Business and General Policies

The ILO MNE Declaration emerged out of concerns among the governments and social partners in the ILO member States about the expanding impacts of multinational enterprises (MNEs) in their territories. MNEs are important partners to help advance economic and social development in all countries. The MNE Declaration seeks to encourage the positive contribution which MNEs can make to economic and social progress and the realization of decent work for all; and to minimize and resolve the difficulties to which their various operations may give rise.

The MNE Declaration promotes harmony between the practices of MNEs and the policies and development priorities of the governments in the countries of operations so that greater social development gains can be derived from these operations of MNEs. The MNE Declaration sets out clearly that governments are responsible for protecting human rights, including the rights of workers, and establishing policies that stimulate inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. Enterprises are responsible for respecting human rights, including labour rights, throughout their operations and should carry out human rights due diligence. Employers’ and workers’ organizations can play an important role in promoting the spill-over effects of sustainable MNE practices to local enterprise culture, including by sharing their due diligence practices.

Enterprises are encouraged to recognize the autonomy of governments to regulate their societies while governments in turn are urged to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the corresponding International Covenants and apply their principles to the greatest extent possible, as well as those set out in the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The provisions of the Declaration on the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998, amended in 2022), embodied in the ten fundamental ILO Conventions that have been identified as being central to the rights of people at work irrespective of the level of development of the state, represent a global consensus on social and labour issues. These are a central component of the MNE Declaration. When or where governments fail to uphold their duties, enterprises need to ensure that they uphold their responsibilities and are not contributing to, nor benefiting from, that failure. Where government action in areas covered by the MNE Declaration is weak or absent, enterprises should use its provisions to guide their activities.

National legislation embodies local traditions and practices, and it is important that MNEs respect these. There may, however, be significant differences between law and practice, which often lead to difficulties in ensuring that workers’ rights are respected. National employers’ and workers’ organizations are key social partners in dialogues with the government on socio-economic development issues and often they are a good source of information on national law and local practice.

Governments and companies should also honour commitments that they have freely entered into which are in conformity with national laws and accepted international obligations. For governments this includes fully implementing ratified conventions and other treaty obligations. Companies in turn need to respect collective bargaining agreements at the enterprise, sectoral, national levels, international framework agreements, and other commitments that they may have undertaken as part of company policy towards their operations.