Global Compact: Labor

(Taken from UN Global Compact web site.)

Principle 3

Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;

Principle 4

The elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor;

Principle 5

The effective abolition of child labor; and

Principle 5

Eliminate discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

The Origin of the Labor Principles

The four labor principles of the Global Compact are taken from the International Labor Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This Declaration was adopted in 1998 by the International Labor Conference, a yearly tripartite meeting that brings together governments, employers and workers from 177 countries. The Declaration calls upon all ILO Member States to apply the principles in line with the original intent of the core Conventions on which it is based. Consensus now exists that all countries, regardless of level of economic development, cultural values, or ratifications of the relevant ILO Conventions, have an obligation to respect, promote, and realize these fundamental principles and rights. At the G8 Meeting in Evian, France, in 2003, the leaders of the industrialized world encouraged companies to work with other parties to implement the Declaration.

The Principles and Rights identified in the ILO Declaration comprise the labor portion of the Global Compact. They are:

  • to promote and realize in good faith the right of workers and employers to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;

  • to work towards the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor;

  • the effective abolition of child labor; and

  • The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

The aim of the ILO is to harness the support of the business community for these principles through the Global Compact. The labor principles deal with fundamental principles in the workplace and the challenge for business is to take these universally accepted values and apply them at the company level.

The Global Compact and the International Labor Organization

ILO participation in the Global Compact focuses on the promotion of the four labor principles of the initiative, which derive directly from the ILO Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work. The Global Compact asks businesses to:

  • respect freedom of association and recognize the right to collective bargaining

  • support the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor

  • join the fight for the effective abolition of child labor

  • Eliminate discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

The ILO’s tripartite structure and the importance it attaches to social dialogue, play a key role in advancing the Global Compact’s purpose of bringing together the business world with labor, the UN system and other interested organizations, to have a transparent dialogue and develop partnerships.
Since the launch of the Global Compact in 1999, the ILO has been actively collaborating with the GC office in New York and the other UN agencies involved - the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP); the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) - for the realization of its key activities.

Outreach activities and development of networks

  • The ILO has participated in the organization of Global Compact launching and promotional events in different countries in close collaboration with local and international organizations of employers and other UN agencies.

  • The ILO is implementing a project funded by the Italian government that includes as an important aim, the development of Global Compact networks in Italy, Tunisia, Morocco and Albania.

  • On 24 June 2004, the Director General of the ILO attended the Global Compact Leaders’ Summit in New York to participate in the discussions about the initiative’s impact and future. The meeting brought together more than 400 corporate executives, government officials, civil society leaders and the UN agencies involved. The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, announced the addition of a tenth principle to the Compact: “business should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery”.

Policy dialogues

In May 2003, the GC policy dialogue on HIV/AIDS took place at the ILO headquarters in Geneva. The meeting explored the impact of HIV/AIDS on business, labor and development and empowered all actors to contribute to prevention, awareness-raising, care, support and treatment. It also provided an opportunity to promote the use of the ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work and its accompanying manual to guide implementation. The dissemination of examples of good practice and partnership projects in this area was encouraged. This dialogue led the International Organization of Employers and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions to adopt a historic agreement to cooperate in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.


Most of the ILO’s work with regard to the GC has focused on learning.

  • The ILO has developed a Management Training Program aimed at developing the competencies of managers to implement and realize the four fundamental principles and rights at work. The training materials were developed in close consultation with the employers’ and workers’ organizations and have been tested in many countries since 2003.

  • The ILO, together with UNEP, produced a resource package on the GC in the form of a CD-ROM, which contains case studies on each of the GC principles, as well as resources for companies, for local networks and for training and management schools.

  • The ILO also took active part in the preparation of the source book “Raising the Bar: Creating value with the United Nations Global Compact”, which contains tools, techniques, case studies, information and resources to help participant companies of all sizes and from all industries and regions implement the GC principles.

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