A win for women worldwide: Historic global treaty to end violence and harassment at work agreed today

GENEVA (June 21, 2019): Two years after launching its #March4Women global campaign, CARE International applauds governments, employers and workers for today agreeing a new International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on ending violence and harassment in the world of work.   

 “Violence and harassment in the workplace is a global issue that requires a global response. Over a third of countries globally have no existing laws in place to prohibit sexual harassment at work - representing a huge historical blind spot” says Glen Tarman, Head of Global Advocacy at CARE International.

"This convention means that we now have an international legal standard to specifically protect women at work from harassment and abuse. While this is a great starting point, the next step will be to put this standard into action for women everywhere.”

The agreement made today follows intense negotiations in Geneva at the 2019 International Labour Conference, the annual gathering of the ILO’s 187 member States. The landmark ILO Convention is the first-ever global treaty on violence and harassment in the workplace and follows years of campaigning by trade unions, civil society and women’s organisations, including CARE. 

Over the last two years, CARE’s global #March4Women campaign saw over 200,000 people around the world sign petitions to call on their governments and business to join workers’ organisations and adopt an international standard on this issue.

CARE events, rallies and marches took place across almost 50 countries, as thousands of men and women joined CARE, our partners and our ambassadors to stand up for gender justice in the world of work.

“The scope of the agreed ILO Convention reflects the needs of the hundreds of thousands of women CARE supports every day; largely the most marginalized and least visible global citizens,” says Caroline Kende-Robb, CARE International’s Secretary General.

“In Cambodia alone for example, nearly 1 in 3 female garment factory workers reported experiencing sexually harassing behaviours in the workplace over the last 12 months - we want to bring that number down to zero, everywhere.”

Kende-Robb continues: “While this is a momentous step forward, we now need governments to ratify and domesticate the ILO Convention at the earliest opportunity so that these women see real change in their workplaces, which should be places of safety, not abuse”. 

Notes to editors:

  • The text of the ILO Convention and Recommendation on Violence and Harassment, 2019 is available on the ILO website here
  • The final round of ILO Convention negotiations was brought forward by one year due to campaigning pressure and as a global treaty on violence and harassment at work is a significant achievement as the UN agency celebrates 100 years of its existence this year.
  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the only tripartite UN agency with government, employer, and worker representatives.
  • Ahead of the negotiations, a growing number of companies made their support public, including CARE partners L'Oreal, BNP Paribas, BBDO France, Sodexo, Kering, Diageo, Avon, Unilever, and Marks & Spencer.
  • An ILO Convention and a Recommendation is the strongest combination of ILO instruments available for ensuring legal accountability and providing guidance for how legal commitments can be implemented.

The ILO Convention: What difference will it make?   

  • The legally binding ILO Convention to end violence and harassment at work sets out the basic principles and rights at work on this issue and the recommendation will serve as non-binding guidelines. Across the world these instruments place clear responsibilities on employers and governments for tackling the violence and harassment in the world of work as well as workers themselves. The ILO Convention should accelerate action to end violence and harassment at work and related to work worldwide. An integrated global approach will be a huge step towards preventing violence and harassment in all their forms, and to providing survivors with the support they need.  
  • Around the world, CARE works to educate and empower women to advocate for workplace rights. From domestic workers in Ecuador to factory workers in Cambodia, women are fighting for safety and respect. CARE is committed to supporting citizens to raise their voices for national ratification and implementation of this global treaty and to act in solidarity with women everywhere to end workplace violence and harassment.
  • CARE underlines that it is critical that women play a major role in consultations around incorporating the ILO Convention in national law and regulations, and in engagement with implementation, enforcement and remediation authorities and employers. CARE calls for deliberate action by governments, employers, trade unions and civil society to ensure that women can play a strong, meaningful role and that their voices are heard and acted upon.
  • For more information on the ILO Convention, see our quick guide available here

 CARE International’s position on the final recommendation text:

  • CARE is greatly encouraged by the agreed ILO Convention text which defines violence and harassment in the world of work progressively, with a strong gender dimension and underlines an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach to ending violence and harassment related to work.
  • CARE celebrates that the ILO Convention recognises the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment.
  • CARE strongly welcomes that the ILO Convention is about the world of work beyond the physical workplace such as the commute to work or ‘the home’ when that is a place of work.
  • CARE welcomes the recognition by governments that there is a link between domestic violence and the world of work and the ILO Convention text sets out a commitment for measures that can contribute to ending domestic violence.
  • CARE believes it is very important that governments have agreed the ILO Convention covers all workers everywhere – for example, it applies to all sectors, whether private or public, both in the formal and informal economy, and whether in urban and rural areas.


Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and providing lifesaving assistance in emergencies. In 100 countries around the world, CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. To learn more, visit www.care-international.org.

Media contacts:

Clare Spurrell, Head of Global Communications, CARE International
[email protected]