Declaration of Philadelphia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Declaration of Philadelphia
Declaration concerning the aims and purposes of the International Labour Organisation, adopted at the 26th session of the ILO, Philadelphia, 10 May 1944

The Declaration of Philadelphia (10 May 1944) restated the traditional objectives of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and then branched out in two new directions: the centrality of human rights to social policy, and the need for international economic planning.[1]: 481–2  With the end of the world war in sight, it sought to adapt the guiding principles of the ILO "to the new realities and to the new aspirations aroused by the hopes for a better world."[2]: 287  It was adopted at the 26th Conference of the ILO in Philadelphia, United States of America.[1]: 481  In 1946, when the ILO's constitution was being revised by the General Conference convened in Montreal, the Declaration of Philadelphia was annexed to the constitution and forms an integral part of it by Article 1.[2]: 287 

The declaration, in full, the Declaration concerning the aims and purposes of the International Labour Organisation, adopted at the 26th session of the ILO, Philadelphia, 10 May 1944 was drafted by the then acting ILO Director, Edward J. Phelan, and C. Wilfred Jenks.[1]: 481 [3] Most of the demands of the declaration were a result of a partnership of American and Western European labor unions and the ILO secretariat.[1]: 481 

Broad and general terms[edit]

The declaration begins with general aims and purposes for the ILO and then enumerates specific reforms which, unlike those in the original ILO constitution, are expressed in broader terms to address both immediate and future needs and aspirations and to avoid any provision from becoming spent.[2]: 288–9 


The declaration focused on a series of key principles to embody the work of the ILO. These include:

  • Labour is not a commodity. (I, a)
  • Freedom of expression and of association are essential to sustained progress.
  • Poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere. (I, c)
  • the war against want requires ... unrelenting vigour ... (for) the promotion of the common welfare. (I, d)
  • All human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity. (II, a)

To achieve these fundamental goals "effective international and national action" is necessary (IV).[2]: 288 

The declaration does not envision its universal principles giving rise to uniform labour standards but expressly states that they "must be determined with due regard to the stage of social and economic development reached by each people," but that "their progressive application to peoples who are still dependent, as well as those who have already achieved self-government, is a matter of concern to the whole civilized world" (V).[2]: 288 


The ILO, as with most of the League of Nations system, hibernated in the late 1930s. The Declaration of Philadelphia brought it back to life.[4]: 941 

The Declaration of Philadelphia envisioned the ILO as the master agency among the specialized international bodies, placing the ILO "on the same plane as the UN as the economic counterpart of that world political body."[1]: 482 [5] Instead, the role it saw for the ILO was taken by the United Nations Economic and Social Council.[1]: 482 [6]: 45 

The declaration's emphasis on human rights was to bear more fruit: the ILO promulgated a series of Conventions and Recommendations dealing with labour inspection, freedom of association, the right to organise and collectively bargain, equal pay, against forced labor and discrimination.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Norman F. Dufty, "Organizational Growth and Goal Structure: The Case of the ILO", (1972) 26 (3) International Organization 479 accessed 24 August 2011
  2. ^ a b c d e Joseph Sulkowski, "The Competence of the International Labor Organization Under the United Nations System", (1951) 45 (2) The American Journal of International Law 286 accessed 24 August 2011.
  3. ^ International Labour Organization, Director-General's Office, "C. Wilfred Jenks", 9 February 2006 accessed 24 August 2011.
  4. ^ Daniel J. Whelan and Jack Donnelly, "The West, Economic and Social Rights, and the Global Human Rights Regime: Setting the Record Straight" (2007) 29 (4) Human Rights Quarterly 908.
  5. ^ Ernst Haas, Beyond the Nation State (1964) p 156 :""If the Philadelphia Declaration had been taken literally by those who voted for it, the ILO would have developed into the master agency among the emerging family of functional international bodies ...".
  6. ^ a b Richard A. Melanson, "Human Rights and the American Withdrawal from the ILO" (1979) 1 (1) Universal Human Rights 43 24 August 2011.

External links[edit]