workers and Employers of English Speaking
Caribbean Countries (PROMALCO), and the;
√ Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour of the OAS countries (IACML-ILO), in all its
A special project in Colombia entitled «Improvement of Labour Relationships and the Promotion of
Economic Gender Equality» is being developed in the context of a broader cooperation in Colombia.
This programme requested by the ILO Governing Body in 2001 seeks to support the dialogue process
and protect human rights. It aims to overcome the problems involved in the enforcement of
Conventions 87 and 98 through considerable technical assistance and cooperation, in cooperation
with the ILO’s social partners. This programme has three essential components: freedom of association
and protection of the right to organize and collective bargaining, legislative reform, protecting
threatened and displaced labour unions members lives and to foster social dialogue.
Activities for Promotion of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in
ACTIVITY/RESULT DESCRIPTION AUDIENCE SITUATION
Production of a leaflet on the A concise 20 page leaflet Enterprises, workers’ and Further distribution
Declaration in the Andean (10,000 copies) containing the employers’ associations. requires reprinting. There
Countries distributed to Declaration and Follow Up has been no specific
enterprises and labour unions accompanied by a general follow-up.
(December 2001) description of the content and
importance of the principles.
Mailed to some 15,000
recipients in all countries.
Development of a Support from the All audiences and specifically If commitment is reached
dissemination campaign in Government of the Bolivian social partners. the material and
the press, TV, radio and Netherlands, a national experience could be
posters in Bolivia (January- dissemination campaign on adapted for other
December 2001) the Declaration with countries.
announcements and TV spot
of 6 minutes, radio programs
and publicity spots broadcast
during football matches.
Development of an intensive Posters were designed for the Social partners, Ministry of Possible dissemination to
dissemination campaign Union Federations. Labour and civil society in other countries resulting
through press, TV, website, With the support of the global Brazil, as well as other ILO from the Brazilian
etc., in Brazil (September campaign on the promotion of social partners abroad. experience. Extension to
2002) the ILO Declaration, a series other mass media.
of local newspaper articles
have been published and
disseminated, in TV, (contacts
with the BBC and TV Globo),
website information on forced
Development of a National dissemination Civil society in general, with Possible follow up must be
dissemination campaign at campaign of the Declaration special emphasis on workers, analysed once the initial
the press, TV and radio in through TV announcements enterprises and officials activities are developed.
Colombia, (Currently being and spots, radio programmes, involved in labour issues.
design) adds, etc. …in collaboration
with the Ministry of Labour
which proposes to hold a
forum (May 2003).
ACTIVITY/RESULT DESCRIPTION AUDIENCE SITUATION
Development of a National dissemination Civil society in general, with Start and development
dissemination campaign with campaign on the Declaration special emphasis on workers, with a positive coverage.
TV, radio and print in Peru with TV announcements and enterprises and officials
(Underway) spots, radio programmes, involved in the field of
adds, etc. labour.
Development of a In collaboration with the Civil society in general with Finished once the annual
dissemination campaign in Regional Office of the special emphasis on workers, event has been held.
the press, TV, radio in all the Americas they were enterprises and officials
Americas concerning the XV developed on the Conference involved in labour issues.
Regional Meeting of the and for all the countries of the
Americas (December 2002) region, briefing for
journalists, newspaper articles
(supplement of El Comercio,
Peru), TV programmes, etc.
Working documents and A Working document on Workers, enterprises and Depending on each event.
seminars on Declaration Declaration, in Spanish, officials involved in the field
topics. regarding fundamental of labour.
principles and rights, its value
and impact, was distributed
in Central America and the
Southern Cone at several
events and seminars.
Launching of the Global A high profile launch of the Mass media and other
Report at a regional level Report on Discrimination audiences. Launched on 12 May, with
(May 2003). with the attendance of key strong impact and
audiences. A senior ILO multiple reactions of the
official accompanied the regional press specialised
presentation to provide in labour. Broad coverage.
information on ILO work in
towards the future
he current level of communication activities has been
instrumental in increasing awareness of the fundamental
principles and rights in the region. A further analysis of
the effectiveness of the activities and initiatives will provide the
project with a better understanding of the perceptions of the social
partners and civil society groups. It is important to the general
acceptance of the Declaration to continue promoting these issues
through various distribution channels, interaction and educational
Awareness efforts in Brazil have been particularly successful given
the wide recognition of the efforts to combat forced and child
labour as well as the wider work of the ILO. In Colombia, we are
starting to receive recognition of the projects’ work in the area of
freedom of association. Promotion of development for
children, through appropriate work
PROMALCO has achieved its most favourable results from opportunities, to decent work, as well
Caribbean enterprises that have applied best practices in labour- as a proper income to guarantee their
management relations under the framework of the Declaration. family well being.
The Declaration has achieved wide recognition at the national
and regional level as evidenced by the direct reference in several
instruments including the American Democratic Charter, the
Quito Declaration, as well as the Ottawa Declaration. Given this
level of support, it is appropriate that the XII Inter-American
rogressing from the initial phase of the awareness raising
efforts, it is vital to set priorities and secure commitments
from key actors in order to make respect for these rights a
reality. There are a number of countries where activities are yet
to be undertaken. However, with specific support from key
international entities and organisations these fundamental
principles and rights can be integrated into social and labour
Countries that have concluded the first phase must assess the
impact and effectiveness of their work and which may include
technical assistance from international organizations and donor
In all cases the development of three basic ideas must be pursued:
√ To inform all segments of society about the importance and relevance of the fundamental principles
and rights. These actions must involve promotion and dissemination through the media as well as
through the development of educational programmes. Establishing vital linkages with other relevant
websites is a cost-effective method which leverages existing distribution channel. These rights must
also be integrated with campaigns undertaken by governments, workers’ or employers’ organisations.
√ To open opportunities for debate, by encouraging various audiences to participate in the social
dialogue process for the understanding of its wider context.
√ To create «reference points» and goals to effectively fulfil the principles. That is, as a function of
the capacities of each country, establish goals for the full application of the Declaration.
To promote the Declaration:
he ILO’s social partners are vital to the successful promotion
and dissemination of the Declarations’ fundamental
principles and rights. The Global Report, Your Voice at
Work, states that «a dignified tripartism of that name can only be fully
expressed by the ILO, if there are organizations that represent employers
and workers in all Member States.» There is a continuing need to
develop targeted communication activities on the principles and
rights with a focus on benefits, relevance and significance. Within
this framework, special attention must be given to sub-regional An ILO priority today, is the promotion
and regional activities, especially those linked to the regional of opportunities to obtain decent work:
integration processes. The Declaration is an enduring commitment productive, in freedom of conditions,
to the belief that basic human rights are indispensable to equality, security and human dignity.
international economic integration and the promotion of
At the national level, campaigns and workshops should highlight
the tangible benefits of the Declaration’s fundamental principles
and rights. Research on the persistent challenges to the application
of rights, the lack of workers’ and employers’ associations, the
progress achieved by social dialogue or about the weakness in
labour administrations should be undertaken to help develop and
effective plan of action. Studies should examine the depth and
breathe of each right with practical case studies to highlight the
effectiveness of these rights. It is now necessary to assess the
impact and results of the programmes already undertaken.
These studies and their findings could help enrich our
understanding of good practices that should be disseminated,
firstly, to the social partners and then to civil society groups. This
process could help increase exponentially the respect for and
application of the fundamental principles and rights.
Active partnerships with media can greatly enhance our outreach
and assist in exposing tremendous numbers of people to the
importance of the Declaration. Moreover, the development of
specific products for certain target audiences is crucial. For
Freedom of association guarantees
example, students can be introduced to the issues of the
workers’ and employers’ rights to join Declaration in such a way that this learning will follow then
together freely and take action to protect throughout their adult working life.
their interests in the labour market at the
workplace. It is crucial that labour registries and labour relation databases
are developed to provide users with the information as well as
facilitate engagement of the social partners.
Activities to strengthen social partner organizations are key to
this process and must focus on the development of methodologies
that are effective and efficient.
Programmes that enhance bargaining collective techniques and
improve social dialogue are key to effective dialogue among the
social partners. The dynamic interaction with labour judges and
labour inspectors are also important to effective labour relations.
Activities for the integration of women, as well as other
vulnerable groups (particularly people in the informal and
agricultural sectors) must remain a priority for the Declaration.
Programmes on gender equity and collective bargaining must
continue to be developed and promoted in the region.
To improve the awareness by the general public, indicators on
«the application of the fundamental principles and rights» must
be developed to help achieve the wider objective of decent work.
These indices can assist governments and their social partners to
formulate «situation plans» (or maps) to identify challenges and
opportunities to achieve effective application of these rights.
These indicators can be instrumental in determining priorities and
plans of action:
√ capacity and willingness of social partners in applying the
fundamental principles and rights; Slavery, specially in women and children
√ localised action in specific sectors and target audiences where is not a matter of the past. The abusive
the fundamental principles and rights are not being fully control between human beings is the
respected; antithesis to decent work.
√ identification of sectors in which it is difficult to organise
women and other vulnerable groups and focus on gender
equity in collective bargaining, and;
√ awareness by target audiences of the importance of the
fundamental principles and rights.
Projects that seek to promote awareness in specific audiences on
the Declaration must focus on timeliness, need and potential.
Countries that have not ratified one or more fundamental
Conventions require additional assistance in order to make the
recommendations of expert Advisors feasible. The following table
summarises possible activities that address different needs with
NEEDS/ PROBLEMS STRENGTHS/ EXPECTED RESULTS PROPOSED ACTIVITIES
Declaration on principles in Current examples, signed Declarations effective Analysis of current documents.
the integration process Declarations (III Summit of the commitments; better Workshops to think together and
Americas - Quebec 2001, Quito knowledge of their formulate proposals.
2002, Mercosur 1998, etc.) implications
Analysis of the concept of Examples, and work carried Effective application, social Workshops for analysis and
effective application of the out , (see different peace and thought proposals. Diagnostics. Bi and
principles programmes mentioned) Tri partite actions for discussion.
Commitment as Member
Strengthening social Prior examples, programmes Capacity to intervene inEvaluation of previous
partners already carried out. processes, enhanced programmes, development of
knowledge. new systems and execution of
programmes with participation of
Disseminating principles Previous examples, Enhanced knowledge of the Global campaign. Actions on
programmes already carried principles by the population. radio, mass media, etc.
Registries and data bases on Registry, official data, Adequate and correct system Evaluation of the current system,
labour relationships computerised systems of labour relationships development of a new simple
operating system and dissemination on its
existence within the interested.
General Education Educational systems on Enhanced knowledge and Design of a programme, support
fundamental rights (some application of the principles for developing it.
programmes underway) by the population
(particularly in the future)
Social dialogue Former examples, Institutions for consultation Evaluation of previous
programmes already carried in operation programmes, development of
out. new systems and execution of
participation of those involved.
Formation, officials, judges, Former examples, Capacity to effectively Evaluation of previous
labour unions, employers programmes already carried intervene in processes, programmes, development of
out enhanced knowledge new systems and execution of
programmes with the
participation of those involved.
Gender and integration of Former examples, Integration and participation Evaluation of previous
women programmes already carried of women based on equity programmes, development of
out new systems and execution of
programmes with the
participation of those involved.
What are the basic requirements?
√ A political will that stems from a conviction of the importance
of the rights enshrined in the Declaration. From this perspective,
one can determine and plan for opportunities that facilitate
√ Involvement of social partners. Dialogue and support from
workers’ and employers’ organisations or related institutions
are essential to the development and implementation of
successful programmes. The principle of the elimination of
√ Formulation of a plan of action should contain:
discrimination should provide the
• Objectives opportunity to individuals to develop the
• Target population knowledge of skills and competencies,
• Concrete results expected according to their aspirations and
• National available budget preferences.
• Technical and financial support from international
• Possible horizontal cooperation programmes
• Concrete activities
Project to support the INTER-AMERICAN
CONFERENCE OF MINISTERS OF LABOUR
of the Organization of American States
he Ottawa Declaration of the XII Inter-American Conference
of Ministers of Labour, held on the 19 October 2001,
provides the Declaration with a central role by stating:
The Ottawa Declaration
We (the countries of the Americas) agree to promote and respect
the basic rights of workers in accordance with what has been
established in the ILO Declaration on the Fundamental
Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow Up. We note
the agreement of our leaders to adopt and implement legislation
and policies that provide for the effective application of core
labour standards as recognized in the Declaration, and will
call upon the ILO to increase assistance to member states in
order to attain these objectives.
We will also promote the ratification of fundamental
conventions of this organization. We note with satisfaction
the ratification by many states in the Americas of a series of
ILO conventions and encourage continued support of that
Furthermore, the Plan of Action establishes two working groups,
one of which «......will make special efforts to promote the ILO
Declaration on the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its
Follow Up within the Hemisphere». Working Group Two shall work
in collaboration with the ILO to promote public awareness of the
Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and
its Follow Up, and promote initiatives involving the private
sector to increase respect for these rights. Working Group 2, in
collaboration with the ILO, will address challenges to member
states in pursuing these objectives and suggest actions to resolve
these problems through technical assistance.
At a Hemispheric level, there is little question about the
importance of the Declaration. The ILO is actively working
through this USDOL-funded project with the Conference to
achieve the full implementation of the Declaration.
There are many national and regional challenges ahead, however,
through concerted actions and a reinvigorated determination,
these activities can succeed.
Dialogue, support or workers´
and employers´ organisations or
institutions are key to effective
execution of programmes.