Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards
SECOND ITEM ON THE AGENDA
Consolidation of reforms in the functioning
of the International Labour Conference
1. It will be recalled that, as part of the measures to reduce expenditure, the Governing Body decided at its 265th Session (March 1996)(1) to introduce on a trial basis the following reforms in the functioning of the International Labour Conference:
(a) the shortening of the Conference by one day;
(b) the reduction of the time-limit for speeches in plenary sitting on the reports of the Chairperson of the Governing Body and the Director-General from ten to five minutes;
(c) the reduction of the duration of the plenary discussion of the reports of the Chairperson of the Governing Body and the Director-General to one calendar week;
(d) discontinuation of the in-session production of the issues of the Provisional Record of the Conference covering the discussion of the reports of the Chairperson of the Governing Body and the Director-General;
(e) the selective free distribution of Conference reports.
2. These reforms were put into effect for the first time at the 83rd Session of the Conference in June 1996. They were assessed by the Governing Body at its 267th Session (November 1996)(2) and continued with certain adjustments during the 85th Session of the Conference in June 1997. They were assessed again by the Governing Body at its 271st Session (March 1998),(3) when it decided to reinstate the in-session production of the issues of the Provisional Record of the Conference and requested the Office to review the arrangements concerning the selective free distribution of Conference reports. Subject to these changes, the reforms were again put into practice during the 86th Session of the Conference (June 1998).
3. Some of the reforms would eventually require an amendment of the Standing Orders of the Conference (in particular the reforms under (b) and (c) above). However, for the last three years they have been the subject of individual decisions of the Conference accompanied by the suspension under article 76 of the provisions that were inconsistent with the reforms, namely: article 14, paragraph 6, and articles 4, paragraph 2, 9(a) and 56, paragraph 9, of the Conference Standing Orders.
4. Through a suspension of article 14, paragraph 6, of the Conference Standing Orders, the ten-minute time-limit for speeches was reduced to five minutes for the discussion in plenary sittings of the reports of the Chairperson of the Governing Body and the Director-General only, but not for speeches delivered in plenary sittings on other matters, such as committee reports. If it is decided to consolidate this reform in the Standing Orders, a difference would therefore have to be introduced as regards the topics for which speeches longer than five minutes would be allowed, including the discussion of the global report referred to in the Annex to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which, as is explained in a separate document for the Committee,(4) is to be treated as a special report of the Director-General to the Conference.
5. The main advantage of this measure is the reduction in the number of plenary sittings and in the volume of Records of Proceedings produced. Another consequence is that plenary sittings after the first day can begin later on in the session, on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week. Although this reduction does not directly affect the Standing Orders, it requires a series of procedural adjustments which have so far been implemented through a suspension of articles 4, paragraph 2, 9(a) and 56, paragraph 9, of the Standing Orders of the Conference.
6. Under article 4, paragraph 2, of the Standing Orders, any question requiring a decision for the proper conduct of the business of the Conference is to be the subject of a recommendation by the Selection Committee to the Conference, which alone has authority to take decisions. In particular, under articles 9 and 56 of the Standing Orders, the Conference decides, on the recommendation of the Selection Committee, on changes in the composition of committees and on requests by non-governmental organizations to be represented in committees. Most of the changes and requests occur at the beginning of the Conference when it is not meeting in plenary. One of the reforms was to avoid having a matter that is now of a routine nature being considered twice, once by the Selection Committee and then by the Conference. The solution has been for the Conference to delegate to the Selection Committee authority to approve non-controversial changes in the composition of committees and non-controversial requests by non-governmental organizations to be represented in committees. With the Conference's agreement, the Selection Committee has in turn delegated authority to its Officers to decide on those matters. In the event of disagreement between the Officers, under the current practice the matter would have to be submitted to the Conference for decision.
7. Although the consolidation of this practice in the Standing Orders could be easily effected, further experience might bring to light the desirability of extending the process of delegation of authority so as to allow the same procedure of delegation to the Selection Committee to apply to other decisions on non-controversial matters of a routine nature.
8. Although the reforms have now been tried out for three consecutive years, the regular evaluations referred to above have shown a need to adjust some of them and such a need could, as has just been pointed out, still prove necessary in certain respects.
9. In addition to the reforms referred to, it will be recalled that when in 1995, on the Governing Body's proposal, the Conference amended article 19 of its Standing Orders to permit the Conference to vote by electronic means, the electronic voting system was foreseen for use by the Conference only, but not by committees or by the electoral colleges for the Governing Body elections. Since at its forthcoming session the Conference is to elect the members of the Governing Body for the period 1999-2001 and the Government electoral college may wish to vote by electronic means as it did for the last Governing Body elections at the 83rd Session of the Conference in June 1996, arrangements would need to be made to provide for that possibility again. Such arrangements would require that the provisions of article 52, paragraph 3, of the Conference Standing Orders be suspended in respect of the Government electoral college.
10. The Committee may accordingly wish to recommend that the Governing Body propose to the Conference --
(a) that the reform measures adopted at the 86th Session (June 1998) of the Conference (see paragraphs 2 and 3 above) be maintained at its 87th Session (June 1999);
(b) that the Officers of the Conference consequently recommend the suspension of articles 4, paragraph 2; 9(a); 14, paragraph 6; and 56, paragraph 9, of the Conference Standing Orders, to the extent necessary to implement the above measures at that session;
(c) that the Officers of the Conference also recommend the suspension of article 52, paragraph 3, of the Conference Standing Orders to the extent necessary to allow the Government electoral college to vote by electronic means.
11. If the Governing Body decides as indicated above, the Office will revert to these matters on the basis of further experience. However, should the Committee prefer to recommend that one or more of the above measures be consolidated in the Conference Standing Orders, the appendix contains suggestions for appropriate amendments.
Geneva, 25 February 1999.
Point for decision: Paragraph 10.
Possible amendments to the Conference Standing Orders
(additions to the provisions as at present in force appear underlined)
General Standing Orders
2. It shall be the duty of the Selection Committee to arrange the programme of the Conference, to fix the time and agenda for the plenary sittings, to act on behalf of the Conference with respect to decisions on non-controversial questions of a routine nature and to report to the Conference on any other questions requiring a decision for the proper conduct of its business, in accordance with the Conference Standing Orders. Where appropriate, the Committee may delegate any of these functions to its Officers.
Adjustments to the membership of committees
The following rules shall apply to all committees appointed by the Conference with the exception of the Selection Committee, the Credentials Committee, the Finance Committee of Government Representatives and the Drafting Committee:
(a) once the various committees have been established and their initial membership appointed by the Conference, it shall be for the Selection Committee to propose to the Conference, for its approval, subsequent changes in the composition of such committees, or itself to approve such changes within the limits set out in article 4, paragraph 2.
Right to address the Conference...
6. Except with the special consent of the Conference, no speech, whether by a delegate, a visiting minister, an observer or a representative of an international organization, shall exceed ten minutes exclusive of the time for translation, and no speech concerning the reports of the Chairman of the Governing Body and the Director-General referred to in article 12, paragraphs 1 and 2, shall exceed five minutes exclusive of the time for translation. The President may, after consultation with the Vice-Presidents, submit to the Conference for decision without debate a proposal to reduce the time-limit for speeches on a specific topic before opening of the discussion thereof.
Governing Body elections
Procedure of voting...
3. The counting of the votes shall be carried out under the direction of the representative of the President of the Conference assisted by two returning officers appointed by the electoral college from among its members. However, if an electoral college decides to vote by electronic means, the provisions of article 19, paragraph 16, concerning a vote by secret ballot shall apply.
Committees of the Conference
Composition of committees and right to participate in their work
9. Representatives of non-governmental international organizations with which the International Labour Organization has established consultative relationships and with which standing arrangements for representation at the Conference have been made, and representatives of other non-governmental international organizations which the Conference, or the Selection Committee within the limits set out in article 4, paragraph 2, has invited to be represented in the committee, may be present at the meetings of the committee. ...