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100 years International Labour Organization (ILO)

March 12, 2019

Working for our future through social justice and decent work – Official ceremony with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin

ILO Logo.

Under the title "Working for our future through social justice and decent work", the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will celebrate the centenary of the International Labour Organization (ILO) together with its partners from the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA), the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ILO is the United Nation’s oldest specialized agency. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will mark the occasion at an official ceremony in Berlin.

Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil noted:

Over the past 100 years, the ILO has created a kind of international labour and social code with its 189 conventions and 205 recommendations whose worldwide implementation is becoming ever more important in our era of globalisation and digitalisation. We will only be able to ensure decent work for all people worldwide and be able to overcome the world’s social inequalities, if we succeed in enforcing international labour standards in all 187 ILO member countries. That is why I am dedicated to the continued strengthening of the ILO in the multilateral system. Especially the world’s young people need protection and confidence in tomorrow’s world of work.

Reiner Hoffmann, President of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) stated:

Work is neither a commodity nor a robot. In times of major upheaval in the world of work and general global unease which jeopardises the multilateral system, trade unions need a strong ILO able to deliver on this promise. At the global stage, the ILO needs to receive the political clout that enables it to effectively counter the present economic and social inequalities.

Ingo Kramer, President of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) said:

The ILO is the most important institution in the field of international social policies. The representation of workers and employers in the ILO bodies is an expression of social partnership in action and boosts its role at the international level. In times when protectionism is on the rise, our common social dialogue must be strengthened and reoriented to confront challenges of the future such as digitalisation in order to ensure open markets with fair competition, stability and social peace.

Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the ILO, added:

The ILO has a remarkable 100 year history of achievement, sustained by the combined determination of governments, workers, and employers to promote social justice and so make the world a fairer, safer, cleaner and more prosperous place. This joint ceremony here in Germany is a good example of this. Today, rapid technological, demographic, environmental, social and economic changes are bringing fundamental transformation to the world of work. Yet opportunities are unevenly distributed, and trust in institutions and in public policies needs to be strengthened. We must acknowledge people’s expectations, hopes and fears – especially those of the younger generation, and work proactively to create a human-centred agenda for the future of work. The ILO has been given a mandate to strive for social justice at the multilateral level. We are well-placed to help develop new perspectives that will shape a brighter future, with decent work, for the generations of workers to come.

At the International Labour Conference, which will be held in June 2019 in Geneva, governments and social partners from around the world will mark the ILO’s centenary internationally with the aim of preparing for the future world of work and of taking the necessary measures nationally and internationally. In this context, the German Federal Government is advocating for the adoption of a final document at the International Labour Conference.

The national ceremony in Germany is the first in a series of national anniversary events in numerous member countries. With this event, the German Government and the social partners are stressing the role played by the ILO in coping with the technological changes in the world of work in a human-centred manner.

Along with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the event will be attended by high-ranking representatives from the political sphere, business, the academic community and civil society. The panel discussions between Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil, Ingo Kramer, the President of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, Reiner Hoffmann, the President of the German Trade Union Confederation, Guy Ryder, the ILO’s Director-General, and young people will deliberately focus on the perspectives and positions of the young generation.

The International Labour Organization (background)

  • Specialized agency of the United Nations (187 member countries)
  • Established in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles (the UN was founded in 1945)
  • Founding mission: "Universal, lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice."
  • Goal: Promoting social justice through decent work
  • Responsible for international labour and social standards in the UN system
  • Only tripartite UN organisation: Representatives of governments, trade unions and employers’ organisations jointly develop labour and social standards (standard-setting)
  • Implementation of structures and processes on the ground to enforce labour and social standards (e.g. foundation of trade unions, improvements to occupational safety and health, fight against child labour and forced labour)
  • August 2017: Establishment of an independent Global Commission on the Future of Work (German member: Thorben Albrecht, former State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs)
  • January 2019: Publication of the report "Work for a brighter future"