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ILO Histories

Essays on the International Labour Organization and Its Impact on the World During the Twentieth Century

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Edited By Jasmien Van Daele, Magaly Rodriguez Garcia and Geert van Goethem

In 2009, the International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrated its ninetieth anniversary. The First World War and the revolutionary wave it provoked in Russia and elsewhere were powerful inspirations for the founding of the ILO. There was a growing understanding that social justice, in particular by improving labour conditions, was an essential precondition for universal peace. Since then, the ILO has seen successes and set-backs; it has been ridiculed and praised. Much has been written about the ILO; there are semi-official histories and some critical studies on the organization’s history have recently been published. Yet, further source-based critical and comprehensive analyses of the organization’s origins and development are still lacking. The present collection of eighteen essays is an attempt to change this unsatisfactory situation by complementing those histories that already exist, exploring new topics, and offering new perspectives. It is guided by the observation that the ILO’s history is not primarily about «elaborating beautiful texts and collecting impressive instruments for ratification» but about effecting «real change and more happiness in peoples’ lives».

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Foreword 9

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Foreword The First World War and the revolutionary wave it provoked in Russia and elsewhere were powerful inspirations for the founding of the International Labour Organization (>AD). The Versailles Treaty of June was can- did: “universal peace […] can be established only if it is based upon social justice”. But, it continued: […] conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship, and priva- tion to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled; and an improvement of those con- ditions is urgently required as, for example, by the regulation of the hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week, the regulation of the labour supply, the prevention of unemployment, the provision of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for old age and injury, pro- tection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, recognition of the principle of freedom of association, the organ- ization of vocational and technical education and other measures. Such ameliorating measures, however, could not be implemented by indi- vidual states independently of one another since “the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries”. Therefore, the need to establish a permanent organization for...

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