The International Labour Relations Desk at the Kenya Mission to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland handles all matters of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on behalf of the Ministry of Labour Social Security and Services. The Ministry has seconded a Minister Counsellor, Labour, to handle matters of the Desk. The Counsellor is therefore the liaison point with the ILO. The overall responsibility of the counselor is to assist Kenya shape and oversee implementation of the country’s Labour Legislation and Policy Development in conformity with International Labour Standards. In addition to dealing with ILO matters, the Counselor Labour also handles matters relating to International Organization for Migration and the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.  Kenya has been a member of the ILO since 1964.

Role Of The Labour Division

  • To contribute to the improvement of labour relations, social justice and laws and policies consistent with regional and International labour standards.
  • To facilitate the development of standards that will have an overall impact that will sustain an environment suitable for business growth, creation of decent employment and poverty reduction
Member States of the ILO meet at the International Labour Conference, held every year in Geneva, Switzerland, in the month of June. Each member State is represented by a delegation consisting of two government delegates, an employer delegate, a worker delegate, and their respective advisers. (Employer and Worker delegates are nominated in agreement with the most representative national organizations of employers and workers.). Many of the government representatives are cabinet ministers responsible for labour affairs in their own countries. Heads of State and prime ministers also take the floor at the Conference. International organizations, both governmental and others, attend as observers.
 The Conference, which is often referred to as an International Conference of Labour has several main tasks:-
  • First, there is the crafting and adoption of international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations. Conventions are international treaties that, once adopted by the Conference, are open to ratification by member States. Ratification creates a legal obligation to apply the provisions of the Convention in question. Recommendations, on the other hand, are intended to guide national action, but are not open to ratification, and are not legally binding.
  • The Conference also supervises the application of Conventions and Recommendations at the national level. It examines the reports which the governments of all member States are required to submit, detailing their compliance with obligations arising out of ratified Conventions, and their law and practice in respect of Conventions and Recommendations (ratified or not) on which reports have been requested by the Governing Body of the ILO.
  • Since the adoption of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998), another important function of the Conference is to examine the Global Report prepared by the Office under the follow-up procedure required by the Declaration. Over a four-year cycle, the Conference examines in turn Global Reports covering the four fundamental rights, namely: (a) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; (b) the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; (c) the effective abolition of child labour; and (d) the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
  • The Conference is also a forum where social and labour questions of importance to the entire world are discussed freely - sometimes passionately. Delegates explore the course of social progress in the world, but the central theme is the report presented each year by the ILO's Director-General. The Conference also passes resolutions that provide guidelines for the ILO's general policy and future activities.
  • Every two years the Conference adopts the ILO's biennial work programme and budget, which is financed by Member States.

The Conference is tripartite and Kenya is usually represented by the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services, Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) and the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) as well as technical advisors.  The total number from Kenya averages 20 people a year. Lately, the Kenya delegation has included representatives of the National Social Security Fund, Judges of the Industrial Court, Senators and other relevant institutions.

The Governing Body is the executive body of the International Labour Organization (the Office is the secretariat of the Organization) It meets three times a year, in March, June and November. It takes decisions on ILO policy, decides the agenda of the International Labour Conference, adopts the draft Programme and Budget of the Organization for submission to the Conference, and elects the Director-General.
It is composed of 56 titular members (28 Governments, 14 Employers and 14 Workers) and 66 deputy members (28 Governments, 19 Employers and 19 Workers). Ten of the titular government seats are permanently held by States of chief industrial importance (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States). The other Government members are elected by the Conference every three years (the last elections were held in June 2014). The Employer and Worker members are elected in their individual capacity.
Kenya is the only unique country that is holding titular positions in the Governing Body as the Government, Worker (COTU) and Employer (FKE) representatives are elected members of the Governing Body.

As a result of the deliberations at the Africa Group Meetings, the group was able to agree on various positions for the Governing Body Session for the period 2014-17. Kenya will represent Africa in the following committees:

Committee Mandate of the Committe
Institutional Section (INS) Deals with issues related to the functioning of the Office and of the Organization, including constitutional obligations. This encompasses standing items such as reporting, constitutional obligations, and urgent matters arising between or during sessions. This is the Committee with the longest agenda item of the Governing Body.
The Working Party on the functioning of the Governing Body The Committee discusses ways in which the Conference might be made more dynamic and efficient.
Committee on Freedom of Association The Committee was established in 1951 to study complaints about violations of freedom of association, whether or not the country concerned has ratified the relevant ILO Conventions. Complaints may be brought against a member state by employers' and workers' organizations. It is composed of an independent chairperson and six representatives each of governments, employers and workers. Kenya will be the only Africa Group Representative during this session.
Board Member of the International Training Centre Turin This is the training centre that builds the capacity of ILO constituents. Kenya is a Deputy Member during this session.

Kenya joined the ILO in 1964 and ever since, the country derives maximum benefits from its membership in this world organization. There are various projects which are undertaken in the Country funded by ILO and other development partners. In 2001, A Task Force funded by the United States of America through the ILO was gazetted by the Attorney General to review old labour laws. The Task Force was composed of nominees from the wider society and representatives of the Key Social Partners, stakeholders – Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) and the Government. The new laws continue to be reviewed even now with the assistance of the ILO. Learn more about the laws here.

The Office’s work is expected to contribute to the improvement of labour relations, social justice and laws and policies consistent with regional and International labour standards.  The overall impact should be an environment suitable for business growth, creation of decent employment and poverty reduction.

The International Labour Organization and the Italian Government established the International Training Centre in 1964 in Turin, Italy, as an advanced vocational training institute. The Centre is the training arm of the International Labour Organization. It runs training, learning and capacity development services for governments, employers' organizations ,workers' organizations and other national and international partners in support of Decent Work and sustainable development. It has since matured into a focal point for high-level in-service training. This takes place in Turin, in course participants' home countries or via the Internet. The Centre provides training and related services that develop human resources and institutional capabilities. It contributes to achieving the ILO’s goal of decent work for women and men.

It is a unique institution whose specific assets includes:

  1. A reservoir of expertise on employment, labour, human resources development and capacity-building
  2. In-depth knowledge of the specific social, economic and cultural conditions of different countries and region.
  3. World-wide network of partner institutions and resource persons
  4. Close links with the ILO and the whole United Nations system
  5. Strong client orientation, multi-lingual delivery, inter-disciplinary perspective and gender sensitivity
  6. Constant evaluation and fine-tuning of our services
  7. Cutting-edge information and communication technology
  8. Modern residential facilities on our campus in Turin, Italy
  9. Favorable location for relevant study visits, in the heart of Europe
  10. Advanced training facilities, global scope and multi-cultural learning environment

The specific role of the Centre is therefore to strengthen specific competencies of the ILO constituents. A large number of staff from the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services, COTU and FKE have undergone training at the International training Centre of the ILO in Turin and continue to benefit from Standard Courses and training activities at regional and Country level. Africa’s representatives in the centre at the Turin Board are as follows – Ghana, Sudan, Zimbabwe as regular members, substitute members include Kenya, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Chad and Mali.