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Ratification of Social Security Conventions: all you need to know

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Christina Behrendt , Kroum Markov , Emmanuelle St-Pierre Guilbault , Maya Stern Plaza , Umuhire Victoire

The ILO and the importance of its normative work in the area of social security

From 1919, the date it was established, the ILO started working on social security issues, including by adopting legal standards to regulate social security internationally.

Over the years, the ILO adopted a comprehensive set of legal social security instruments. Today, this body of standards is unanimously recognized as representing the most unique set of legal instruments substantiating the human right to social security, recognized in 1948 by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Unlike other international treaties, all ILO standards, including social security standards, are adopted by the tripartite International Labour Conference - a feature guarantreeing they are the result of a participatory process fully corresponding to the diverse needs of all ILO member States. Indeed, in order to come into being and become open to ratification by ILO's member States, ILO Conventions need to be adopted by the ILC by a 2/3 majority of the votes of its tripartite stakeholders. These standards therefore represent a major reference point when it comes to building consensus nationally as regards engaging in reforms and improving the set of available protection mechanisms.

ILO social security standards are composed of Recommendations and Conventions. While Recommendations are so called "soft law" instruments providing non-binding guidelines based on best practices, ILO Conventions are international treaties creating legal obligations once ratified by an ILO member State and their application is monitored by a supervisory machinery based on periodic reporting to demonstrate compliance and special complaint-based procedures.

The illustration on the right shows the adoption process of ILO's Conventions and Recommendations. It is only at the end of this process, once adopted by the International Labour Conference, that ILO Conventions legally come into being and become open to ratification by ILO member States.