Legal protection

The Office of the Legal Adviser advises on all questions concerning the legal status of the Organization and its officials – including privileges and immunities – both at headquarters in Switzerland and in all countries where it has activities. It is also responsible for ensuring the protection of the ILO logo, name, emblem, flag and photographs, as well as intellectual property rights of ILO publications or other activities, including material posted on its Internet domain.

Basic Documents

Pursuant to article 39 of the ILO Constitution, the ILO has full juridical personality and possesses the capacity to contract, to acquire and dispose of property and to institute legal proceedings. Article 40 (1) provides that the ILO shall enjoy in the territory of its member States such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the fulfilment of its purposes.

The purpose of this legal protection is functional: it secures the ILO’s independence and ability to carry out its mandate and encourages efficiency by reducing delays and costs involved in financing and conducting activities. It also assists to manage risks inherent in such activities that involve ILO property, assets and officials as well as experts and delegates participating in the work of the ILO.

The legal protection of the ILO in its member States is codified in an international instrument, namely the 1947 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies and its Annex I relating to the ILO, as well as in bilateral agreements, such as host country agreements or standard technical assistance/cooperation agreements for in-country activities. In countries not parties to the 1947 Convention and where no standing agreement has been entered into with the ILO, national law may provide for the ILO’s legal protection.

The legal protection database contains information on the privileges and immunities coverage enjoyed by the ILO in each of its member States. An introductory guide is also available on this matter.  To date, 126 member States have ratified the 1947 Convention and its Annex I relating to the ILO.  The Office of the Legal Adviser furthermore provides legal advice and guidance to ILO technical units and field offices on other related questions, including the tax status of the ILO in its member States.

Relations with the Host State

The Office of the Legal Adviser is responsible for issues related to the application and interpretation of agreements concluded with the Government of Switzerland, in particular the Agreement between the Swiss Federal Council and the International Labour Organization concerning the legal status of the International Labour Organization in Switzerland and the Arrangement for its execution.

It provides practical information to staff members with respect to Swiss instructions for international organizations and members of their staff and liaises with the authorities of the host State, mainly through the Swiss Permanent Mission in Geneva.

Copyright and permissions

The Office of the Legal Adviser coordinates with the Department of Communication (DCOMM) and the Document and Publications Production, Printing and Distribution Branch (PRODOC) the response to requests or claims in all matters related to the use or reproduction of ILO publications, logo, name, emblem, flag and photographs. It also takes action against all cases of unauthorized use or falsification of the ILO logo and emblem in printed or electronic format and has developed, in consultation with PUBDROIT, licenses to grant rights over ILO publications, as well as copyright pages using the creative common licenses for intergovernmental organizations. As regards to the ILO flag, which bears the ILO emblem, it was adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2005. The code and regulations for the use of the flag were adopted by the Governing Body the same year.