Informal opinion

Governments which are in doubt as to the meaning of particular provisions of an ILO Convention may request the Office to express its opinion. Office unofficial ‘interpretations’ have always been considered part of administrative assistance that governments of member States could expect to receive from the ILO secretariat, subject to the understanding that the Constitution does not confer upon it any special competence to interpret international labour Conventions.

In most cases, questions are asked prior to the ratification of a Convention and concern its scope of application or the exact meaning of a particular term. Office opinions seek principally to establish the drafters’ intention and the context in which a specific provision was introduced in an international labour Convention by tracing its negotiating history.

Until 2002, Office informal opinions were communicated to the Governing Body and published in the Official Bulletin – 147 in total – but this practice has since been discontinued, with the exception of selected opinions concerning the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) which have been compiled and published in the form of frequently asked questions. Office informal opinions have no binding legal effect, remain of a purely administrative nature and are without prejudice to the views of the ILO supervisory bodies.