On this day April 11, 1919

The International Labour Organization is founded as a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labour issues. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland.

ilo_logoIts secretariat — the people who are employed by it throughout the world — is known as the International Labour Office. The organization received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969.

The ILO was established as an agency of the League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. Post-war reconstruction and the protection of labour unions occupied the attention of many nations during and immediately after World War I.

In Great Britain, the Whitley Commission, a subcommittee of the Reconstruction Commission, recommended in its July 1918 Final Report that “industrial councils” be established throughout the world. The British Labour Party had issued its own reconstruction programme in the document titled Labour and the New Social Order.

The Commission issued its final report on March 4, 1919, and the Peace Conference adopted it without amendment on April 11. The report became Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles.

The first annual conference (referred to as the International Labour Conference, or ILC) began on 29 October 1919 in Washington DC and adopted the first six International Labour Conventions, which dealt with hours of work in industry, unemployment, maternity protection, night work for women, minimum age and night work for young persons in industry.

The ILO became a member of the United Nations system after the demise of the League in 1946. Its constitution, as amended, includes the Declaration of Philadelphia (1944) on the aims and purposes of the organisation. The current director-general is Juan Somavia (since 1999).

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