Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards
SIXTH ITEM ON THE AGENDA
Review of the activities of the multidisciplinary
teams in relation to standards
1. The present document follows those submitted to the Committee at the 261st (November 1994), 264th (November 1995), 267th (November 1996), and 270th (November 1997) Sessions of the Governing Body, giving a brief description of the work of the ILO's multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) in relation to standards. The present document summarizes developments in the last 12 months, including information provided for this purpose by the various MDTs.
2. In November 1997 the Committee again expressed the hope that greater efforts would be made to meet the needs voiced in its discussion of the information provided, and especially to fill vacant MDT posts. Steps have been, and continue to be, taken to meet these requests.
3. At the time of writing, in September 1998, specialists on international labour standards were posted as members of the teams in Bangkok, Beirut, Harare, Lima, Manila, Moscow, New Delhi, San José and Santiago de Chile. No appointments had been made to corresponding vacancies in Abidjan and Addis Ababa, while corresponding posts in Port-of-Spain and Dakar had recently become vacant. No such post was provided for in the Budapest, Cairo or Yaounde MDTs. An associate expert on standards was present in the Addis Ababa team.
4. The assignments reported to the Governing Body in November 1997 have continued, and continue to take place, as have the many successful efforts by the MDTs and the International Labour Standards Department (NORMES) to furnish necessary standards of expertise on an ad hoc basis. Three standards specialists and one associate expert on standards were present at headquarters during the International Labour Conference for consultations with NORMES and other units concerned with technical cooperation, labour legislation and the organization of the International Labour Conference, and to meet delegates.
5. Based on information provided by the MDTs, the main areas of activity are indicated below. The trend reported to the Governing Body in November 1997, that the multidisciplinary approach leads to standards specialists, where they exist, undertaking increased activities not only in areas such as labour law and industrial relations, but also in relation to the work of other members of the teams, appears to continue.
Summary of information available from
the multidisciplinary teams
6. Standards-related activities undertaken by the teams focus to an important extent on the fundamental Conventions of the ILO, partly due to the Director-General's campaign for the ratification of these instruments.(1)
7. In Africa, advisory services and technical notes were provided for many constituents, and a substantial number of seminars were held to promote the ratification of the fundamental Conventions through better understanding (Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Seychelles, United Republic of United Republic of Tanzania). This led to various ratifications and moves towards ratification, especially in southern Africa and the Sahel. In East Africa, a concerted effort is being made to promote ratification of Convention No. 87 through the organization of tripartite meetings and the provision of technical assistance (Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda).
8. During the meeting of Directors of area offices and MDT's in the African region, several workshops were held concerning fundamental standards, including a workshop on the development of a strategy for the promotion of international labour standards in Africa. The MDT in Dakar made efforts to increase the knowledge concerning what was then the proposed Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work, and organized a workshop in Guinea to this effect.
9. In Asia, various activities, technical notes and workshops have been organized to clarify the contents and obligations attached to ratification of the fundamental Conventions. Several ratifications have resulted, and a number of countries are currently considering further ratification of a substantial number of fundamental Conventions (Indonesia, the Republic of Korea). Advisory services focused for a large part on the role of international labour standards, in particular the fundamental Conventions, in dealing with the effects of the Asian financial and social crisis. Inputs into the High-Level Tripartite Meeting on Social Responses to the Financial Crisis in East and South East Asian Countries (Bangkok, 21-23 April 1998)(2) and the Asian Development Forum (Manila, 10-13 March 1998) were prepared.
10. In the Americas, activities to promote the ratification and implementation of the fundamental Conventions led, in the Caribbean region, to the consideration of ratification of a number of fundamental Conventions (Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Bahamas). Input on fundamental labour Conventions and their application was also provided to a Commonwealth International Symposium for Ombudsmen held in Antigua and Barbuda, as well as to the ILO Caribbean Meeting of Labour Ministers in Guyana. In South America, activities focused on the promotion of the implementation of principles of equality in employment and occupation by supporting and providing inputs to national efforts (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay). In Central America, a number of workshops were organized where the implementation and ratification of fundamental Conventions, as well as the agenda of the International Labour Conference -- including the agenda items on child labour and the then proposed Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work -- were discussed. In the Andean region, the specialist organized and participated in several seminars on international labour standards, and participated in the direct contacts mission concerning freedom of association in Bolivia.
11. In the Eastern Europe and Central Asian areas, promotion of the ratification and implementation of the fundamental Conventions has taken place mainly within the framework of revision of national legislation. At the time of writing, missions were being undertaken to assess possibilities for further ratification of fundamental and other Conventions in a number of countries in the region. In the Arab States, general promotional activities aimed at the ratification of the fundamental Conventions, mainly within the framework of missions by MDT members, while a specific seminar to promote ratification of Convention No. 138 was organized in Egypt.
12. In Africa, continued assistance was provided on the preparation of reports under ratified and unratified Conventions and Recommendations and on the submission of new instruments to the competent national authorities. In southern Africa, social partners are being particularly encouraged to make more effective use of their role in supervisory procedures, through information sessions and capacity-building exercises. As in previous years, a report on the implementation of international labour standards (including reporting and submission obligations) was provided to the annual meeting of the Employment and Labour Sector of the Southern African Development Employment Community. Assistance with regard to constitutional obligations was also provided to Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Morocco, Rwanda, São Tome and Principe, Senegal, and Togo. Interaction and mutual assistance between the MDTs continues.
13. In Asia, a number of States received assistance in reporting on ratified and unratified Conventions and the submission of new standards to the competent national authority (Bangladesh, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam). In the Arab States, technical assistance was provided to Jordan, Kuwait and Yemen with regard to reporting on ratified and unratified Conventions, as well as to Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic with regard to the submission of new instruments. In an effort to facilitate the work of constituents in fulfilling their reporting obligations, the MDT for Arab States plans further translations of relevant material.
14. In the Americas, technical advisory services were provided to the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago to assist them in carrying out their reporting and submission obligations. Input on reporting status and outstanding obligations was provided at the ILO Meeting of Caribbean Labour Ministers (April 1998) and the ILO Meeting of Caribbean Permanent Secretaries (November 1997). Technical assistance in this area was also provided to the Governments of Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
15. The assistance referred to here, often undertaken in cooperation with the Labour Law and Labour Relations Branch (LEG/REL), is mainly aimed at ensuring that national legislation is in conformity with ILO standards. In Africa, many countries continue to undertake revisions of labour legislation. Assistance to this effect has been provided to Botswana, Djibouti, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Morocco, Swaziland, the United Republic of United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. Tripartite seminars aimed at reinforcing the application and impact of international standards on national legislation and practice were organized in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Togo, while other seminars were organized in Djibouti and Eritrea.
16. In Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, advisory services concerning industrial relations and labour law reform were provided to Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine. In connection with envisaged reforms of national labour legislation, the Governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have requested the Office that national seminars be held on ILO standards and the development of national legislation.
17. In Asia and the Pacific, assistance continues to be provided to ensure the implementation of relevant Conventions. Following the direct contacts mission in August 1998 concerning freedom of association, assistance is provided to Indonesia in the drafting of new labour laws. The Philippines currently benefits from assistance aimed at legislative reforms to be introduced to meet the obligations under Convention No. 138. In Bangladesh, tripartite dialogue was encouraged and technical assistance provided to workers' organizations with regard to the final adoption of national legislation.
18. In the Americas, assistance was provided to Argentina to bring national legislation into conformity with the provisions of Convention No. 158. At the request of the Government of Cuba, a seminar was organized to discuss the reform of the Cuban Labour Code. A similar seminar was organized in Nicaragua to study the contents of relevant Conventions in the area of safety and health in the workplace with a view to the possible adaptation of national policy on this matter. In the Caribbean, technical and drafting assistance on labour legislation was provided to the Governments of the Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago. A regional seminar on improving the terms, status and working conditions of domestic workers in the Caribbean was held in Jamaica and resulted in agreement on a Strategy for the Caribbean to improve the terms, conditions and status of domestic workers. Under the CARICOM Harmonization of Labour Law Project, a first draft of the proposed Model Law on Protection of Workers during Industrial Action was prepared and submitted for comment to social partners. In cooperation with the employment specialist, headquarters and the social partners, the specialist on standards prepared a labour flexibility survey instrument that was recently launched for Barbados.
19. NORMES has continued to cooperate, when invited, with area offices and MDTs in the preparation of country objectives, with the intention of ensuring all due attention to basic rights Conventions, as well as to others identified (in particular through ratification) as a national priority and seeking means of remedying the problems noted by the supervisory bodies.
20. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, country objectives documents have been adopted for Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation and Uzbekistan. In Africa, country objectives have been finalized for Tunisia with the assistance of the Dakar MDT, while country objectives for Botswana were also finalized with the assistance of the Harare MDT. In Asia, the country objectives for Bangladesh have undergone review and standards-related issues have been inserted into the final version. In the Americas, assistance was provided with regard to the finalization of the country objectives for Ecuador.
21. In Africa, many activities were undertaken to promote tripartism and social dialogue. With the assistance of the specialists on workers' and employers' activities, several seminars and sensitization workshops on international labour standards were organized in Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia, with similar activities envisaged for Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi and Mozambique. Within the framework of the Programme for the Promotion of Social Dialogue (PRODIAF) subregional and national seminars were organized by the responsible MDTs in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia, and, with the assistance of employers' and workers' relations specialists, several seminars and sensitization days for employers' and worker' organizations on standards. In the Arab States, the specialist on workers' activities participated in a seminar organized by the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU) on collective bargaining, and the standards specialist was due to participate in a seminar organized in September by ICATU on the importance of standards and trade unions' role in its formulation, adoption and implementation.
22. In Asia, several workshops and seminars were held on tripartism, social dialogue and international labour standards. In cooperation with the specialists on employers' and workers' activities, seminars on international labour standards were conducted in India and Pakistan. Input on standards was also provided at a seminar held in Nepal. Workshops and seminars for workers' and employers' organizations on standards were organized in China, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Viet Nam. In Indonesia, a seminar in November 1998, aimed at promoting wider understanding, in particular of the fundamental human rights Conventions, was due to be held for representatives of the Government, and employers', workers' and other non-governmental organizations.
23. In Central and Eastern Europe, several national and subregional tripartite and non-tripartite seminars on tripartism or related areas were organized in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. In the Americas, the specialist for the Caribbean region provided information to the governments and the social partners concerning the establishment and operation of a tripartite committee in Saint Lucia and provided advisory services to existing tripartite committees. In South America, assistance was provided to a number of national tripartite commissions (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay) on equality in employment and occupation. Specific seminars for workers were organized in Cuba and Costa Rica.
24. Gender issues form part of the general programme on international labour standards, and in particular the fundamental Conventions, where they are dealt with under Conventions Nos. 100 and 111. In Africa, special training for women on international labour standards was provided in Zimbabwe, while activities for women were supported in Guinea and Senegal and gender and equality issues were discussed in a workers' seminar in Mauritius. In addition, a project in Ethiopia aims to protect women-fuelwood carriers against violence. The focal point on gender issues based in the MDT in Abidjan conducted internal sensitization sessions for staff of the MDT for southern Africa. In Asia, input on international labour standards was provided for a seminar organized within the framework of the ILO/DANIDA project on integrating women members in rural workers' organizations. Workshops on women workers' rights were held in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Republic of Korea and Viet Nam.
25. In Central and Eastern Europe, a project on training and information dissemination is being implemented in Hungary in which international labour standards play a prominent role. Following a national tripartite conference on women and the labour market held in Ukraine, a similar project on women workers' rights was launched in that country. In the Americas, input was provided to a seminar on women and trade union participation ("Mujer y participación sindical") held in Costa Rica. In the area covered by the Port-of-Spain office, continued backstopping was provided to the Suriname women workers' rights project, two national sessions and one regional for workers' education programmes on gender issues and the world of work (Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica respectively), and the specialist adapted and further developed gender training material for use in the region. In addition, the specialist conducted training sessions on sexual harassment issues in Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
26. Both headquarters and the MDTs provide advisory services to the International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC). In Africa, the MDT in Abidjan provides constant support for the activities of the Regional Office on child labour, within the framework of which specific input was provided on standards to the technical consultations on the programme and budget. The specialist from the Dakar MDT participated in seminars concerning child labour in Guinea, Morocco and Senegal. The Abidjan Office participated in seminars in Abidjan, Benin and Cameroon. A special paper addressing the question of child labour and responses by the members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was submitted to the Employment and Labour Sector meeting of SADC by the Harare Office, and subsequently published separately under the title "definitions and legal provision on child labour in southern Africa".
27. In Asia, consultations were held to foster governments' interest in organizing a workshop on Convention No. 138 with a view to ratification. In the Philippines, the specialist is providing advisory services within the framework of the consideration of legislative and other measures to be introduced to meet the obligations under the recently ratified Convention No. 138. In the Americas, technical input was provided to a workshop on the capacity of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security regarding the Children and Young Persons Code ("Competencias del Ministerio del Trabajo y Seguridad Social del Código de la Niñez y Adolescencia") aimed at increasing the capacity of the Ministry of Labour of Costa Rica in the area of child labour and analysing the contents of the relevant legislation. In Chile, several activities in the area of child labour were provided with input and assistance, including help in the establishment of a non-governmental, subregional coordinating office to combat child labour.
28. In Africa, on the basis of a study prepared in 1996 entitled "Labour standards in export processing zones: A southern African perspective", the Harare Office has included the issue of EPZs in most standards-related training activities and seminars. In Asia, the specialist from the East Asia MDT organized a workshop on the impact of multinational companies on graphical unions in Malaysia. In the Americas, notably the Caribbean, the specialist organized a meeting on export processing zones and export industries in the Caribbean, held in Belize, with the aim of enhancing understanding of international trends, including positive and negative experiences with EPZs so as to allow for a more informed decision-making process in this regard. In Cuba, the specialist from the San José MDT participated in a seminar on globalization, integration and equity ("Globalización, integración y equidad").
29. For a number of years now, the standards specialists in certain MDTs have been offering their constituents International Labour Standards Updates. This involves informing the constituents of standards-related procedures and obligations, as well as new developments in international labour standard-setting and application, in one-day national meetings. In Africa, updates were organized in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Mozambique, United Republic of Tanzania (including Zanzibar) and Uganda, and others were planned. In the Caribbean, updates were organized in Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago, with one to be held in the near future in the Bahamas. Updates, when held, have tended to result in improvements in compliance with reporting and submission obligations in particular.
30. The annual Asian-Pacific Regional Symposium on Standards-Related Topics, funded by Japan, was held this year in Manila, with the participation of the Regional Director, the New Delhi, Bangkok and Manila MDTs, and headquarters technical units. It helped equip delegates from the region for participation in the International Labour Conference by explaining and facilitating tripartite consideration of the supervisory system and the proposed amendment of the Constitution, as well as the discussion of the Director-General's Report and the proposed Declaration. In Central America, national tripartite meetings were organized in Cuba, Costa Rica and El Salvador in preparation for the Conference. In Asia, the specialist from the New Delhi MDT provided technical advisory services to the Government of Pakistan with a view to facilitating the first participation of the Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis in the 1998 Conference. The specialist also developed first drafts of standards-related country profiles for Bangladesh, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as a standards-related workplan for the MDT with the objective of furthering ratification, improving the implementation of ratified Conventions and highlighting unratified Conventions.
31. The focus by MDTs on promotion of the ratification and implementation of the seven fundamental Conventions seems to be an established trend: while progress in ratifications continues, the task of following ratification with improved implementation for all countries can be expected to continue to be highlighted. At the same time, there remains an important role for the MDTs in regard to the promotion of the whole range of international labour standards -- particularly in the light of the recommendations made by the Working Party on the Evaluation of the Active Partnership Policy -- and the provision of assistance to governments to ensure the fulfilment of the standards-related obligations under the Constitution and to employers' and workers' organizations to play their part in the supervisory mechanisms.
32. Given that in a number of teams there are no standards specialists, the flexibility shown by MDT directors in obtaining the necessary input from standards specialists in other MDTs and from NORMES continues. It can be expected that recourse may continue to be had in particular to headquarters for assistance in respect of specialized aspects of labour standards. The role played by associate experts in maintaining contacts with NORMES and providing routine assistance and documentation, for example, in some teams has been very helpful in these conditions, as has the readiness of other members of the teams -- especially the specialists in employers' and workers' relations and industrial relations -- to encourage familiarity with the standards aspects of their work. There is nevertheless almost universal demand for standards expertise in the field which it has not always been possible to meet.
33. MDT directors have repeatedly given their attention to the need for cooperation with NORMES in this context. NORMES, in turn, relies very much on MDTs to help obtain compliance with standards-related obligations and to promote the practical application of standards. The country objectives formulation and implementation process can be an extremely valuable part of the ILO's work in favour of international labour standards, and their integration into technical cooperation and other operational activities in order to encourage not only formal references to standards but -- much more importantly -- real efforts to ensure their promotion and observance.
Geneva, 12 October 1998.
1. See also GB.273/LILS/5.