United Nations Office at Vienna – International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization

United Nations Office at Vienna - Scott #48 (1985)
United Nations Office at Vienna – Scott #48 (1985)

The United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV) is one of the four major UN office sites where several different UN agencies have a joint presence. The office complex is located in Vienna, the capital of Austria, and is part of the Vienna International Centre, a cluster of several major international organizations. The UNOV was established on 1 January 1980, and was the third such office established.

The Vienna International Centre[1] (VIC) is the campus and building complex hosting the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV; Büro der Vereinten Nationen in Wien in German). It is colloquially also known as UNO City.

The VIC, designed by Austrian architect Johann Staber, was built between 1973 and 1979 just north of the river Danube. The initial idea of setting up an international organization in Vienna came from the Chancellor of Austria Dr. Bruno Kreisky.

Six Y-shaped office towers surround a cylindrical conference building for a total floor area of 230,000 square metres. The highest tower stands 127 metres tall, enclosing 28 floors.

The Vienna International Centre and the Austria Center Vienna (the low hexagonal structure to left of tallest building) are the two parts of the UNO-City. The Donaucity Church (the cubical building in the lower left-hand corner) is part of the Donau City. In the foreground Vienna U-Bahn, Line U1 with station Kaisermühlen – Vienna International Centre. Photo taken on May 17, 2004.
The Vienna International Centre and the Austria Center Vienna (the low hexagonal structure to left of tallest building) are the two parts of the UNO-City. The Donaucity Church (the cubical building in the lower left-hand corner) is part of the Donau City. In the foreground Vienna U-Bahn, Line U1 with station Kaisermühlen – Vienna International Centre. Photo taken on May 17, 2004.

About 5,000 people work at the VIC, which also offers catering and shopping facilities (see Commissary below) and a post office (postal code 1400 Wien). Two banks (Bank Austria, Bawag PSK and United Nations Federal Credit Union offices), travel agents and other commercial services have offices on the premises.

The VIC is an extraterritorial area, exempt from the jurisdiction of local law.

Complementing the early 2000s asbestos removal works in the VIC, a new conference building, previously designated “C2”, now termed “M Building”, was constructed over the existing parking deck near the southern perimeter of the campus, and put into service in 2009.

The M building hosted all conferences during the renovation of the C building (previously the main conference facility) from 2009-2013. Both M and C buildings are now being used for meetings. Very large conferences can be accommodated in the neighbouring Austria Center Vienna (ACV), a separate conference and exhibition centre with a capacity of 6,000, which is with the VIC campus part of the UNO-City. The ACV has an indoor link to the VIC buildings. It is guarded by United Nations security personnel, since the VIC has exterritorial status; the ACV does not.

The VIC is served by Kaisermühlen/VIC station on line U1 of the Vienna U-Bahn (underground railway).

A major UN site along with New York, Geneva and Nairobi, the VIC hosts several organizations:

  • Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO; Organisation des Vertrags über das umfassende Verbot von Nuklearversuchen in German)
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA; Internationale Atomenergieorganisation, IAEO)
  • United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL; Kommission der Vereinten Nationen für internationales Handelsrecht)
  • United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO; Organisation der Vereinten Nationen für industrielle Entwicklung)
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC; Büro der Vereinten Nationen für Drogen- und Verbrechensbekämpfung)
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR; Hoher Flüchtlingskommissar der Vereinten Nationen)
  • United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA; Büro der Vereinten Nationen für Weltraumfragen)
  • International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR;  Internationale Kommission zum Schutz der Donau)

Five other notable international organizations headquartered in Vienna, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), occupy facilities outside the VIC.

The following agencies also have a presence in Vienna:

  • United Nations Information Service
  • United Nations Office for Project Services
  • Investigations Division of the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services
  • United Nations Postal Administration
  • United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation
  • United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs

The Vienna International Centre offers shopping opportunities to its staff, and the staff of Permanent Missions and other international organizations based in Vienna. The Commissary, so named after similar facilities for U.S. military personnel at various duty stations, offers an international selection of foodstuffs and household items, thus catering to expatriate employees (and selected family members) who may purchase familiar items that are not readily available in the host country Austria. The store is run by the IAEA on a non-profit basis.

“Persian Scholars Pavilion” in United Nations Office at Vienna donated by Iran in June 2009. Photo taken on October 16, 2013.

At the United Nations Office in Vienna there are many artistic works which are placed in the yard or in corridors.

In June 2009, Iran donated a scholar pavilion to United Nations Office in Vienna which is placed in the central Memorial Plaza of the Vienna International Center. The Persian Scholars Pavilion at United Nations in Vienna, Austria is featuring the statues of four prominent Persian figures. Highlighting the Persian architectural features, the pavilion is adorned with Persian art forms and includes the statues of renowned Persian scientists Avicenna, Abu Rayhan Biruni, Zakariya Razi (Rhazes) and Omar Khayyam.

The Turin Center or, officially, the International Centre for Advanced Technical and Vocational Training in Turin, Italy, was the subject of a four-stamp series released on February 1, 1985 by the United Nations. There was one stamp from New York, two from Geneva, and one from Vienna. The 1.20-Swiss franc stamp from the Geneva office and the 7.50-Austrian schilling stamp from the Vienna office both portray the same image of the former U Thant Pavilion at the training center. It is currently known as American Pavilion 1 and houses, amongst other facilities and accommodations, the center’s post office.

Map of the Turin campus of the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization. The former U-Thant Pavilion is numbered 1 and is currently called the Americas Pavilion 1.
Map of the Turin campus of the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization. The former U-Thant Pavilion is numbered 1 and is currently called the Americas Pavilion 1.

The International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITCILO) is the training arm of the International Labour Organization (ILO). 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 is part of the United Nations System.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a United Nations agency dealing with labor problems, particularly international labor standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all. The ILO has 187 member states: 186 of the 193 UN member states plus the Cook Islands are members of the ILO.

In 1969, the organization received the Nobel Peace Prize for improving peace among classes, pursuing decent work and justice for workers, and providing technical assistance to other developing nations.

The ILO registers complaints against entities that are violating international rules; however, it does not impose sanctions on governments.

Austria 100 Schilling 1979 Vienna International Centre silver coin. 23.87 g Ag 0.640 = about 1/2 oz Fine Silver. Vienna International Centre. Value in 2 lines, and 10 shields around, surrounding:
Austria 100 Schilling 1979 Vienna International Centre silver coin. 23.87 g Ag 0.640 = about 1/2 oz Fine Silver. Vienna International Centre. Value in 2 lines, and 10 shields around, surrounding: ” REPUBLIK OESTERREICH”. / Vienna International Centre buildings, around: “INTERNATIONALES ZENTRUM WIEN date”. KM 2944. Medallist: A. (Alfred) Zierler, 1933 Himberg, Austria Condition: Proof 60+

Unlike other United Nations specialized agencies, the International Labour Organisation has a tripartite governing structure – representing governments, employers, and workers (usually with a ratio of 2:1:1). The rationale behind the tripartite structure is the creation of free and open debate among governments and social partners.

The ILO secretariat (staff) is referred to as the International Labour Office.

While the ILO was established as an agency of the League of Nations following World War I, its founders had made great strides in social thought and action before 1919. The core members all knew one another from earlier private professional and ideological networks, in which they exchanged knowledge, experiences, and ideas on social policy. Prewar “epistemic communities”, such as the International Association for Labour Legislation (IALL), founded in 1900, and political networks, such as the socialist Second International, were a decisive factor in the institutionalization of international labour politics.

In the post–World War I euphoria, the idea of a “makeable society” was an important catalyst behind the social engineering of the ILO architects. As a new discipline, international labor law became a useful instrument for putting social reforms into practice. The utopian ideals of the founding members—social justice and the right to decent work—were changed by diplomatic and political compromises made at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, showing the ILO’s balance between idealism and pragmatism.

Over the course of the First World War, the international labor movement proposed a comprehensive programme of protection for the working classes, conceived as compensation for labor’s support during the war. Post-war reconstruction and the protection of labor unions occupied the attention of many nations during and immediately after World War I. In Great Britain, the Whitley Commission, a subcommittee of the Reconstruction Commission, recommended in its July 1918 Final Report that “industrial councils” be established throughout the world. The British Labour Party had issued its own reconstruction program in the document titled Labour and the New Social Order. In February 1918, the third Inter-Allied Labour and Socialist Conference (representing delegates from Great Britain, France, Belgium and Italy) issued its report, advocating an international labor rights body, an end to secret diplomacy, and other goals. And in December 1918, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) issued its own distinctively apolitical report, which called for the achievement of numerous incremental improvements via the collective bargaining process.

As the war drew to a close, two competing visions for the post-war world emerged. The first was offered by the International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), which called for a meeting in Bern, Switzerland, in July 1919. The Bern meeting would consider both the future of the IFTU and the various proposals which had been made in the previous few years. The IFTU also proposed including delegates from the Central Powers as equals. Samuel Gompers, president of the AFL, boycotted the meeting, wanting the Central Powers delegates in a subservient role as an admission of guilt for their countries’ role in the bringing about war. Instead, Gompers favored a meeting in Paris which would only consider President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points as a platform. Despite the American boycott, the Bern meeting went ahead as scheduled. In its final report, the Bern Conference demanded an end to wage labour and the establishment of socialism. If these ends could not be immediately achieved, then an international body attached to the League of Nations should enact and enforce legislation to protect workers and trade unions.

Meanwhile, the Paris Peace Conference sought to dampen public support for communism. Subsequently, the Allied Powers agreed that clauses should be inserted into the emerging peace treaty protecting labor unions and workers’ rights, and that an international labor body be established to help guide international labor relations in the future. The advisory Commission on International Labour Legislation was established by the Peace Conference to draft these proposals. The Commission met for the first time on February 1, 1919, and Gompers was elected chairman.

Two competing proposals for an international body emerged during the Commission’s meetings. The British proposed establishing an international parliament to enact labor laws which each member of the League would be required to implement. Each nation would have two delegates to the parliament, one each from labor and management. An international labor office would collect statistics on labor issues and enforce the new international laws. Philosophically opposed to the concept of an international parliament and convinced that international standards would lower the few protections achieved in the United States, Gompers proposed that the international labour body be authorized only to make recommendations, and that enforcement be left up to the League of Nations. Despite vigorous opposition from the British, the American proposal was adopted.

Picture of Samuel Gompers with Albert Thomas, 1918.
Samuel Gompers with Albert Thomas, 1918.

Gompers also set the agenda for the draft charter protecting workers’ rights. The Americans made 10 proposals. Three were adopted without change: That labor should not be treated as a commodity; that all workers had the right to a wage sufficient to live on; and that women should receive equal pay for equal work. A proposal protecting the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association was amended to include only freedom of association. A proposed ban on the international shipment of goods made by children under the age of 16 was amended to ban goods made by children under the age of 14. A proposal to require an eight-hour work day was amended to require the eight-hour work day or the 40-hour work week (an exception was made for countries where productivity was low). Four other American proposals were rejected. Meanwhile, international delegates proposed three additional clauses, which were adopted: One or more days for weekly rest; equality of laws for foreign workers; and regular and frequent inspection of factory conditions.

The Commission issued its final report on March 4, 1919, and the Peace Conference adopted it without amendment on April 11. The report became Part XIII of the Treaty of Versailles.

The first annual conference, referred to as the International Labour Conference (ILC), began on October 29, 1919, at the Pan American Union Building in Washington, D.C. and adopted the first six International Labour Conventions, which dealt with hours of work in industry, unemployment, maternity protection, night work for women, minimum age, and night work for young persons in industry. The prominent French socialist Albert Thomas became its first director-general.

Secretarial Staff of International Labor Conference, Washington, D.C., October-November 1919. Image includes: Ernest Greenwood, American Delegate; Harold B. Butler, Secretary-General of ILC; International Labour Conference, Washington, D.C., October-November 1919, secretarial staff in front of the Pan American Building.
Secretarial Staff of International Labor Conference, Washington, D.C., October-November 1919. Image includes: Ernest Greenwood, American Delegate; Harold B. Butler, Secretary-General of ILC; International Labour Conference, Washington, D.C., October-November 1919, secretarial staff in front of the Pan American Building.

Despite open disappointment and sharp critique, the revived International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) quickly adapted itself to this mechanism. The IFTU increasingly oriented its international activities around the lobby work of the ILO.

At the time of establishment, the U.S. government was not a member of ILO, as the US Senate rejected the covenant of the League of Nations, and the United States could not join any of its agencies. Following the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the U.S. presidency, the new administration made renewed efforts to join the ILO without league membership. On June 19, 1934, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing the president to join ILO without joining the League of Nations as a whole. On June 22, 1934, the ILO adopted a resolution inviting the U.S. government to join the organization. On August 20, 1934, the U.S. government responded positively and took its seat at the ILO.

During the Second World War, when Switzerland was surrounded by German troops, ILO director John G. Winant made the decision to leave Geneva. In August 1940, the government of Canada officially invited the ILO to be housed at McGill University in Montreal. Forty staff members were transferred to the temporary offices and continued to work from McGill until 1948.

The ILO became the first specialized agency of the United Nations system after the demise of the league in 1946. Its constitution, as amended, includes the Declaration of Philadelphia (1944) on the aims and purposes of the organization.

The President of the Italian Republic Mr. Giuseppe Saragat. International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization, January 8, 1964.
The President of the Italian Republic Mr. Giuseppe Saragat. International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization, January 8, 1964.

In July, 1970, the United States withdrew 50% of its financial support to the ILO following the appointment of an assistant director-general from the Soviet Union. This appointment (by the ILO’s British director-general, C. Wilfred Jenks) drew particular criticism from AFL–CIO president George Meany and from Congressman John E. Rooney. However, the funds were eventually paid.

On June 12, 11975, the ILO voted to grant the Palestinian Liberation Organization observer status at its meetings. Representatives of the United States and Israel walked out of the meeting. The U.S. House of Representatives subsequently decided to withhold funds. The United States gave notice of full withdrawal on November 6, 1975, stating that the organization had become politicized. The United States also suggested that representation from communist countries was not truly “tripartite” — including government, workers, and employers—because of the structure of these economies. The withdrawal became effective on November 1, 1977.

The United States returned to the organization in 1980 after extracting some concessions from the organization. It was partly responsible for the ILO’s shift away from a human rights approach and towards support for the Washington Consensus. Economist Guy Standing wrote “the ILO quietly ceased to be an international body attempting to redress structural inequality and became one promoting employment equity”.

 International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization
Americas Pavilion 1, formerly the U-Thant Pavilion, at the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization in Turin, Italy.

In the 1950s and 1960s, following decolonization, the Governing Body of the ILO sought a permanent facility that could produce agents of development for emerging nations. In 1961, the Italian Government, during the century of Italian unity celebrated in Turin, offered the “Italia 61” premises. In May 1963, the ILO’s Governing Body unanimously adopted the Centre’s statute and established, in collaboration with the Italian Government, the International Training Centre on October 24, 1964. The agreement was signed by Giuseppe Saragat, Minister of Foreign Affairs, for the Italian Government, and by David A. Morse, Director-General for the ILO. By October 1, 1965, the International Centre for Advanced Technical and Vocational Training was opened.

The center’s policies and programs are designed to provide the type of advanced training essential for development which is not available locally in developing nations. The ILO’s approach to training is aimed primarily at assisting developing countries to establish and run their own national training systems and institutions. The center carries out its task through training courses and seminars, the administration of fellowship programs, the production of training materials, the provision of advisory services and research. Regular programs are offered in a multicultural and multilingual environment at the campus or through e-learning. Tailor-made programs are offered at the organizational, national or regional level,

The Turin Center primarily develops custom advanced training courses at a post-experience level for directors and supervisory staff of training institutions and instructors engaged in management, middle- level and senior managers in various enterprises and officials of trade unions and organizations.

Since the center’s opening in 1965, 25,000 fellows from more than 155 countries and territories have been trained there. It publishes materials which are suited to the training and learning conditions in developing countries. It also has established advisory services to make its expertise in pedagogy, technology and management available on request.

Turin campus, International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization, Turin, Italy.
Turin campus, International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization, Turin, Italy.

On the Turin campus, the various buildings are organized into five clusters, representing the world’s continents: Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania. A Conference Centre is available to the United Nations system of organizations and other institutions for conferences, seminars, workshops and multimedia events. Additional conference facilities include 30 classrooms (for 20 to 350 people), seven with interpretation equipment and four with videoconference equipment. All are equipped with Internet, electronic presentation, slide show and video facilities.

Each of the stamps in the 1985 set were issued with a different face value. The series includes stamps issued for use in three different countries. Two of the stamps show the emblem of the Turin Center, with face values of 23 cents U.S. and 0.80 Swiss francs. The stamps valued at 1.20 Swiss francs and 7.50 Austrian schillings and show the U-Thant Pavilion at the center.

In conjunction with these stamps, the United Nations issued its 27th souvenir card on February 1, 1985. In honor of the ILO, the card shows the four stamps released on the same day, along with single stamps issued in 1954 and 1959, and two stamps issued in 1974 honoring the ILO. The cards were available in mint condition for $1.25, canceled in New York with the new 23-cent stamp at $1.25, canceled in Geneva with the 0.80-franc stamp at $1.53, or canceled in Vienna with the 7.50-schilling stamp at $1.71.

Flag of the United Nations
Flag of International Labour Organization
Flag of International Labour Organization
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