Established 100 years ago as a normative institution to promote social justice, the International Labour Organization (ILO) fulfills its mission principally through the adoption of international labor standards. To date, those standards have taken the form of 189 international labor Conventions, six Protocols, and 205 international labor Recommendations. ILO standard-setting follows special techniques and practices, mainly because of the Organization’s unique tripartite structure, that have given shape to specificities such as the inadmissibility of reservations, the frequent recourse to built-in flexibility, and the limited possibility for denunciation. The interpretation of international labor Conventions is, pursuant to a specific constitutional provision, entrusted to the International Court of Justice, while the application of international labor standards is monitored by an elaborate supervisory system that combines standing bodies responsible for the regular examination of reports and special adversarial procedures activated by different complaint mechanisms. Today, the abrogation of outdated instruments and the consolidation of up-to-date standards into framework Conventions are among the key challenges for enhancing the relevance and impact of standards. Standard-setting has distinctively marked the Organization’s 100-year-long history and has in many respects broken new ground in the field of international treaty law.
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