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ILO-en-strap

87th Session
Geneva, June 1999


Report of the Chairperson of the Governing Body
to the Conference for the year 1998-99

This 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 general session of the Conference (June 1998), i.e., the Governing Body's 272nd (June 1998), 273rd (November 1998) and 274th (March 1999) Sessions. It focuses only on the highlights of the Governing Body's year, and does not cover matters that are otherwise before the Conference.

Those seeking 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 273rd Session (November 1998) or the documents submitted to its committees and to the Governing Body itself. Other relevant material, as well as the reports and other Governing Body documents mentioned in the text and in the endnotes, are available on the Governing Body Internet site.(1)

Follow-up action on the ILO Declaration
on fundamental principles and rights at work and its follow-up

Following the adoption by the Conference in 1998 of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, in November 1998 the Governing Body discussed an Office paper concerning the measures and provisions needed to give effect to the texts.(2) The paper discussed the two basic aspects of the follow-up: an annual review of countries that have not ratified one or more of the Conventions relating to the four categories of fundamental rights, to be carried out once a year in the Governing Body; and a global report that will deal, each year, with one of these four categories of rights in turn for all countries, irrespective of whether or not they have ratified the Conventions relating to these rights. The Governing Body decided to introduce the procedure for the annual reviews from 1999 onwards, to discontinue the existing cycle of special reports after the report on freedom of association currently in preparation, and to produce the first global report -- on freedom of association -- for the year 2000. It accordingly decided to carry out the necessary coordination of the reporting periods of reports required under article 22 to ensure that they were in line with the global report cycle.

In March the Governing Body discussed specific proposals to settle the outstanding questions, taking due account of the observations made and ideas put forward on the matter and of consultations with constituents.(3)

It approved the report forms for the first annual review and requested the Director-General to send them as soon as possible to the States concerned, with the beginning of November 1999 as the deadline for replies.

The Governing Body decided to appoint a group of experts composed of seven eminent persons, who shall be responsible, in line with the objectives of the follow-up on the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work as set out in the Annex to the Declaration, for --

(a) examining the information compiled by the Office on the basis of the replies from Members that have not ratified the relevant Conventions to the report forms sent by the Office in accordance with article 19, paragraph 5(e), of the Constitution, as well as any comments on those replies made in accordance with article 23 of the Constitution;

(b) presenting to the Governing Body an introduction to the compilation based on those reports, drawing its attention to aspects that seem to call for more in-depth discussion;

(c) proposing to the Governing Body, for discussion and decision, any adjustments that they think desirable to the report forms.

The Governing Body requested the Director-General to undertake wide consultations in order to submit concrete proposals for the appointment of the group of experts not later than November 1999.

The Annex to the Declaration states that adjustments to the Governing Body's existing procedures should be examined to allow Members which are not represented on the Governing Body to provide, in the most appropriate way, clarifications which might prove necessary or useful during Governing Body discussions to supplement the information contained in their reports. The Governing Body accordingly requested the Office to submit to it, at its 276th Session (November 1999), through its Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards, a draft amendment to the Standing Orders of the Governing Body that takes into account the guidance given by the Governing Body, such that the amendment is in force at the Governing Body's session in March 2000, when the first annual review is held.

The Governing Body determined the following cycle of global reports in the order provided for in the Declaration, namely, after freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining --

(a) the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour;

(b) the effective abolition of child labour;

(c) the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

In March the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards examined the legal aspects of issues relating to the setting in motion of the Follow-up on the Declaration. These included the coordination of periods for the reports under article 22 of the Constitution (it decided that the first report in respect of Convention No. 138, in a two-year reporting cycle, should be requested in the year 2000); and amendments to the Conference Standing Orders. These concern article 7 (it proposes an amendment to article 7(1)(b) to the Conference at its present session) and article 12 (it requested its Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards to make specific proposals in November 1999 as to the manner in which the first global report should be discussed by the Conference in June 2000 on the basis of a paper prepared by the Office).(4)

Follow-up on the discussion of the Report of the Director-General
to the 85th Session (1997)
of the International Labour Conference (Part II)

The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up was only one outcome of the Conference discussion on standards of 1997. The issue of possible improvements in the standard-setting activities of the ILO, discussed in Part II of the Director-General's report to the Conference of that year, was the subject of further discussion in November.(5) The Governing Body decided to place an item on possible improvements in the standard-setting activities of the ILO on the agenda of its Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards in November 1999 in order to leave sufficient time to carry out the relevant preparatory work and consultations.

The ILO's response to the financial crisis in
East and South-East Asia

In response to recommendations made by the High-Level Meeting on Social Responses to the Financial Crisis in East and South-East Asian Countries (Bangkok, 22-24 April 1998),(6) in November the Governing Body discussed an Office paper(7) providing an initial review of the work undertaken by the ILO to respond to the crisis. It requested a more comprehensive analysis of the causes and consequences of the crisis, including an evaluation of the relationship between the ILO and the international and regional financial institutions and ways to promote dialogue and better cooperation between those institutions and the ILO. The Governing Body also requested a more focused view of ILO activities in order to evaluate ILO strategy to date in responding to the crisis and the future direction that the ILO should take.

In order to discuss these issues in greater detail, in March the Governing Body held a Symposium on the Social Impact of the Asian Financial Crisis.(8) The Symposium identified the following key elements of the ongoing reforms being made to address the impact of the crisis: (a) the importance of democracy as a guarantor of basic human rights, of transparent and hence sound economic and social policies, and of social justice; (b) the recognition that social dialogue is invaluable for sustaining democracy and that open policy debate will act as a bulwark against the adoption of corrupt, inefficient and inequitable policies, which contributed to the onset of the crisis; and (c) the realization that highest priority should be given to the strengthening of systems of social protection.

Identifying the lessons of the crisis, the Symposium concluded that the proper response to the crisis was not to turn against globalization but to try to make the process work better: efforts should be made to correct defects in the current international financial system in order to reduce the vulnerability of countries to financial crises and improve the regulation of financial flows, including short-term financial flows, as well as national efforts to strengthen financial systems; in responding to crises, the international financial institutions (IFIs) should take into account the particularities of different national situation; every effort should be made for meaningful dialogue with the social partners in the design and implementation of stabilization and structural adjustment programmes; greater integration of economic and social policies should be sought; the availability and quality of research and data in order to allow for better policy design and more effective monitoring and evaluation of policy implementation should be improved; immediate short-term preoccupations during a crisis should not detract attention from the fundamental importance of promoting the growth of productive enterprises and employment generation; and the ILO and other agencies with a social mandate on the one hand, and the IFIs on the other, should work more closely together in order to be better prepared to deal with future crises. In particular, closer collaboration between the ILO and the IFIs could be achieved through measures such as giving the ILO representation in the IMF Interim Committee and the World Bank/IMF Development Committee, as well as the working out of agreed priorities for joint action, including -- but not limited to -- active cooperation at both the policy-making and operational level to promote implementation of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights of Work by the IFIs, and the assignment of high priority to the design and implementation of efficient social insurance systems by the ILO.

In reviewing ILO action in response to the crisis, the Symposium considered that the ILO needs to strengthen its capacity to respond rapidly to major crises, with strengthened capacity to anticipate the onset of crises in order to allow for preventive action and a greater degree of preparedness to mitigate the social costs of crises. This will involve improved information systems for the monitoring and analysis of economic and social developments. ILO action should be based on the clear recognition that policy reform and building new institutions is complicated both in terms of design and implementation. It requires sustained effort that is backed up by high-quality technical studies and policy advice.

Finally, the Symposium considered that the ILO should act as a catalyst and facilitator to put in place well-designed programmes of training, retraining and job placement, and for the promotion of self-employment targeted at the specific needs of retrenched workers.

Working Party on the Social Dimensions of the
Liberalization of International Trade

Codes of conduct, social labelling and other
private sector initiatives addressing labour issues

In November the Working Party discussed an overview of global developments and Office activities concerning codes of conduct, social labelling and other private sector initiatives addressing labour issues.(9) This covered both Office activities in this area, as well as shareholder and private sector initiatives, the proliferation of which are particularly critical for developing country enterprises. The Office paper drew attention to the great diversity of the requests and demands increasingly being made to the Office for various types of assistance in this area.

The Working Party noted(10) an established pattern and a developing phenomenon of vigorous activity on this subject by private organizations and by joint private and public partnerships. The relevance of these issues to the ILO and its objectives was increasingly recognized. Several speakers expressed a desire to see more consistency and coherence in the development and implementation of these initiatives and in the principles which they addressed. Speakers pointed to the need to keep in mind the significance of national and regional particularities and of differing cultural and economic backgrounds. Some speakers expressed strong concern about the negative effects of social labelling in developing countries and about any ILO involvement in promoting social labelling programmes. Concern was also expressed over the risk that voluntary and spontaneous activity might become an imposed system and about whether or not this activity either went beyond or fell short of the established principles of the ILO. The Employers' group insisted that the fact that an enterprise chose to adopt or participate in such initiatives or not to do so should not carry with it any distinction that one enterprise was good and another bad for that reason, and the choice should not be compulsory in any way. Various views were expressed on the relationship between the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and on any ILO position on codes, including the view that, while complementary, these two subjects should be handled separately.

There was a consensus that the Office should continue to pursue its normal responsibilities regarding the collection of information and analysis on the subject of private initiatives, as well as the appropriate dissemination of information, and it was agreed that any activities ultimately undertaken by the Office should respect the voluntary nature of the phenomenon. While progress had been made and there had been some convergence of views, there was however not yet a consensus on how far the Office should go in offering advice or in actively promoting greater consistency in the principles underlying these initiatives or in facilitating their implementation. A large number of delegates took the view that more extensive or proactive involvement should be undertaken in order to fulfil the ILO's mandate in this area, while other delegates expressed strong exception to such a course. Of particular concern to the Employers was the issue of whether the ILO had a mandate to engage directly with enterprises, or to become, in their view, quadripartite by associating the Office with NGO activities in this field.

In March 1999, at the Working Party's request the Office prepared a short and focused document for further discussion of these issues in order to enable the Working Party to express its views on appropriate ILO action in this field in order to guide the Director-General in the preparation of future proposals, and to consider how, in pursuit of its constitutional and strategic objectives, the ILO could best interact with voluntary initiatives in this area.(11) This paper discussed the various approaches that the Office might adopt, taking into account the views expressed at the discussion in November. In particular, the Office was asked to address research activities which seek to explore the issues and lacunae identified in the November paper, and possible positions and follow-up action by the Organization beyond research. The paper included tables listing research projects in the Programme and Budget for 1998-99; potential areas for research; and examples of existing programmes in enterprise assistance.

The Working Party recognized(12) that the ILO should give an appropriate response to requests made to the Organization on matters lying clearly within the ILO's terms of reference. The view was expressed in this regard that the provision of such assistance should be in the form of information and advice and should not in any way put the ILO in a position of accepting or rejecting particular company initiatives. To fail to respond would damage the credibility of the Organization. Concern was expressed that codes of conduct might develop into what was termed "soft law"; or that moves might be made under the aegis of the ILO to impose a single, uniform code of conduct. It was emphasized that there was no question of the ILO imposing any code. The process under discussion was an entirely voluntary process: there was no proposal before the Working Party for the development of a uniform code. The adoption and content of codes had been a matter for individual enterprises. Implementation of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work was a separate issue and not a question for the Working Party.

On this understanding it was widely agreed that further research should be pursued, both in the new areas presented in the Office paper and in further areas, including the effects of codes on ILO objectives, such as improved labour practices and job creation; the use of codes by suppliers and the problems posed by the diversity of such codes; the experience and views of constituents worldwide on these phenomena; and the impact of codes on fair market competition, especially in developing countries. The need for coordination within the Office on the various aspects of research was made very clear. A variety of views was expressed on the way in which the Office could assist enterprise needs in this area. Information was provided by the Office regarding the nature and breadth of requests received for information or other services in this respect. Some members stressed that adequate research should be conducted as a first step towards effective accompanying services, especially in new areas of assistance and future directions beyond assistance. Others took the position that assistance in the form of information, advice and consultation should proceed in tandem with research. Still others believed that the Office should also proceed with new targeted programmes of assistance. In general, some suggested that certain operating principles could assist the Office in ensuring consistency between assistance in this area, on the one hand, and the fundamental principles, objectives and methods of work of the Organization on the other. A number of speakers insisted that the Office work in close cooperation with its constituents, including governments as well as employers' and workers' organizations. Others urged the Office to proceed, in a supportive and non-discriminatory fashion, to balance developed and developing country interests and to seek to maintain any competitive advantage enjoyed, particularly by developing country enterprises.

It was agreed that future activity would be enriched by further Office research and experience in supportive services in this area, including the possible convening of meetings with a broad range of interested constituents.

Country studies on the social impact of globalization

In November and March the Working Party examined progress concerning the series of case studies on the social impact of globalization being undertaken by the Office. Studies have been completed on Bangladesh, Chile, Mauritius, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and Switzerland, and another, on Poland, is in progress.(13) The aim of the studies, which are being carried out by a Special Task Force, is to provide some empirical and conceptual background to the debate on the social dimensions of globalization, and to identify measures that might contribute to enhancing the benefits of globalization while containing its possible social costs.

The progress reports discussed different perceptions of globalization, as well as its definition and measurement, trade and capital flows, the importance of multinational corporations and the reorganization of production networks on an international scale. In assessing the social impact of globalization it considered the cost of free capital movements, social inequalities, job insecurity, new patterns of employment, the role of policies, ways of enhancing business opportunities arising from globalization and of strengthening the four social pillars, including the role of education and training, social safety nets, labour law and industrial relations and core labour standards.

Representatives of the countries that had been studied thought the exercise had been a useful one. The Working Party noted(14) that in some cases governments were taking into account the results of the studies in policy formulation. The fact that the studies had focused on a wide macroeconomic approach that went beyond labour and social policies was welcomed. Widespread support was given to the main conclusions of the report, namely that governments were not powerless in the face of globalization: there existed a range of domestic policies, including in the area of education, training, labour law, social security and core labour standards, which could improve the return from globalization while reducing social costs. The debate revealed concern at certain social developments that appeared to go hand in hand with globalization, notably widening social inequalities, a growing perception of job instability and, in the case of developing countries, a risk of increasing economic vulnerability. However, protectionist solutions were explicitly rejected in all the countries under study, a view echoed by Working Party members from other countries.

As regards follow-up and ILO action, the Working Party also expressed interest in various suggestions for further work set out in paragraphs 87, 88 and 89 of the report. Several participants spoke in favour of presenting the results of the final report to a wider audience, including representatives from other international organizations, such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.

The outcome of the exercise as a whole will be discussed at the 276th Session of the Governing Body in November 1999, and other international organizations may be invited to take part in the discussion.

Active partnership and technical cooperation

Evaluation of the Active Partnership Policy

In November the Governing Body concluded its evaluation of the Active Partnership Policy (APP) by adopting the final report of the Working Party it set up for this purpose.(15) During 1998 the Working Party conducted its evaluation through discussions in Geneva, the study of documentation, and field trips to ILO member States in four regions (Ethiopia, Côte d'Ivoire, Brazil, Peru, Pakistan, Thailand, Hungary and Ukraine). Each mission comprised three members of the Working Party. The Working Party sought to assess to what extent the Active Partnership Policy had brought the ILO closer to its tripartite constituency in member States; to what extent constituents had become increasingly involved in joint action with the ILO; and the extent of improvements in the coherence and quality of technical services provided to constituents.

The report of the Working Party covered several aspects of the implementation of the APP country objectives, including the ILO's structure and capacity, roles and responsibilities, multidisciplinarity and working together in the MDTs, financial resources, visibility and relations with other international agencies, and machinery for evaluation and impact assessment. The report also contained conclusions and recommendations.

In March the Governing Body gave further consideration to these recommendations,(16) and as regards evaluation methodology and its modalities, it recalled its earlier decision to establish an evaluation methodology for the APP and a system of ongoing monitoring of the APP by the Governing Body. Recognizing that the Office was in the process of undergoing organizational changes and awaiting the outcome of the programme and budget exercise, it decided that the concept was maintained in principle and that further discussion should be held in November 1999 with a view to following up on the decision taken by the Governing Body in November 1998 taking into account these organizational changes.

Resource mobilization strategy

In March the Governing Body discussed a progress report on the implementation of the ILO's resource mobilization strategy, adopted at the November 1997 session of the Governing Body.(17) The internal plan introduced to give effect to the strategy is organized around its three main components: programme development, strengthening and extending partnerships with funding agencies, and marketing. In view of the resource constraints, the implementation of the strategy started by concentrating on the most immediate and needed tasks. These concerned programme development and strengthening partnerships with the donor community. It was considered that the marketing effort would follow these critical first steps once a clearer picture of overall programme development and priority areas had been established. At that stage, the implementation of the strategy would also take into account the new programming elements related to the adoption of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, as well as the outcome of the discussions on the Programme and Budget for 2000-01. Other aspects of the resource mobilization strategy will be discussed by the Conference at its present session under the item on its agenda concerning the role of the ILO in technical cooperation and in connection with the Programme and Budget for 2000-01.

Annual review of the ILO's technical cooperation programme

In November the Committee on Technical Cooperation reviewed ILO technical cooperation activities during 1997-98. The Office paper(18) discussed the technical cooperation activities conducted by the ILO in the framework of the Organization's major objectives: employment and combating poverty, improving working conditions and promoting social democracy and international labour standards. It contained evaluations of technical cooperation activities for constituents and suggestions to improve the strategy agreed at the International Labour Conference in 1993; discussed regional trends and features of ILO technical cooperation, giving examples of national execution and the strengthening of technical capacity in institutions; and touched on the new global programmes, which are intended to exploit linkages with other ILO technical cooperation activities, including those of the Bureaux for Employers' and Workers' Activities, where possible, for their mutual benefit and to maximize the impact of the work of the Office as a whole. Systematic evidence was included of these linkages and of the ways in which the Office can improve and upgrade the quality of its technical cooperation programme. The global programmes are discussed separately below.

As regards resources available for technical cooperation activities in 1997-98, efforts were noted to ensure the more effective utilization of the regular budget to complement extra-budgetary resources. The level of new approvals in 1997 was higher than in the previous year, thus confirming the upward trend in extra-budgetary resources which began in 1995. The international environment regarding development aid had not changed in terms of volume trends. The decline in official development assistance (ODA) flows to developing countries continued ($72.1 billion in 1995 to $66.4 billion in 1996) with ODA seeming to move from public to private development assistance. The ILO managed to maintain its level of technical cooperation resources in this changing context. In the framework of assistance provided to developing countries by countries belonging to the Committee for Development Assistance, a significant increase in the proportion allocated to technical assistance was noted between 1994 and 1996 (from $12.9 billion to $14.1 billion). Moreover, the proportion of contributions to the multilateral agencies (excluding banks and the European Community) reached $6.3 billion, showing practically no change by comparison with 1994 and 1995.

Global programmes and the International Programme
on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC)

In March the Governing Body discussed an Office paper on the global programme concept and on the specific programmes being developed and implemented.(19) These include the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), the International Programme on More and Better Jobs for Women (WOMEMP), Strategies and Tools against Social Exclusion and Poverty (STEP), and the International Small Enterprise Programme (ISEP). The new InFocus programmes described in the Programme and Budget proposals for 2000-01 will have a direct bearing on all the global programmes.

IPEC is now a well-established, well-known and relatively mature programme. WOMEMP and STEP are in the early stages of implementation, while ISEP was launched in 1998. The paper discussed the current status regarding the conclusion of Memoranda of Understanding with member States on child labour, the financing of IPEC and highlights of its activities in 1998, including advocacy at the policy level, action against the worst forms of child labour, mainstreaming successful approaches, monitoring and social protection and improving the knowledge basis. The paper also discussed evaluation initiatives, organizational issues, and future strategic priorities and challenges.

International labour standards

Standard-setting policy: the ratification and
promotion of fundamental ILO Conventions

Following the adoption of a Programme of Action referring to "basic workers' rights" by the Heads of State and Government meeting at the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen (March 1995) the Director-General took the initiative, in May 1995, to launch a campaign to promote fundamental ILO Conventions, the aim of which was the universal ratification of the Organization's seven Conventions considered to be fundamental -- i.e., Conventions Nos. 29, 87, 98, 100, 105, 111 and 138. Since that date, each year the Director-General has presented to the Governing Body a report(20) on the progress made in the ratification of the fundamental ILO Conventions during the previous year and on the future prospects for the ratification of these instruments, based on information communicated by member States. At the beginning of 1999 a fifth circular letter was sent to the governments of countries that had not ratified all the fundamental Conventions, asking them to explain their position with regard to these Conventions and in particular to indicate whether or not their position had changed since their previous communication and whether the information given in that communication was still valid. The ILO had by March received replies from 64 of the 130 countries to which the most recent letter was sent. At its 274th Session (March 1999) the Governing Body was informed that this campaign had resulted in 116 new ratifications of these seven Conventions.

Revision of standards

The Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards continued its work of examining the need for the revision of standards. With its examination in March of the Conventions concerning seafarers it basically concluded its work on Conventions. It initiated a detailed examination of international labour Recommendations after a preliminary discussion on the method to follow for such a review. This is the first time that Recommendations have been subjected to such a detailed examination. An annual review of the effect given to the Working Party's past decisions was also conducted.(21)

Discrimination

In March the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards conducted its annual review of ILO action concerning discrimination in employment and occupation, based on a general status report prepared by the Office.(22) This covered the supervision of standards in this area, equality for women and ILO activities in this field, including special training provided for ILO staff in gender issues and in integrating gender concerns into ILO programmes and projects, discrimination issues relating to migrant workers, disabled workers, indigenous and tribal peoples, and workers of the occupied Arab territories. Attention was drawn to the increasing numbers of representations being received by the Office concerning the application of Conventions in this area.

Migrant workers

Attention was also given in the annual review of ILO action concerning discrimination in employment and occupation to the issue of migrant workers. Problems in this area were highlighted once more in the findings of the General Survey on the Conventions concerning migrant workers carried out in 1998 by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, which is before the Conference at its present session. The Governing Body noted that the development of migration for employment is becoming the focus of growing attention by ILO constituents, resulting in an increasing number of requests for technical assistance. The ILO's Conditions of Work Branch (CONDI/T) has been entrusted with leading the work of the Working Group on International Migration established by the ACC Task Force on Basic Social Services for All. Within the framework of this Working Group, a Technical Symposium on International Migration and Development was held in The Hague from 29 June to 3 July 1998, aimed at examining salient international migration and development policy issues faced by governments, such as protecting migrants and preventing their economic and social marginalization; evaluating, through country case-studies, the effectiveness of existing policies, procedures, measures and mechanisms; suggesting to governments ways to foster orderly migration flows and to counteract the economic and social marginalization of migrants. The report on the symposium(23) was published in late 1998 and is expected to give rise to further requests for technical assistance from ILO constituents.

Freedom of association

The Committee on Freedom of Association continued to receive a high number of complaints dealing with industrial relations and human rights issues, and examined over 120 different cases.(24) A number of particularly serious cases concerning Nigeria and Colombia were the subject of procedures under article 26 of the ILO Constitution (see below).

Constitutional procedures (article 26 of the Constitution)

In November the Governing Body took note of the report(25) of the Commission of Inquiry established to examine the complaint concerning the observance by Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), made by delegates to the 83rd Session (1996) of the Conference under article 26 of the Constitution of the ILO, and in March examined a progress report on the measures taken by the Government of Myanmar to implement the recommendations contained in the report. On the basis of that report it requested the Director-General to inform the members of the Governing Body, by means of a written report, on or before 21 May 1999, regarding measures that the Government of Myanmar had taken to comply with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, together with details of any technical assistance requested or provided; requested the Director-General, in preparing the above-mentioned report, to take into account any comments by the Government of Myanmar, as well as information from workers' and employers' organizations and from other reliable sources; and requested the Director-General immediately thereafter to disseminate the findings and conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry throughout the UN system and include in the above-mentioned report any responses received. The Governing Body also decided to place on the agenda of its 276th Session an item entitled: "Measures, including recommendations under Article 33 of the ILO Constitution, to secure compliance by the Government of Myanmar with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry".

Following the admission of the ILO direct contacts mission to Nigeria in August 1998, in November the Governing Body took note of its report; endorsed the concluding remarks and requested the Government of Nigeria to take all appropriate action in the light of those remarks; in particular, requested the Government of Nigeria to communicate full information on the matters raised in Cases Nos. 1793 and 1935 in due time for examination by the Committee on Freedom of Association at its next meeting (March 1999); requested the Director-General to transmit the report of the direct contacts mission to the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, for examination at its November-December 1998 session in connection with the application by Nigeria of relevant ratified Conventions; and suspended the work of the Commission of Inquiry it had provisionally appointed in June 1998 pending such examinations and until such time as it decided otherwise.(26) In March the Committee on Freedom of Association, in its report on the cases that had given rise to the constitutional procedure,(27) urged the Government of Nigeria to amend the relevant labour legislation and regulations, and drew the legislative aspects of the cases to the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.

Following the complaint concerning the non-observance by Colombia of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), made by delegates to the 86th (1998) Session of the Conference under article 26 of the Constitution of the ILO, in November the Governing Body decided that the Government of Colombia should be requested by the Director-General to communicate its observations on the complaint so as to reach him not later than 15 January 1999; and that in March 1999 the Governing Body would decide, in the light of the information provided by the Government of Colombia in connection with the complaint and the recommendations of the Committee on Freedom of Association regarding the complaint and the cases which are still pending, whether they should be referred as a whole to a Commission of Inquiry.(28)

In March, on the basis of a report by its Committee on Freedom of Association,(29) the Governing Body postponed to its 276th Session (November 1999) the decision on the appointment of a commission of inquiry and selection of its members, while making the necessary financial arrangements for its work.(30)

Representations submitted under article 24 of the ILO Constitution

During the past year the Governing Body received a number of representations submitted by workers' organizations under article 24 of the ILO Constitution. It established committees to deal with representations received concerning Bolivia (Convention No. 169), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Convention No. 111), Chile (Conventions Nos. 35, 36, 37 and 38), Ethiopia (Convention No. 111) and Mexico (Convention No. 169) and referred the allegations concerning Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 in a representation concerning Denmark to its Committee on Freedom of Association.

The Governing Body adopted the recommendations made by committees it had set up to examine representations received concerning Mexico (Convention No. 169), Spain (Conventions Nos. 97, 111 and 122), Peru (Convention No. 169), Venezuela (Convention No. 122), Chile (Conventions Nos. 35 and 37), Denmark (Convention No. 122) and Bolivia (Convention No. 169).

In November the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards examined a detailed paper concerning the revision of the procedure for the examination of representations submitted under article 24 of the Constitution. The Governing Body requested the Office to submit to it, in November 1999, a document reflecting the guidance given by its members, which should address the need for adjustments to the procedure, the objectives of the revision and the possible solutions.(31)

Multidisciplinary teams

In November the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards reviewed the activities of the multidisciplinary teams in the area of standards on the basis of an Office paper(32) describing their work in relation to the promotion of fundamental Conventions, constitutional obligations, labour legislation, country objectives, social dialogue and activities of the social partners, gender issues, child labour, export processing zones, the International Labour Conference and the ILS Update Programme.

UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status
of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel, 1997

The Governing Body in 1998 requested the Director-General to continue consultations with the Director-General of UNESCO with a view to submitting to the Executive Board of UNESCO at one of its future sessions a proposal concerning the possible extension of the mandate of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers (CEART) to monitor the UNESCO Recommendation.(33) In March the Governing Body reiterated its concern over this issue and invited the Director-General to continue and complete consultations with the Director-General of UNESCO with a view to submitting a paper on this issue by the Governing Body in November 1999.

In March the Governing Body also took note of an interim report of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers relating to an allegation on the non-observance of certain provisions of the Recommendation in the Czech Republic and authorized the Director-General to communicate the report to the Government of the Czech Republic and to the Czech and Moravian Trade Union of Workers in Education (CMOS P), and to invite them to take the necessary follow-up action recommended in the report.(34)

Employment and social policy

Preparations for the International Consultation concerning
Follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development

In March the Governing Body, through its Committee on Employment and Social Policy, examined an Office paper(35) providing an update on the progress made to date with regard to the ILO's country employment policy reviews (CEPRs) up to the end of January 1999. The CEPR exercise is part of ILO activities to give effect to the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD), and in particular to promoting the goal of full, productive and freely chosen employment with full respect for basic workers' rights (Commitment 3(a) of the Declaration). The CEPRs are intended to help member States give substance to their commitment through an appropriate choice of economic and social policies and through the establishment of efficient institutions and the necessary legal framework. The Programme and Budget for 1998-99 includes provision for some eight to ten reviews, in countries selected to ensure a balance between the regions and different levels of development. In the current round of CEPRs, countries have been selected from among developing and transition countries (Barbados, Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Pakistan, Thailand and Ukraine), as well as four OECD member countries (Austria, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands), the latter being carried out within a comparative framework. All CEPRs are implemented with the full consent of the governments and with the full cooperation of the social partners. The Office paper described the status of the reviews in each country. The reviews will be reflected in the Office report being prepared for the International Consultation concerning Follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development, to be held in Geneva on 2-4 November 1999.

Four regional consultations concerning follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development have also been held, for Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Africa, and the consultation involving four Western European countries, A similar meeting is planned for September 1999 in Beirut, with full tripartite participation from countries in the Arab region.

World Employment Report 1998-99 -- Employability in the global economy: How training matters

In November the Governing Body discussed the latest issue of the ILO's World Employment Report in terms of its implications for policy and ILO activities.(36) The Report is the third in a series of ILO reports which offer an international perspective on current employment issues. It reviews the global employment situation and examines how countries can develop the best training strategy and flexible training systems to address the current rapid and far-reaching changes. It presents a close analysis of training systems worldwide and of training strategies to increase national competitiveness, improve the efficiency of enterprises and promote employment growth. It critically examines policies and targeted programmes for improving women's employment opportunities and enhancing the skills and employability of informal-sector workers and members of vulnerable groups (especially at-risk youth, the long-term unemployed, older displaced workers and workers with disabilities) and sets out a number of practical and workable suggestions as to how ILO constituents can take steps to improve their existing training systems and make them more effective in responding to the changing needs of the labour market.

Job creation programmes in the ILO

In November the Committee on Employment and Social Policy also discussed job-creation programmes in the ILO, identifying the ILO's comparative advantage in this field. The Office papers focused on employment-intensive programmes, and job creation through enterprise and cooperative development respectively.(37) The former reviewed the role of the ILO over the past two decades in promoting the use of employment-intensive methods in infrastructure investment programmes, documenting how ILO interventions in this field have progressed from short-term job creation schemes to longer-term programmes designed to increase the impact of investments on employment, improve working conditions, and promote small and medium-sized enterprises; this work has also focused on community-based approaches to the development and organization of informal sector workers and on the involvement of the social partners. The latter reviewed the ILO's strategy to help constituents create jobs through the development of enterprises, including cooperatives, and emphasized the crucial importance of private enterprises for employment, identifying the key issues faced by constituents in enterprise development and examining several ILO-supported activities to promote enterprise-based job creation.

ILO policies and activities concerning vocational rehabilitation

In March the Governing Body discussed the first part of a detailed Office paper(38) on its two subprogrammes on the training and employment of workers with disabilities, and workplace alcohol and drug prevention. The first offered a description of the scope and nature of disability, why the ILO deals with it, and how it links with the Organization's standards, mandate and other work. It also illustrated the evolution of the programme and the ILO's vision of the future.

Relations with the Bretton Woods institutions and the G-8

In March the Governing Body discussed a detailed Office paper on relations with the Bretton Woods institutions,(39) which focused on the implications of globalization and activities concerning the financial crisis in Asia and its effects elsewhere. The paper noted the considerable and continuing interaction between ILO officials and the Bretton Woods institutions in the context of General Assembly, ACC and ECOSOC initiatives in such areas as follow-up on the World Summit for Social Development and other global conferences, human rights, the role of micro-credit in the eradication of poverty, and the "New Agenda for the Development of Africa". In particular, the ILO is continuing to participate actively in ACC efforts to promote cooperation between the Bretton Woods institutions and the UN system.

Second ILO Enterprise Forum

In March the Governing Body discussed further preparations for the Second ILO Enterprise Forum, to be held in November 1999.(40) The Office paper covered the three working group sessions held with representatives of the International Organization of Employers, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the ILO's Bureau for Employers' and Workers' Activities and its Enterprise and Cooperative Development Department to discuss arrangements for the Forum, including candidates for keynote speakers, resource persons and case-studies likely to create an effective and stimulating programme on the various themes set out in the concept paper which was supported by the Committee in March. While most of the specific suggestions for keynote speakers, resource people and case-studies are still being examined, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has agreed to endorse the Second ILO Enterprise Forum. The possibility of the Secretary-General also delivering a keynote statement through a satellite link is being explored.

In order to secure a wide range of inputs to the Forum, constituents and other actors are invited to submit articles, research findings and other materials on the main topics covered by the major Forum sessions: the changing market place; human resource-based competitive strategies; corporate citizenship and social initiatives; and tapping the employment potential of small enterprises.

Resolution concerning youth employment, adopted
by the Conference at its 86th Session (1998)

In March the Governing Body examined the effect to be given to the resolution adopted by the Conference in 1998, which provides guidelines to member States and to employers' and workers' organizations on the design and implementation of policies to address youth employment policy issues, and includes a call for an international strategy for youth employment.(41) It noted proposals included in the draft Programme and Budget for 2000-01, and in particular the according of high priority to youth employment and the creation of a database, and the dissemination of information on, youth employment, as well as the ILO's ILO contribution to the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, August, 1998), the main outcome of which was the Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes. Based on the results of the Action Programme on Youth Unemployment during the 1996-97 biennium, a detailed comparative report on national policies and experience will shortly be completed and disseminated, which will address issues relevant to paragraph 1 of the resolution.

Employment activities of the ILO
in the context of economic crises

In November the Governing Body's Committee on Employment and Social Policy discussed the growing economic crisis severely affecting many member States, and in particular their inability to stem rising unemployment, poverty and job insecurity. The Committee noted that global growth was slowing, with most forecasts undergoing substantial downward revisions, and that while the current problems of specific countries were extremely serious and require immediate measures and action, there was an overall economic crisis that was virtually global and was affecting many more countries. The Committee requested the Office to provide a brief global picture of the nature of the worldwide crisis and the ILO's action to aid specific countries. The resulting paper discussed by the Committee in March(42) gave an overview of the global economic crisis and the response of the international financial institutions, as well as ILO activities and responses, and reviewed selected ILO activities concerning job losses, the promotion of active labour market policies and employment services, employment-intensive works programme, social protection, job creation through enterprise and cooperative development, and the gender dimension.

Developments in the United Nations

In March the Governing Body conducted its annual review of developments in the United Nations system of relevance to the ILO. The Office paper(43) described major issues and events in the General Assembly before focusing on priority concerns of the ILO in such areas as human rights, social development, women and gender issues, child labour, youth and older persons and the Jobs for Africa programme. ILO participation in major UN-sponsored sessions was also discussed, including ECOSOC, the Commission for Social Development, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Administrative Committee on Coordination.

Financial questions

In November the Governing Body took note of two information papers, on cooperation between the ILO and multibilateral donors and information technology in the ILO. It also approved an amount of $290,000 for the completion of the construction of the ILO premises in Islamabad.

In March the Governing Body approved new arrangements for the holding of Regional Meetings. It also took note of the report of the Chief Internal Auditor for 1998 as well as two reports on follow-up action taken by the Office on the report of the External Auditor for 1996-97 and that of the Chief Internal Auditor for 1997. The Governing Body was also informed of the completion of the ILO premises in Islamabad.

Sectoral activities

Programme of sectoral meetings, 2000-01

In November the Governing Body decided on the twelve sectoral meetings to be included in the Programme and Budget proposals for 2000-01 for major programme 100 (Sectoral activities),(44) deciding in March on their composition and purpose.(45) It took note of the reports of various sectoral and technical meetings and authorized their distribution.(46)

International Labour Conference

The selection of items for the agenda of the Conference continues to be made by the Governing Body on the basis of the new portfolio approach, whereby it bases itself on broader consultations leading to a portfolio of items that are available for selection each year and are constantly updated and expanded. In 1998 there was an increase of approximately 30 per cent by comparison with the previous year in the government response rate to consultations on the portfolio, and a considerable number of replies referred to preliminary tripartite consultations. The portfolio responds to the need to establish a programme of work covering several years to ensure better preparation for the work of the Conference. It therefore includes proposals at very different stages of development. The Office paper of November described possible items in over 30 different subject-areas.(47)

On the basis of this portfolio, the Governing Body narrowed down its choice to nine possible subjects and decided in March on the agenda of the session of the Conference to be held in the year 2001: on the understanding that the item included on the agenda of the 88th Session (2000) of the Conference entitled "Human Resources Training and Development: Vocational Guidance and Vocational Training" would also cover the issue of youth employment, the Governing Body placed items on the agenda of the 89th Session (2001) of the Conference concerning the promotion of cooperatives (with a view to standards) and social security: issues, challenges and prospects (for a general discussion).

In March the Governing Body again reviewed the legal aspects of the reforms in the functioning of the International Labour Conference and the possibility of their consolidation in the Standing Orders.(48) It decided that all the measures applied in 1998 be continued at the present session, and will examine the issue further in November 1999.

Other matters

In June 1998 the Governing Body took note of the report of the Meeting of Experts on Labour Statistics: Occupational Injuries.(49)


1. http://www.ilo.org/public/english/20gb/index.htm

2. GB.273/3.

3. GB.274/2 and Add.1.

4. GB.274/LILS/3/1 and GB.274/10/2.

5. GB.273/4.

6. GB.272/4.

7. GB.273/14/1.

8. The Social Impact of the Asian Financial Crisis: An ILO Governing Body Symposium; GB.274/4/1, GB.274/4/2 and GB.274/4/3. For the conclusions of the Symposium, see GB.274/4/4. See also The Asian Financial Crisis: The challenge for social policy, Eddy Lee, International Labour Office, Geneva, 1998.

9. GB.273/WP/SDL/1(Rev.1) and Add.1 (Executive Summary).

10. Oral report by the Chairperson of the Working Party: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/20gb/docs/gb273/gb-12.htm (Internet only).

11. GB.274/WP/SDL/1.

12. Oral report by the Chairperson of the Working Party: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/20gb/docs/gb274/gb-15.htm (Internet only).

13. GB.273/WP/SDL/2 and GB.274/WP/SDL/2. For background, see GB.270/WP/SDL/1/2.

14. Oral report by the Chairperson of the Working Party: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/20gb/docs/gb274/gb-15.htm (Internet only).

15. GB.273/TC/2 and GB.274/13, paras. 67-108. For more information on the background to the Working Party, see GB.271/TC/1.

16. GB.274/14.

17. GB.274/TC/2. For background, see GB.270/TC/2.

18. GB.273/TC/1.

19. GB.274/TC/3.

20. GB.274/LILS/5. See also GB.273/LILS/5 and the reports of the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards: Second report -- International labour standards (GB.273/8/2, paras. 8-18; GB.274/10/2, paras. 10-21).

21. Reports of the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards: Second report -- International labour standards, GB.273/8/2 and GB.274/10/2. Reports of the Working Party: GB.273/LILS/4(Rev.1); GB.274/LILS/4(Rev.1).

22. GB.274/LILS/6.

23. Technical Symposium on International Migration and Development, UNFPA, New York, 1998.

24. Reports of the Committee on Freedom of Association: GB.273/6/1, GB.273/6/2, GB.274/8/1, GB.274/8/2 and GB.274/8/3.

25. Forced labour in Myanmar (Burma): Report of the Commission of Inquiry appointed under article 26 of the Constitution of the International Labour Organization to examine the observance by Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), ILO, Geneva, 2 July 1998. See also GB.274/5.

26. GB.273/15/1.

27. GB.274/8/3.

28. GB.273/15/2.

29. GB.274/8/2.

30. GB.274/9/1, para. 86.

31. GB.273/LILS/1 and GB.273/8/1.

32. GB.273/LILS/6.

33. GB.273/LILS/9/1 and GB.274/LILS/8.

34. GB.274/LILS/9/1.

35. GB.274/ESP/5.

36. GB.273/ESP/1/1 and GB.273/ESP/1/2. For the discussion of the Report in the Committee on Employment and Social Policy, see GB.273/9.

37. GB.273/ESP/4/1 and GB.273/ESP/4/2.

38. GB.273/ESP/3 (issued in November) and GB.274/ESP/1.

39. GB.273/ESP/6 and Add.1 (issued in November).

40. GB.274/ESP/2. Greater details were given in GB.273/ESP/2.

41. GB.273/ESP/7 (issued in November).

42. GB.274/ESP/4.

43. GB.274/7.

44. These were: Agriculture, plantations and other rural sectors: moving to sustainable agricultural development through the modernization of agriculture and employment in a globalized economy; Basic metal production: safety and health in the non-ferrous metals industries; Construction: the construction industry in the twenty-first century: its image, employment prospects and skill requirements; Education: lifelong learning in the twenty-first century: the changing roles of educational personnel; Financial services and other professional services: employment impact of mergers and acquisitions in the banking and financial services sector; Forestry, wood, pulp and paper: social and labour dimensions of the forestry and wood industries on the move; Hotel, tourism and catering: human resources development, employment and globalization in the hotel, catering and tourism sector; Media, culture and graphical: information technologies in the media and entertainment industries: their impact on employment, working conditions and labour-management relations; Textiles, clothing, leather and footwear: labour practices in the footwear, leather, textiles and clothing industries; Transport equipment manufacture: the social and labour impact of globalization in the manufacture of transport equipment; Maritime, ports, fisheries and inland waterways: 29th Session of the Joint Maritime Commission (JMC); Private and public services sectors: the impact of decentralization and privatization on municipal services. See GB.273/STM/1 and GB.273/10.

45. GB.274/STM/1 and GB.274/13.

46. These were: the Sixteenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians (Geneva, 6-15 October 1998) Conference, the First Session of the Joint FAO/ILO/IMO Working Group on Fishermen's Training and Certification, the Joint IMO/ILO Working Group on the Seafarers' Hours of Work and the Manning of Ships Convention, 1996 (No. 180), the Tripartite Meeting on Employment and Industrial Relations Issues in Oil Refining, the Tripartite Meeting on the Human Resources Dimension of Structural and Regulatory Changes and Globalization in Postal and Telecommunications Services, the Tripartite Meeting on Technology and Employment in the Food and Drink Industries, the Tripartite Meeting of Export Processing Zone-Operating Countries, the Joint Meeting on Terms of Employment and Working Conditions in Health Sector Reforms, the Tripartite Meeting on the Impact of Flexible Labour Market Arrangements in the Machinery, Electrical and Electronic Industries, and the Joint Meeting on Human Resource Development in the Public Service in the Context of Structural Adjustment and Transition. See GB.273/10 and GB.274/13. The reports are available separately and in the papers submitted to the Committee on Sectoral and Technical Meetings and Related Issues.

47. GB.273/2.

48. GB.274/LILS/2.

49. GB.272/3.


Updated by HK. Approved by RH. Last update: 26 January 2000.