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Report of the Chairperson of the Governing Body
to the International Labour Conference for the year 1995-96

Report submitted to the Conference in June 1996

The present report on the work of the Governing Body is submitted to the Conference in accordance with article 14 of the Standing Orders of the Governing Body. It covers the period since the last (June 1995) session of the Conference, i.e., the Governing Body's 263rd (June 1995), 264th (November 1995) and 265th (March 1996) Sessions. This report focuses only on the highlights of the Governing Body's year, and does not cover matters that are otherwise before the Conference. Those wishing more extensive and detailed information on the work of the Governing Body as a whole are referred to the notes at the end of the report. They may also consult the minutes of its proceedings, or the documents submitted to its committees and to the Governing Body itself.


It will be recalled that the World Summit for Social Development recognized the special role to be played by the ILO, because of its mandate, its tripartite structure and its expertise, in contributing to the implementation of the Programme of Action in the fields of employment and social development. At the Governing Body's 264th Session (November 1995), the Director-General accordingly submitted a number of detailed proposals concerning the action to be taken by the ILO in giving effect to the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Summit for Social Development, which took account of the discussions at the Informal Tripartite Meeting at the Ministerial Level held at the Conference last year. In particular, the Governing Body endorsed the Director-General's intention, in discussions on the inter-agency and intergovernmental mechanisms for follow-up on the Summit and other major conferences, to take the line that the ILO, in discharging the lead role entrusted to it by the Summit in the field of employment, would insist on the global nature of the employment problem and on the broad concept of employment as it emerged from the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, covering not only job creation, but also workers' rights and the quality of employment. It also concurred with the Director-General that the ILO had to consider innovative means of action, at both the national and the global levels, where appropriate and in cooperation with other organizations, in order to respond to the expectations raised by the Summit.

The Governing Body requested the Director-General to pursue his efforts to ensure that the ILO plays a leading role in the action of the United Nations system at the national and international levels to give effect to the conclusions of the World Summit for Social Development concerning employment; and to strengthen the dialogue and cooperation between the ILO and the Bretton Woods institutions in the field of employment and related matters.

In view of the fact that, at the World Summit, the ILO was entrusted with the responsibility of playing a leading role in the field of employment generation, and that it was subsequently called upon by the United Nations Secretary­General to act as Coordinator of the ACC Task Force on Full Employment and Sustainable Livelihoods, follow-up action at the national level is focused on country-level reviews of issues relating to this subject-area and inter-agency coordination. In response to suggestions made at the Informal Tripartite Meeting held at the Conference in 1995, in March 1996 the Committee on Employment and Social Policy considered a paper setting out the objectives and framework for comprehensive employment policy reviews, the modalities of such reviews, and various types of possible follow-up action on them, reaching agreement on these issues. These differ from the country-level reviews of the ACC Task Force in that they do not involve inter-agency coordination by the UN system, but are intended to be more detailed, in-depth and ongoing dialogues between the ILO, the governments involved and the social partners. It remains only to clarify the role of the Committee itself in the final stage of the reviews. Only a limited number of such reviews can be carried out in a single biennium, and a number of governments in all regions are to be contacted shortly to establish a short list.

At the international level, the ILO has consistently held that, in an increasingly global economy, action at the national level to achieve full employment will not be effective unless it is supported by international efforts to create a global economic environment that is favourable to worldwide employment growth. The ILO has a significant role to play here in particular by monitoring relevant developments and assessing their impact on employment and social conditions worldwide and in different regions and countries. The Conference has before it at its present session an item for general discussion concerning employment policies in a global context, and the report before the Conference on this subject is intended as a preliminary version of World Employment 1996, which will be finalized in the light of the Conference discussion and conclusions on this item and will take account of the suggestions made at the Conference last year, particularly the call for more factual data to be included. This regular report on the world employment situation, and the results of the Conference discussion, will provide a basis for reporting to the General Assembly, ECOSOC and other United Nations bodies (such as the Commission for Social Development) entrusted with monitoring follow-up on the Summit.


The Governing Body's Working Party on the Social Dimensions of the Liberalization of International Trade continued its work during the past year by discussing papers prepared by the Office which examined various aspects of this broad issue and provided useful background material.

The Working Party's general discussion being complete, it turned its attention to specifying its mandate more clearly and considering its future work. After a general discussion on these issues in November, it examined in March a synthesis of proposals for its future programme of work and a summary of work in other parts of the Governing Body and activities in other organizations relevant to its work.

In March the Governing Body decided that the Working Party should continue its work, without changing its title, as an open-ended committee of the whole engaging in a free-ranging debate; it should examine on a regular basis an update on developments in other international organizations working in this field, act as a focal point for the ILO to interact with them, and have an overview of pertinent activities in other parts of the Governing Body (particularly as regards progress on fundamental human rights and child labour) in connection with reviewing ILO means of action.

As regards its future programme of work, for its meeting in November 1996, the Working Party requested the Office to undertake substantive action research on the subject-matter, including the distribution of, and analysis of the replies to, a questionnaire distributed to tripartite constituents in member States to obtain their views on current developments with regard to globalization and the liberalization of trade, and the impact they have had on social standards; to make available the report being prepared by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on trade and labour standards, for examination by the Working Party; to begin to examine the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI), including that by multinational corporations, and particularly the effect of FDI on economic growth and labour standards in host countries, drawing on existing studies, such as those done by UNCTAD; and to prepare a report on the idea of country studies.

For its meeting in March 1997 or subsequent sessions, the Working Party plans to examine the capacity of ILO means of action to help member States participate in the benefits of trade liberalization and the future role of the ILO in the context of globalization and the liberalization of trade, as a basis for formulating a strategic action plan. It will also examine progress on the country studies.


Beijing, September 1995

The Fourth World Conference on Women was one of the largest conferences in the history of the United Nations. The ILO was involved in preparations for the Conference, and submitted a statement to the Conference in which it emphasized that women and gender issues need to be regarded as an integral part of human rights and as a matter of social justice, that those issues have a crucial bearing on the sustainable social and economic development of humankind, and that women's situation in the world of work is critical for their empowerment and their overall advancement in society. The Conference adopted a Platform for Action, which covered labour-related issues.

The Governing Body considered a report on the Conference, and requested the Director-General to ensure that: (i) the ILO was actively involved in the action taken by the United Nations system to give effect to the Declaration and Platform for Action with regard to labour-related issues; (ii) effective follow-up on the Platform was adequately incorporated in all ILO programmes and activities, especially in the context of ILO follow-up on the Social Summit in the field of employment; (iii) the ILO's constituents and field structures were actively involved in follow-up activities, since implementation would take place mainly at the national level.

In March the Governing Body endorsed proposals by the Director-General concerning action to be taken by the ILO in giving effect to the Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women, taking into account decisions by competent organs of the United Nations system concerning follow-up on the Conference. The implications for ILO activities of the Declaration and Platform for Action were assessed in terms of three main subject-areas: productive employment and poverty eradication; social protection and working conditions; and international labour standards and standard-setting action on women workers. The Governing Body requested the Director-General to pursue his efforts to mobilize adequate resources to ensure follow-up on the Fourth World Conference on Women.


Working practices and methods in the area of standard setting

Continuing the work begun in 1994 in response to the Conference resolution concerning the 75th anniversary of the ILO and its future orientation, the Governing Body pursued its examination of ways to adapt the ILO's working practices and methods in the area of standard setting.

In November its Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards began its consideration of the ratification and promotion of the ILO's fundamental Conventions, on which subject the Director-General had addressed a letter to all member States in May 1995. The Office paper examined new promotional measures and reviewed the situation with respect to seven Conventions: the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87), the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111), and the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138). The Governing Body took note of the high response rate and positive replies to the letter sent by the Director-General in May 1995 concerning the ratification of these Conventions. In March the Committee examined a similar paper analysing further replies received to the Director-General's letter. Since the sending of the letter, ten further ratifications of the Conventions had occurred by March this year, while another 30 were reported to be imminent.

In November the Governing Body considered a paper on the strengthening of the ILO's standards supervisory system, which set out a number of possibilities in this area. It referred this matter to its Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards, which in March examined a paper on the subject. This paper pursued further some of the options raised in November, including measures to strengthen existing procedures, while also exploring the possibility of new complaints procedures, including some that might be applied in cases of discrimination, such as special surveys. Following a discussion in March the Committee decided to pursue the issue still further in November.

Revision of standards

The question of the revision of standards was covered by the Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards of the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards, which met for the first time in November 1995 with a mandate to examine the issue, make recommendations to the Committee and examine the question of the criteria that could be applied to such revision. The paper before the Working Party in November discussed methods and criteria as well as more general aspects of the standard-setting framework and its relation to the ILO's objectives as a whole. A broad consensus emerged in the Working Party on the aim of its work, which was to rejuvenate and strengthen the standard-setting system, and on the basis of its report the Governing Body decided that the six basic Conventions (Nos. 87 and 98, 100 and 111, 29 and 105) and the four other priority Conventions (Nos. 81, 122, 129 and 144) would be excluded from revision, while the question of including Convention No. 138 was set aside for the time being.

In March the Working Party met again to consider papers on the possibilities and methods for the abrogation or termination of certain Conventions and on the least-ratified and dormant Conventions. On the question of abrogation or termination, it requested the Office to prepare, for its next meeting in November, a detailed document that should address the procedural aspects, the necessary safeguards and the various problems related to a constitutional amendment permitting the abrogation or termination of obsolete international labour Conventions by the International Labour Conference.

The Governing Body approved a number of proposals by the Committee concerning the least ratified and dormant Conventions, including the following:

(a) a number of Conventions that had not entered into force (Nos. 31, 46, 51, 61 and 66) should be shelved with immediate effect;

(b) the following Conventions should be shelved with immediate effect:

(c) the Conference might subsequently abrogate five Conventions that had not entered into force (Conventions Nos. 31, 46, 51, 61 and 66), and three other Conventions (Nos. 28, 60 and 67) once an appropriate procedure had been adopted;

(d) the status quo with respect to Convention No. 47 should be maintained, pending the adoption of revised standards on hours of work and working-time arrangements (paragraph 60 of the report of the Working Party);

(e) the revision of the provisions of Convention No. 79, and possibly of other instruments on the night work of young persons (paragraph 66 of the report of the Working Party);

(f) member States should be invited to contemplate ratifying Conventions Nos. 110, 128, 130, 152, 153 and 157 and informing the Office of the obstacles and difficulties encountered, if any, as well as of the possible need to revise these instruments;

(g) bearing in mind the proposals contained in the report, the proposal to postpone the examination of Conventions Nos. 25, 41, 44, 82, 83, 84, 85 and 143 to the next meeting of the Working Party, and the submission of a new document that took into account any additional information and other new facts that the Office may have obtained;

(h) the preparation by the Office for the next meeting of the Working Party of a document examining the Conventions dealing with migrant workers (Nos. 97 and 143), night work of women (Nos. 4 and 89), and night work of young persons (Nos. 6, 79 and 90), which should also comprise an examination of the other Conventions that had been the subject of pure denunciations (Nos. 1, 2, 26, 30, 45, 88, 94, 95, 96, 99, 101 and 103).

The Governing Body noted that the implementation of some of the Committee's recommendations meant that the Office must follow up on them by requesting information from governments and constituents and present reports to subsequent meetings of the Working Party on developments in the situation regarding the Conventions examined and on the results obtained. It also noted that for this purpose member States would have to undertake tripartite consultations that take into account, in particular, the procedures laid down in the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144), and the Tripartite Consultation (Activities of the International Labour Organization) Recommendation, 1976 (No. 152).


In March the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards examined a general status report prepared by the Office on ILO action concerning discrimination in employment and occupation. This reviewed in particular the recent special survey, carried out by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, on equality in employment and occupation in respect of Convention No. 111, which is identified as a fundamental ILO Convention (see above).

ILO Multidisciplinary teams

In November the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards reviewed the activities of the multidisciplinary teams in relation to standards, noting the progress made in this field.

Freedom of association

The Committee on Freedom of Association itself continued to register a high number of complaints dealing with complex industrial relations and human rights issues, and its work load has remained heavy.

Constitutional procedure

During the past year the Governing Body received a number of representations submitted by industrial associations under article 24 of the ILO Constitution. It declared receivable and established committees to deal with representations concerning Congo, Greece, Peru, Senegal and Turkey. It also adopted recommendations made by committees it had set up to examine other representations concerning Brazil, Congo, the Czech Republic, France, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, the Russian Federation and Uruguay, declaring closed the procedures initiated.


Child labour

In November 1995 the Committee on Employment and Social Policy discussed a comprehensive review of the extent, nature and causes of child labour, and suggested possible approaches to tackling this problem nationally and internationally. It examined possible action at the country level, focusing on a strategy against child labour and specific types of action, as well as the lessons gained from ILO experience. It also examined a brief summary of past and present ILO action against child labour, including that under the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), and considered possible ways of making it more effective, including standard setting, information gathering and dissemination, technical cooperation, and cooperation with other international organizations.

The Governing Body decided unanimously, already in November, that child labour should be the only new item for the Conference agenda in 1998, deciding in March, on the basis of a set of more specific proposals, that it should be included in the Conference agenda for standard setting using the double discussion procedure in 1998 and 1999.

In November the issue of child labour was also covered, in the context of Convention No. 138, by the paper on the ratification and promotion of the ILO's fundamental Conventions (see above).

Migrant workers

The Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Summit for Social Development included a number of references to the issue of migrant workers. The international community's interest in this subject-matter has surged in recent years, and also expressed itself in the inclusion of a detailed chapter on international migration in the Programme of Action adopted by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in September 1994. The key issues addressed on those occasions were protection; integration and non-discrimination; the reduction of irregular migration and of the need for people to have to leave their country; better management of the flows of migrants and assistance for their return; and the strengthening of international organizations and of the assistance they render to countries.

In March this year the Governing Body's Committee on Employment and Social Policy examined a paper on international migration and migrant workers as a basis for a broad policy discussion of migrant workers questions, and on the basis of which it selected the items for the agenda of the Tripartite Meeting of Experts on Future ILO Activities in the Field of Migration, which is due to be held in 1997. The Committee's discussion on the revision or recasting of ILO standards concerned with migrant workers will be referred to the Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards for further examination of the issues involved (see above). The question of discrimination against migrant workers was also discussed by the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards.


Through its Committee on Technical Cooperation, in November the Governing Body conducted its annual review of ILO technical cooperation during the previous year in the context of the Active Partnership Policy, assessing also the progress made in the implementation of the Active Partnership Policy and of the ILO strategy for technical cooperation. This annual report prepared by the Office describes recent developments in ILO technical cooperation, its geographical and substantive composition, and the status of efforts towards decentralization of the Active Partnership Policy and of the ILO strategy for technical cooperation. Information was also supplied on the substantial increase in approvals for funding of new technical cooperation projects and programmes, thus arresting the decline that began in 1990.

The Committee also assessed participation elements of technical cooperation programmes and projects on the basis of a paper that examined the key concepts of participatory approaches to technical cooperation and the techniques involved, and evaluated the lessons learned. Further developments concerning operational activities in the United Nations system, including principal measures taken by the ILO concerning General Assembly resolution 47/199, were the subject of a further paper.


In March 1996 the Governing Body held a preliminary consultation on the Programme and Budget proposals for 1998-99. This involved a general dicussion of the programme as a whole, including the Director-General's preliminary proposals, and consideration of a paper on the rationalization of ILO field structures. The Governing Body will continue to examine the Programme and Budget for 1998-99 in November later this year, when it will also consider an additional paper on the rationalization of ILO field structures and a paper on ILO publications policy.


The Governing Body's main concern has been the deteriorating financial situation and the continuing uncertainty caused by the non-payment or only partial payment of contributions by some member States.

Immediately following last year's Conference, a number of measures were taken by the Governing Body which included the postponement of the maritime session of the Conference as well as a number of meetings scheduled for late 1995. Despite these measures and others which were taken by the Director-General in 1995, the 1994-95 biennium closed with a cash deficit of 51.3 million Swiss francs. This deficit was funded by withdrawals from the Working Capital Fund and by internal borrowings, which, in accordance with the decision taken by the Conference in 1995, will be reimbursed from arrears of contributions received in subsequent financial periods.

Following a request by the 1995 Conference, the Governing Body also decided, at its 263rd Session, to set up a tripartite Working Party on Programme and Budget Adjustments to discuss possible programme adjustments for the 1996­97 biennium. The Working Party met in September, and proposals were made to the Governing Body in November 1995, on the basis of which the Governing Body decided on a package of reductions in the Programme and Budget for the 1996-97 biennium totalling $21,704,950, including reductions concerning the functioning of the Conference, which are already applied at the present session.

In March 1996, the Governing Body took note of further precautionary measures taken by the Director-General to safeguard the financial position of the Organization in view of the continuing uncertainty over the size and timing of contributions that may be expected from major contributors as well as from other member States. Preliminary allocations for 1996-97 were established at a level equivalent to 80 per cent of the Programme and Budget. It was emphasized by the Director-General that, at that stage, such measures should not be regarded as programme adjustments.


The Governing Body noted the efforts being made by the Office, with regard to the composition of staff, to redress the imbalance in terms of geographical representation and improving the situation regarding women's representation, subject to the paramount considerations of competence, integrity and efficiency.


In November the Governing Body adopted a new set of Standing Orders for Sectoral Meetings and a set of general characteristics of sectoral meetings. It decided that the new Standing Orders would take effect from 1996 and that any sectoral meetings postponed from 1995 would be held in accordance with them.

As regards the programme of sectoral meetings for 1996-97, the Governing Body decided to include a tripartite meeting on breaking through the glass ceiling: women in management; a tripartite meeting on the iron and steel workforce of the twenty-first century: what it will be like and how it will work; a symposium on multimedia convergence; and a meeting of experts on safety and health in forest work. In March it decided on the composition and purpose of those meetings.


In March the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards examined a paper on the role of the Credentials Committee in relation to complaints concerning the non-payment of travel and subsistence expenses of delegates to the International Labour Conference. The Governing Body requested the Office to prepare a more complete paper for its meeting in November 1996, which would propose the text of a possible amendment to the Conference Standing Orders covering the consideration by the Credentials Committee of complaints of non-compliance with article 13, paragraph 2(a) of the Constitution.


The Fifth European Regional Conference, held in Warsaw in September 1995, adopted conclusions concerning the coverage and financing of social protection and ILO activities in Europe, as well as resolutions on ensuring the independence and facilitating the financing of employers' and workers' organizations, the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers and their families in Europe, and employment and tripartism in Europe. The Governing Body asked the Director-General to take appropriate action on these texts.

The Fifth European Regional Conference marked the end of the experimental cycle of ILO regional conferences held under the revised arrangements. As part of the package of Programme and Budget adjustments for 1996-97, adopted in November 1995, it was decided that one regional meeting would be held in the regions each year under the auspices of the regional offices of the ILO, with a duration of three days, with a single agenda item concerning ILO activities in the region concerned; that the practice of sending a separate Governing Body delegation to regional meetings would be abandoned; and that the first such regional meeting concerned the Asia and Pacific region and would be held in Bangkok in 1997.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.