Geneva, March 1997
|Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards||LILS|
ELEVENTH ITEM ON THE AGENDA
Information on standards on the Internet
1. In 1996 the ILO created an Internet site.(1) One panel on the home page leads to the section entitled "International labour standards and human rights", which for the moment gives a brief description of the activities of the Organization in this field. Over the next few months the Office plans to make better use of the possibilities offered by the Internet, and the International Labour Standards and Human Rights Department is responsible for managing the international labour standards section of the site. ILO constituents and the general public now have access to the following legal information on the Internet.
A. Information on international labour standards
2. The legal instruments of the Organization -- the Constitution, Conventions and Recommendations, and the list of ratifications by Convention and by member State -- have been made available on the ILO site. To consult them, users should click on the "International labour standards and human rights" panel on the home page. These items are available in English, French and Spanish. The search engine, based on the ILOLEX database, is easy to use.
3. Over the next few months further documents on standards will gradually be added to the site, including the Digest of Decisions of the Committee on Freedom of Association. The aim will be to promote international labour standards by making the greatest possible use of the Internet.
4. In this connection the distribution of the Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations poses a particular problem. Until 1995 Report III (Part 4A -- the "green book") was issued towards the end of April, and a number of delegations stated that they received it too late to prepare for the Conference on account of delays in postal services and other communications difficulties. Since then the meeting of the Committee of Experts has moved from March to December, and the green book is now issued by mid-March. Governments, and employers' and workers' organizations, should hence now have sufficient time to prepare for the Conference. However, there are still some delays and losses in the mail, and some of the communications problems persist.
5. It would now be technically possible to publish the report of the Committee of Experts on the Internet long before the green book is issued. However, for 1997 the Office has refrained from taking this initiative without first consulting the Governing Body, which also has to take note of the report and request the Director-General to include it in his reports to the Conference. The date on which the embargo is lifted will hence be the same for the printed publication (the green book) and for the electronic version. This means that the report of the Committee of Experts will be available on the Internet in the days following the official date of publication of the green book. However, for 1998 it is planned first to publish the report of the Committee of Experts on the Internet, if the Governing Body agrees that it can be published in this way without delay. The Governing Body will in November 1997 have before it a proposal to adjust the procedure for this purpose. The report of the Committee of Experts can hence be available at the beginning of February, some six weeks before the issue of the green book. This solution should at least partly help resolve the communications problems mentioned above.
6. However, there may be other difficulties. Not all constituents have Internet access. To offset this problem, the Office will undertake to supply, by electronic mail, fax or express mail, copies of observations concerning them to constituents so requesting as soon as the observations are available on the Internet. In addition, mailing of the green book has so far been done in two stages, so as to ensure that governments are in principle the first to receive the report of the Committee of Experts. In actual fact this is only a relative priority, as press agencies and non-governmental international organizations can inspect the information in the green book the day on which the embargo is lifted, that is, before most governments have received the publication by mail. On the Internet, the information would by definition be uniformly and equally available to all, but it would be possible to establish some form of order of priority for access to the report of the Committee of Experts on the Internet, for example, in the form of a temporary password, should governments so request. Publication of the report in the form of the green book would naturally continue unchanged over the next few years.
B. Information on national labour and social security legislation
7. The monthly bulletin Legislative Information has been available since July 1996 in the "International labour standards and human rights" panel of the ILO site. The bulletin includes each month around 120 new bibliographical records of national legislation and regulations recently adopted by member States in the field of labour and social security. It enables users to follow developments in national legislation and legislative processes in a large number of member States. The new records published in Legislative Information are incorporated into the NATLEX database.
8. In addition, the International Labour Standards and Human Rights Department has just made the NATLEX database available in its entirety to constituents and the general public. This includes information on labour, social security and related human rights legislation for each member State. It is structured by country and by subject-matter (for example, human rights, working conditions, etc.), just like the standard classification of international labour standards. Users can search some 45,000 legislative records from nearly 200 States and non-metropolitan territories. The information is updated continuously. In addition, work has begun to place on the Internet the full texts of national legislation and regulations, in particular labour codes and social security codes, in the Office's working languages (English, French and Spanish). Constituents searching NATLEX can currently consult 120 legislative texts from 60 member States. It is hoped that in around two years' time a number of legislative texts from every member State will be accessible at the ILO site, providing governments and employers' and workers' organizations with comparative information on social legislation, which has always been part of the ILO's basic function.
9. It will be recalled that the Legislative Series published such social legislation from member States from 1919 to 1989, when its publication was halted on account of budgetary restrictions. Labour Law Documents, the periodical with a less costly format which succeeded it, met the same fate at the end of 1995. When it was halted, the Office undertook to continue its information activities in this field in electronic form using the Internet. This is now the case, but it should also be borne in mind that the International Labour Standards Department will continue to mail photocopies of texts of legislation and regulations and to respond to the many specific requests submitted to it by constituents by traditional means of communication.
Geneva, 6 March 1997.
1. Home page: http://www.ilo.org.