Geneva, March 1997
|Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards||LILS|
THIRD ITEM ON THE AGENDA
Distribution and publication of Governing Body
documents using the Internet
1. Over the past few months Governing Body documents have been made available to members of the Governing Body, and others entitled to receive them, on the ILO's Internet site through a system involving the use of a password, which was communicated to the members of the Governing Body in the letter of convocation sent at the end of January. This has been done in response to requests made by several members of the Governing Body and by others, and in order to accelerate the process of making the documents available as early as possible in advance of the session. The password system was installed in view of the requirement in the Standing Orders of the Governing Body that Governing Body documents may not be made public until after their discussion. Documents are made available on the Internet very shortly after they are approved for issue by the Director-General in English, French and Spanish.
2. The documents can therefore be made available to members of the Governing Body on the Internet well in advance of their receipt of the printed version. Naturally, there is in many cases some delay between issue of the original version and the two translations -- as in the case of the printed documents -- but one advantage of the Internet system is that it allows users to view the other language versions pending availability of the translation. This has not been the case with the printed documents, as members of the Governing Body receive the documents only in their own languages.
3. Response to the system has so far been favourable. The question has been raised, however, of whether the continuation of the password system is necessary. While the password itself is relatively easy to administer from a technical point of view, it has presented practical difficulties for some recipients who are not familiar with the use of computers. It also brings a number of technical difficulties for the management of the ILO Internet site as a whole and for navigation within it.
4. In accordance with Article 14, paragraph 5 of the Standing Orders of the Governing Body, documents prepared by the Office and dealing with the items on the agenda of the Governing Body "shall not be made public until the question with which they deal has been discussed by the Governing Body", whereas the minutes of the Governing Body may not be made public until they have been approved by the latter (Article 14, paragraph 4).
5. The issue involves a number of legal questions, and would require further investigation before consideration could be given to removing the restriction on advance publication. The Office is currently consulting with other international organizations in the UN system as regards their policy on publication through the Internet. A preliminary discussion with the legal advisers of the organizations of the UN system has only underlined the need for an extensive study of the question of early disclosure to the public, which has already shown potential advantages and disadvantages.
6. The Officers of the Governing Body have examined this question, and consider that the present password system should continue for a trial period until a clearer picture emerges of experience with its use and further consideration has been given to the various categories of documents that could be defined, some of which could be made freely available on the Internet, others protected by a password, and others treated as confidential and not made available.
7. The Office intends to submit proposals on this question to a subsequent meeting of the Committee.
Geneva, 17 March 1997.