Trade for Decent Work Project

The project aims at improving the application of the ILO fundamental Conventions in EU trading partner countries through improved labour relations and working conditions.


The European Commission (EC) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), through its International Labour Standards Department (NORMES), have established a longstanding and productive partnership on supporting EU trading partner countries jointly identified to improve the application of the ILO fundamental Conventions. This includes bringing labour law and practice in line with International Labour Standards (ILS), building the institutional capacity of public administrations, social partners and other relevant stakeholders to support law reform and reporting, and strengthening institutional frameworks to facilitate social dialogue and conflict resolution.

Since 2013, the Directorate-General for Trade and the Directorate-General for International Partnerships have funded projects on International Labour Standards implemented by the ILO in numerous countries such as Armenia, Bangladesh, Cabo Verde, El Salvador, Guatemala, Myanmar, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Regular consultations between the ILO and the EC on labour related matters in selected countries have contributed to joint reflection to find appropriate solutions within the national contexts to improve labour relations and working conditions in line with core ILS, and were instrumental to monitor projects as they were implemented, facilitating decision-making on key issues resonant to their deliverables.

A dynamic boost was given to this collaboration when the ILO and the EC launched on 1 January 2019 the Trade for Decent Work Project, contributing to the United-Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8. The project operates within a framework including a Global Facility providing global initiatives in the area of ILS and ad hoc support to specific needs arising in partner countries; and a Country-focused Facility supporting each year a number of target countries. In 2019, the project started its action in three Asian countries. In 2021, the project now covers the following countries in Asia: Bangladesh, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines and Viet Nam. The project also covers the following countries in Africa: Cabo Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Madagascar and Mozambique. In addition, the project also contributes to specific ad/hoc activities in the following countries in Latin America: Ecuador and Peru. The expansion of the project exemplifies the EU strong support to the ILO work regarding the application of the Fundamental Conventions.

In July 2021, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the ILO signed an agreement to develop the action of the project in the five beneficiary countries in Africa. This new voluntary contribution from Finland demonstrates its support to the ILO’s mandate and to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It enables to supplement the activities of the project in the following areas : i) reinforcing the implementation of International Labour Conventions; ii) strengthening the capacity of the labour inspection to actively contribute to the national processes to comply to ILS; iii) promoting responsible business conduct through engagement and dialogue with private sector; and iv) encouraging awareness in the area of the just transition and the green economy and their link with ILS.

Project Objectives

The project’s objectives are focused on four overarching components:
  1. Strengthening the capacity of constituents to actively participate in national processes to comply with International Labour Standards (ILS), particularly the Fundamental Conventions.
  2. Consolidating the institutional capacity of the governments and social partners to fulfil reporting obligations regarding ILS, and concurrently abiding by its commitments to the EC to accept regular monitoring in accordance with international conventions.
  3. Strengthening institutional frameworks to facilitate social dialogue, conflict resolution and industrial relations in order to enhance the implementation of ILS;
    The project is promoting the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (2017), referenced in EU Trade for All Policy and sustainability chapters of EU Trade agreements through trainings of tripartite constituents and other actors (e.g. OECD National Contact Points) and events on responsible business bringing together policymakers, business and trade unions, as well as international organizations.
  4. Enhancing the capacity of tripartite constituents and other stakeholders such as the judiciary, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, human rights institutions, to advocate on the promotion and implementation of ILS.

Project management

The project has established an innovative approach with an overall coordination based in Geneva (NORMES) and a Steering Committee - consisting of broad cross-cutting representation from both organizations - meeting biannually. This Steering Committee provides support and guidance to review the project progress, to discuss policy, technical and operational issues related to furthering the objectives of the partnership and to redefine the project lines of implementation, if needed. Additionally, regular information sharing facilitates adaptation to challenges during implementation and response to contingent needs.

A communication strategy ensures central gathering of the information, visibility and common branding of the action, with the objective to get the community of stakeholders and constituents fully engaged in the project at the country level.