Applying and promoting International Labour Standards

"Normative action is an indispensable tool to make decent work a reality" - Juan Somavia, ILO Director- General, 2001 (Note 1)

International labour standards are backed by a supervisory system that is unique at the international level and that helps to ensure that countries implement the conventions they ratify. The ILO regularly examines the application of standards in member states and points out areas where they could be better applied. If there are any problems in the application of standards, the ILO seeks to assist countries through social dialogue and technical assistance.

The ILO has developed various means of supervising the application of Conventions and Recommendations in law and practice following their adoption by the International Labour Conference and their ratification by States.

ILO Supervisory system
There are two kinds of supervisory mechanism:

  1. The regular system of supervision: examination of periodic reports submitted by Member States on the measures they have taken to implement the provisions of the ratified Conventions
  2. Special procedures: a representations procedure and a complaints procedure of general application, together with a special procedure for freedom of association

The regular system for supervising the application of standards

The regular system of supervision is based on the examination by two ILO bodies of reports on the application in law and practice sent by member States and on observations in this regard sent by workers’ organizations and employers’ organizations.

1) The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations

2) The International Labour Conference’s Tripartite Committee on the Application of Conventions and
Recommendations


Relevant constitutional provisions:

  1. Obligation to report on ratified Conventions
     o Article 22 of the ILO Constitution

Each of the Members agrees to make an annual report to the International Labour Office on the measures which it has taken to give effect to the provisions of Conventions to which it is a party. These reports shall be made in such form and shall contain such particulars as the Governing Body may request.

  1. Obligation to report on unratified Conventions
    o Article 19 (5e) of the ILO Constitution

If the Member does not obtain the consent of the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies, no further obligation shall rest upon the Member except that it shall report to the Director-General of the International Labour Office, at appropriate intervals as requested by the Governing Body, the position of its law and practice in regard to the matters dealt with in the Convention, showing the extent to which effect has been given, or is proposed to be given, to any of the provisions of the Convention by legislation, administrative action, collective agreement or otherwise and stating the difficulties which prevent or delay the ratification of such Convention.

  1. Obligation to report on Recommendations
    o Article 19 (6d) of the ILO Constitution

Apart from bringing the Recommendation before the said competent authority or authorities, no further obligation shall rest upon the Members, except that they shall report to the Director-General of the International Labour Office, at appropriate intervals as requested by the Governing Body, the position of the law and practice in their country in regard to the matters dealt with in the Recommendation, showing the extent to which effect has been given or is proposed to be given, to the provisions of the Recommendation and such modifications of these provisions as it has been found or may be found necessary to make in adopting or applying them.

  1. Ratified Conventions, unratified Conventions and Recommendations
    o Article 23 of the ILO Constitution

1. The Director-General shall lay before the next meeting of the Conference a summary of the information and reports communicated to him by Members in pursuance of articles 19 and 22.

2. Each Member shall communicate to the representative organizations […] copies of the information and reports communicated to the Director-General in pursuance of articles 19 and 22.

Special procedures

Unlike the regular system of supervision, the three procedures listed below are based on the submission of a representation or a complaint.

1) Procedure for representations on the application of ratified Conventions.

2) Procedure for complaints over the application of ratified Conventions.

3) Special procedure for complaints regarding freedom of association (Freedom of Association Committee).

Note 1 - ILO: Reducing the Decent Work Deficit: A global challenge, Report of the Director-General, International Labour Conference, 89th Session, Geneva, 2001, p. 59.