Geneva, 30 May - 15 June 2000
Reports of the Selection Committee
: Submission, discussion and adoption
Second and third reports:
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — We start this sitting with the second and third reports of the Selection Committee, which are to be formed in Provisional Record Nos. 6/2, and 6/3, respectively. I give the floor to Mr. Alfaro Mijangos, Chairperson and Reporter of the Selection Committee, to submit these two reports.
Original Spanish: Mr. ALFARO MIJANGOS (Government delegate, Guatemala; Chairperson and Reporter of the Selection Committee) — I have the honour to present you the second and third reports which are to be found in the Provisional Record Nos. 6-2 and 6-3. They refer, to the proposal to withdraw the International Conventions Nos. 31, 46, 51, 61 and 66, and to the consideration of the 1986 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or between International Organizations, with or view to formal confirmation by the ILO. The Selection Committee approved the proposal made by the Governing Body to withdraw the International Conventions in question.
As for the Vienna Convention, the Committee recommends to the Conference that it adopt the resolution proposed by the Governing Body, whereby the Conference authorizes the Director-General to deposit on behalf of the ILO an act of formal Confirmation of the Vienna Convention.
In the light of these reports, the Conference may deem it appropriate to take a preliminary decision with respect to the five obsolete Conventions and to authorize the deposit of an act of formal confirmation of the Vienna Convention.
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — I propose that these two reports be examined separately. Does anyone wish to comment on the second report which recommends to the Conference that it take the preliminary decision, referred to in paragraph 3 of article 45bis of the Standing Orders of the Conference, for the withdrawal of each of the Conventions.
Can I consider that the Conference adopts paragraph 1 of the report referring to the Hours of Work (Coal Mines) Convention, 1931 (No. 31)?
(Paragraph 1 is adopted.)
Can I consider that the Conference adopts paragraph 2 of the report concerning the withdrawal of the revised Hours of Work (Coal Mines) Convention (Revised), 1935 (No. 46)?
Paragraph 2 is adopted.
Can I consider that the Conference adopts paragraph 3 of the report concerning the withdrawal of the Reduction of Hours of Work (Public Works) Convention, 1936 (No. 51)?
Paragraph 3 is adopted.
Can I consider that the Conference adopts paragraph 4 concerning the withdrawal of the Reduction of Hours of Work (Textiles) Convention, 1937 (No. 61)?
Paragraph 4 is adopted.
Can I consider that the Conference adopts paragraph 5 concerning the Migration for Employment Convention, 1939 (No. 66)?
Paragraph 5 is adopted.
Can I consider, therefore, that the Conference adopts the second report of the Selection Committee, as a whole?
(The second report is adopted as a whole.)
A record vote will be held on Thursday, 15 June, to confirm these preliminary decisions.
Turning to the report of the Selection Committee, may I take it that the Conference adopts the third report containing the draft resolution with a view to the deposit of an act of formal confirmation by the ILO of the Vienna Convention of 1986?
(The third report and the resolution are adopted.)
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — The next item is the fourth report of the Selection Committee on measures recommended by the Governing Body under article 33 of the Constitution — implementation of recommendations contained in the report of the Commission of Inquiry entitled Forced labour in Myanmar (Burma). This report is reproduced in Provisional Record No. 6-4.
I give the floor to Mr. Alfaro Mijangos, Government delegate of Guatemala, Chairperson and Reporter of the Committee, to present the report and the resolution it contains.
Original Spanish: Mr. ALFARO MIJANGOS (Government delegate, Guatemala; Chairperson and Reporter of the Selection Committee) — I am honoured to present the fourth report of the Selection Committee on the eighth item on the agenda of the 88th Session of the Conference.
In its 277th Session in March 2000, the Governing Body decided to submit to the Conference a series of measures for the application of article 33 of the ILO Constitution in the context of the application of recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry which, in 1998, examined compliance by Myanmar with the provisions of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).
The Conference had before it a document, which is presented in Provisional Record No. 4, setting out the background of the decision taken by the Governing Body. It also had before it the report of the mission to Myanmar, to be found in Provisional Record No. 8. The mission took place on 23-27 May 2000 to examine, with the Government of that country, technical cooperation which may be necessary. In this document there is also the text of a letter dated 27 May 2000 which the Minister of Labour of Myanmar sent to the International Labour Organization's Director-General.
It was decided that the Selection Committee would organize the discussion of this matter within the framework of the Conference.
This is the first time that we have discussed the application of article 33. The opinions expressed in this regard were very different and some members submitted a draft resolution with a view to replacing the recommendations made by the Governing Body.
Two general sessions were held, the first was for general discussion so that everyone could give their points of view and opinions on the matter. Before the second session of the discussion, there were consultations with different groups and delegations. Subsequently, in my capacity as Chairperson, I decided, to propose a compromise text seeking to reconcile the different positions which had been expressed.
The majority of the members of the Committee acknowledged that the proposal recognized both the urgent need to take a decision about the measures to be applied and also the need to suspend application of those measures so as to give the Government of Myanmar more time to take concrete measures to eliminate forced labour.
The draft resolution was adopted by the Committee by 33 votes in favour, 4 against and 3 abstentions, a total of 40 delegates with the right to vote were present at the session.
The Committee, therefore, submits a draft resolution to the Conference whereby, in principle, the five measures recommended by the Governing Body would be approved. These measures are referred to in paragraphs 1(a) to 1(e) of the draft resolution. Paragraphs (a) and (e) refer to the follow-up by the Committee on the Application of Standards of the Conference and the Governing Body of the measures taken by Myanmar to comply with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.
In points (b) and (c), the International Labour Organization constituents, and other international organizations, are requested to look at their relations with Myanmar to ensure that these will not result in the continuation or extension of forced labour in the country, and that they continue to inform the International Labour Organization of the situation.
Under (d) the Director-General is invited to request the Economic and Social Council to include an item on the agenda of the meeting to be held in July 2001, that is, in a year's time, with a view to adopting the measures which are similar to those set out in points (b) and (c).
In recognition of the fact that Myanmar has taken a positive step by opening the door to cooperation with the International Labour Organization, the Committee recommends to the Conference, in paragraph 2, that those measures be suspended until 30 November 2000, unless, before this date, the Governing Body is “satisfied that the intentions expressed by the Minister of Labour of Myanmar in his letter dated 27 May have been translated into a framework of legislative, executive and administrative measures that are sufficiently concrete and detailed to demonstrate that the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry have been fulfilled and therefore render the implementation of one or more of these measures inappropriate”.
Lastly, in the resolution, the Director-General is authorized to respond positively to any requests for assistance and cooperation made by Myanmar for this purpose.
The Selection Committee now submits to the Conference the results of its discussions and the draft resolution which is set out in the annex to this report.
Mr. BRETT (Workers' delegate, United Kingdom; Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Selection Committee) — As spokesperson of the Workers' group, I support your report and would like to thank you personally for the efforts you have made to arrive at what I believe is a satisfactory result and a basis for consensus.
I have no harsh words at this point for the Government of Burma. The harsh words are already set out in the report of the Commission of Inquiry. They are already set out in the minutes of various Governing Body meetings over the past five years. They are also contained in the report of the 87th International Labour Conference and in the resolution carried at last year's session of the Conference, and they are contained in Provisional Record No. 6-4 which deals with the report and the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.
What I want to explain is why the Workers' group is supporting this compromise. It is simplest to say that within the Selection Committee, whatever differences there might have been, there were basically two views. There were those who wanted action now on Burma and there were those who wanted to give the Government of that country a little more time because of its response in the letter of 27 May.
The majority, those of us who wanted immediate action, were persuaded by the minority. We were persuaded that we should give a last chance, a period of grace of five months, to put the sincerity of the Government of Burma to the test, that technical assistance should be made available, that we should have, in fact, a solution to this five-year old question and finally resolve the debate by November this year.
It was not an easy decision. It was not a decision that we relished or that came very easily, but we took it because we thought it was the only way of getting a consensus, firstly in the Selection Committee, and secondly in this plenary sitting of the Conference.
We were therefore very saddened that we did not get that consensus. We would not have got anywhere near it, but for the excellent efforts of your good self and the text you provided. We had enough confidence in that text and in your wisdom, and we decided to swallow hard and to join in what we hoped would be a consensus.
Some governments found that it was not possible to do so and other colleagues on the Employers' side felt obliged at that stage to abstain from a decision. But we had hoped that the 48 hours would bring with it reflection and wisdom and that we would reach a position where we could say that we are confident of a consensus. The text passing before us suggests that there is not yet a consensus, so this is my last appeal on behalf of the Workers to the Government of Burma, and to those governments in the region that support it, to try one last time to get a consensus on the text before us.
It is an historic day. Article 33 is being applied for the first time. I do not believe any reasonable government has anything to fear from that. A precedent is created by using article 33, but it is a precedent that no government should fear. You have to have gone through a decade of something as heinous as forced labour, you have to have had a major Commission of Inquiry and ignored its findings for several years, to even be a candidate for this kind of resolution.
Therefore, at this late stage we would still appeal, particularly to governments in the ASEAN region, to show their support for the changes required in Burma to withdraw their amendments even at this late stage and seek a consensus.
I therefore have the pleasure, on behalf of the Workers' group, of thanking you yet again for your efforts, and expressing the hope that we can reach a consensus on this proposal, without which a vote will be necessary.
Original German: Mr. THÜSING (Employers' delegate, Germany; Chairperson of the Employers group) — The Employers' group finds it difficult to deal with this resolution from the Selection Committee which you have before you.
We agree with the general thrust, which we have supported for some years now, right from the beginning of the discussion of this problem. It is a question of making sure that the Convention on forced labour is upheld. That document has been ratified by Myanmar. We must ensure that the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry are implemented. It is nothing more than that, and nothing less either.
The Selection Committee in the end agreed on a middle path. It is not following the recommendations of the Governing Body, but it is also not following the proposal put forward by some governments that this decision should only be taken in June of next year, at the next session of the Conference.
One of these alternatives would seem to be necessary; the other is impossible. The resolution before you is, as I have said, a happy medium between the two. As regards the decision concerning article 33 of the Constitution, and the measures which must be taken under article 33, the decision itself can only be taken by the Conference, but the implementation of these measures, and more precisely the decision concerning the scope, the timing and the way in which this is implemented, is a decision which is referred to the Governing Body.
As I understand it, the referral to the Governing Body means that the Governing Body will be able to take its decision with complete flexibility, taking into account developments which are observed at that point in time.
This middle way which the resolution has followed was taken because the Government of Myanmar for the first time showed an attitude which would justify some hope of openness to discussion. The Government has explicitly stated this in a letter from the Minister of Labour.
Obviously, all of us took different views of their stated readiness to cooperate. Some people were sceptical. Some were more hopeful. We have placed our hopes in a positive attitude, and we have lobbied for this. And we think that in cases of doubt, in this house, trust should be given pride of place.
Between now and November, quite a lot can be done if there is good will among all the parties concerned. I would like to remind you that it is also part of this resolution that the Office and the Organization should provide facilities, help and support for the Government of Myanmar if the Government wishes such assistance.
This is an important part of the resolution. The Office has in fact undertaken an obligation in this sense.
When we consider the questions which we have to deal with today, and also the cooperation which has to take place between now and November, we should remember that only cooperation is in the spirit of this Organization. We do not want to have any confrontation, because confrontation does not get us anywhere at all.
I would like to try to clear up some points which have been mentioned in the discussions in the Selection Committee and elsewhere. It is not a question of punishment. People have talked about punishment, but this is a sovereign, independent country, and nobody can impose their will on the Government of Myanmar. Punishment is not something that is within the mandate of the ILO. We do not have the right to sanction, and we do not want to have such a right. It would be pointless and counterproductive. Nor is this a question of economic sanctions.
Economic sanctions in the context of a social clause are not something that the Employers in this house support. If we even mention the term “social clause” it is because we think that it is important against the background of discussions that we are having around the world, and in the context of the demands that are being put forward and will continue to be put forward, to make it clear that the ILO is the forum where these questions can be solved in cooperation, in confidence and in trust.
My friends in the group, even those from developing countries, have understood this point very well, and they fully support the position of the Employers. It is not a question of having some kind of scenario where you have the powerful countries against the small countries. We have a majority here of small, developing countries, and such scenarios would simply prevent us from taking any action at all.
What we are talking about here is acting together in the interests of all parties so that we can achieve our aims. I know that in such questions as this one, there are certain sensitivities, and of course I understand that everybody is aware of that, but this should not in fact be a hindrance. It should not get in the way of taking a positive decision on a positive development.
Myanmar is a small country compared with others. Many in my group are familiar with this country, and feel that they have links with it because they live in the same region or they have a common culture. But we also all know, even if we are not at home in the Asian region, that there has been an enormous contribution from this country in world culture and art. And these are things that we all have, we are all aware of, and we are all conscious of. The citizens of that country are respected by everyone in this room. I would remind you that we are here in the International Labour Organization, the oldest specialized agency of the United Nations. We want to defend the dignity of this country in the world. This has already been done by the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, who made a contribution to achieving the objectives of the United Nations. Working together, in a common struggle to achieve common goals to which we have all committed ourselves is the only way which can bring lasting success. I would like to appeal to the Government of Myanmar, which holds the key to all this in their hands. In the light of the significance of this question, I would like to beg you to accept this offer to work together with us. This will be an important time in our history, and we should not get bogged down in amendments and points of order.
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — We shall now open the general discussion on the Committee report.
Mr. DATO'ZAINOL ABIDIN (Government delegate, Malaysia) — I am making this statement by Malaysia on behalf of the Governments of Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Viet Nam, Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Myanmar.
We as member States of the ILO continue to insist on the question of observance by Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), which the Governing Body has decided to place on the agenda of the 88th Session of the International Labour Conference. The Asian labour ministers, at their 14th meeting held on 11 and 12 May 2000 in Manila, discussed the matter constructively with a view to contributing to a resolution of this problem. The ministers welcomed the invitation extended by the Government of Myanmar to the ILO technical cooperation mission to visit Yangon, and they strongly urged the ILO to send the mission to assist Myanmar with implementation of the Convention.
As everyone is aware, the ILO mission visited Myanmar from 23 to 27 May 2000. We welcome this visit and would like to place on record our sincere gratitude to Mr. Somavia, the Director-General. We also commend the members of the technical team for all their efforts.
The visit and the report of the ILO technical cooperation mission to Myanmar mark important progress in efforts to secure the commitment of the Government of Myanmar to resolving the forced labour issue. This new development and, in particular, the sincerity and willingness of the Government of Myanmar to cooperate in finding a solution to this problem represent a significant change and a major step forward. It is our earnest hope that account will be taken of this good will and openness on the part of the Myanmar Government in determining further steps to be taken to reach an amicable solution to the issue.
The Government of Myanmar went out of its way to help the technical team meet as many key government and other representatives as possible, including members of the diplomatic community. Its aim was to enable the mission to have an objective view of the situation in Myanmar.
We would therefore request that the members of this august body also look at the issue in an objective fashion, since this belief would be in the interests of all the parties. In light of the foregoing, we take the view that the most effective and pragmatic means of resolving the issue of Convention No. 29 is cooperation, rather than drastic measures. The measures envisaged may have far-reaching ramifications, and could seriously undermine all the efforts taken thus far to resolve this question. We call upon the Members of the ILO to build upon the progress achieved by the technical cooperation mission and to work with the Government of Myanmar to elaborate a comprehensive framework for the elimination of the practice of forced labour in Myanmar. We also ask the Members to refrain from applying measures pursuant to article 33 of the ILO Constitution, as these are not necessarily justified.
Original Portuguese: Mr. BARCIA (Government delegate, Portugal) — I am honoured to speak on behalf of the European Union and I would like to read the following declaration in the language in which it was approved.
(The speaker continues in French.)
Original French: I am honoured to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Central and Eastern European Associated States — Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, as well as the Associated States of Cyprus, Malta and Turkey also subscribe to this declaration.
First of all, may I emphasize that we feel that serious violations of human rights are systematically committed in Burma. In these circumstances the European Union has implemented restrictive measures since 1996, measures which have recently been reinforced, urging the Government to take concrete initiatives to end the violations of human rights and particularly forced labour.
May I now thank the Director-General for his Reports and also the ILO technical cooperation mission to Burma. This mission focused its attention on the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. We have taken due note of these reports, which we deem to be balanced and constructive. However, we feel that, given the essential issue which is being discussed at this Conference, three factors need to be underscored.
First, the continuation of the practice of forced labour in Burma. Second, that the tools to solve this serious problem are, and always have been, in the hands of the Burmese authorities. And third, that no significant step has been taken up until now with a view to implementing the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. Indeed, the Report of the Director-General of March 2000 could not be clearer. The Village Act and the Towns Act have not been amended. Forced labour continues to be imposed in a widespread manner and no punishment has been imposed on those responsible for forced labour on the basis of article 374 of the Penal Code. This is why the European Union feels that concrete measures under article 33 of the Constitution of our Organization should be adopted by this Conference.
We have not taken this decision lightly. For a long time the ILO and its constituents have, in the spirit of dialogue, indicated their readiness to cooperate completely with the Government of Burma. Indeed, we have been forced to act by the generalized and persistent use of forced labour in Burma and after having tried every possible measure for years with the Burmese authorities. It is not a double penalty, but an appropriate response to an extreme situation. Article 33 exists for exceptional situations, such as this, where serious violations of human rights persist despite the continued efforts of the Organization. It is, in our opinion, the minimum that one can and should do in the light of the indignity of forced labour of which the people of Burma are victims. In this specific context the credibility of the ILO is at stake.
In conclusion, I would like to recognize the work done by the Selection Committee and the efforts to obtain a consensus made by the Chairperson of that Committee. We do not feel, as in the case of any compromise, that the document submitted is perfect. We do not feel, for example, that the very general promises set out in the letter from the Minister of Labour of Burma to the Director-General “reflect a welcome intention on the part of the Burmese authorities to take measures to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry”. Nonetheless, we are open to accepting the compromise and to giving the Burmese authorities one last chance by granting an additional deadline for them to implement before 30 November effective and tangible measures with a view to implementing the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. If everything goes well, as we indeed wish, we will just have to follow and support those initiatives. If not, the measures under article 33 will immediately come into force and the responsibility for this happening will rest exclusively with the Government of Burma. Therefore we request the Director-General to submit to the session of the Governing Body in November a report on this matter and we would be in favour of granting ILO technical assistance between now and November to the Burmese authorities if it is used in the framework of the provisions of the resolution approved by the Conference in 1999.
In these circumstances, the European Union gives its support to the resolution before us and we call upon the other member States to vote together with us with a view to showing that the ILO is a credible and effective organization in the defence of fundamental principles and rights at work.
Mr. LEPATAN (Government delegate, Philippines) — The adoption of measures under article 33 of the Constitution has no precedent in the long history of the ILO. The adoption of such measures will open a Pandora's box, the consequences of which nobody can foresee. Prudence dictates that such measures should only be resorted to as a last recourse, when all other avenues for resolving the problem have been closed. That stage has not yet been reached. The avenue for a cooperative solution, opened by the ILO's technical cooperation mission to Myanmar, remains to be fully explored and exploited. It is with this in mind, that the ASEAN group proposed a resolution in the Selection Committee, but would defer the adoption of drastic measures under article 33. This would give Myanmar time, with the help of the ILO, to demonstrate in concrete terms its sincerity and willingness to comply fully with its commitments under the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). If progress is achieved through this avenue, it may not be necessary for this body to consider measures that our predecessors in this Organization took care to avoid.
It would be useful to note that ASEAN did not block the adoption of the Governing Body's recommendations during its 277th Session, and the ASEAN resolution in the Selection Committee did not in any way seek to alter the Governing Body's recommendations. In presenting the resolution, ASEAN was not asking that the sword of article 33 be turned into plough shears, only that the sword be placed in the scabbard while cooperation with Myanmar is being worked out. Should cooperation fail, then the sword remains available to the Conference.
This, we believe, is a more logical and reasonable approach than the proposal now to adopt measures to threaten Myanmar and to force cooperation. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the proposed ASEAN resolution, and another compromise formula submitted to the Selection Committee, were not given the hearing they deserve. ASEAN is thankful to the Chair for allowing the ASEAN resolution to be placed on record. History may be the better judge on the wisdom of the ASEAN resolution.
We believe that this Conference should open doors not close avenues. We continue to believe that the best approach is the cooperative approach, through the avenue opened by the ILO's technical cooperation mission. Accordingly, my delegation, on behalf of several other Government delegations, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Viet Nam, will present to this body a set of amendments to the resolution submitted to the Conference by the Selection Committee.
It is our hope that the Chair will allow us, at the appropriate time, to introduce the amendments that we believe will keep the possibility of cooperation alive and put the time and effort already spent on the technical cooperation mission to good use.
Ms. KUNADI (Government delegate, India) — India is strongly opposed to the practice of forced labour. Article 23 of the Indian Constitution prohibits forced labour and any contravention of this provision is an offence punishable in accordance with the law.
India is also fully committed to the ILO Constitution. We have been supportive of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its promotional follow-up. We believe that countries voluntarily adhering to the ILO Conventions should comply fully with them.
With regard to the matter before us today, we have always advocated dialogue and cooperation between the ILO and the Government of Myanmar. It was therefore a matter of satisfaction for us when there was a movement in the right direction, in the form of the recent visit of the ILO technical cooperation mission to Myanmar. The report of this mission indicates that the Government of Myanmar fully honoured its commitment to give the mission the necessary freedom of action to make contacts. The mission had meetings at the highest levels of the Government. According to the same report, the mission was assured that any forced labour practices would be dealt with and punished in accordance with the law. As indicated in the letter of 27 May from the Minister of Labour of Myanmar to the Director-General of the ILO, Myanmar also showed its openness to continued consultation and technical cooperation with a view to resolving the matter.
We are opposed to the punitive measures recommended by the Selection Committee as, in our view, the ILO's objectives and workers' rights can best be promoted through dialogue and technical cooperation, not through punitive measures or the threat of such measures. The desirability of such measures is all the more doubtful at a juncture when a process of dialogue has already been initiated through the visit of the technical cooperation mission. We also have grave doubts about the desirability and legislative authority of the recommended measures that seek to take the issue to other organizations outside the ILO.
We believe that the adoption of punitive measures would not serve to move things in the right direction and could indeed be counter-productive. India is of the view that further consideration of this matter should be deferred, so that the process of dialogue and cooperation, initiated through the visit of the ILO mission, may be carried forward to resolve outstanding problems and issues, and that nothing should be done to negate the trust resulting from the mission's visit. We are accordingly opposed to the resolution on the subject, transmitted to the Conference by the Selection Committee.
Mr. ZAINAL (Workers' delegate, Malaysia) — I stand today in this august house in support of the Workers' group's stand in respect of the very important issue which is being discussed.
During this session of the Conference, the first in the millennium, we are addressing issues concerning workers' interests and their livelihood as human beings, particularly in Myanmar. While going through the reply dated 27 May 2000 from the Myanmar Labour Minister to the Director-General, I noticed that the Myanmar Government does not appear to satisfy the recommendations of the ILO's Commission of Inquiry. The Government of Myanmar's answer is unclear.
The Commission of Inquiry clearly stated its finding that any action constituting forced labour in violation of Convention No. 29 should be rendered illegal under national law. The Commission further stated that the Government should ensure that all legislative provisions in force that permit the imposition of forced labour should be repealed or properly amended. So what is proposed here? The provisions of the Village Act and the Towns Act should be brought into line with the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and the penalties imposed under section 374 of the Penal Code should be strictly applied to all persons imposing forced labour. We have seen no assurance in this regard from the Myanmar Government so far.
Forced labour in Myanmar is not a new phenomenon; it has been in the system for many years now, with the Government making countless promises through the years that corrective and remedial action would be taken to bring national laws in line with the forced labour Convention. We have not seen any tangible evidence to date. As I said, the Myanmar Government is serious about the issue, despite its rejection of a recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry, as stated in the report. The Workers' group of the Governing Body has, for its part, made firm representations on several occasions under article 24 of the ILO Constitution, calling for concrete measures and pointing out the need to eliminate forced labour in Myanmar.
Every citizen has the right to freedom of association, worship, and the right to assembly without let or hindrance from the regulatory authorities.
The trade union movement has not been allowed to exercise its rights in Myanmar, and this is a departure from the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87). The ILO has given ample time to the Government of Myanmar since last year when we discussed this topic. Last year, in this august house, we deliberated, we decided, we voted and we gave the Myanmar Government a year to correct themselves, to make a change. Some countries are now calling for the Myanmar Government to be given still more time. If the Myanmar Government is serious about this problem, it can demonstrate that within one month, not one year; they can do it tomorrow if they want to. If the Myanmar Government, or any other government, asks for one more year, I do not think anything will change, even if it is given ten years, if it is not sincere. I do not think they can ratify or implement this Commission of Inquiry's findings.
The Government should understand that it is not the intention of the Commission of Inquiry to embarrass it. Its finding concentrate purely on the pressing need for the Government to bring national law into conformity with the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). The Government is responsible before each of its citizens, and it is its responsibility to ensure the people of Myanmar are not compelled to work against their will.
In the Director-General's Report entitled Your voice at work, which was tabled for discussion during the 87th Session of the International Labour Conference last year, it was clearly stated that the primary goal of the ILO today is to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. We need to ensure that this primary goal is achieved, as we have already entered the new millennium.
Mr. THAN (Government delegate, Myanmar) — This august assembly is about to take action regarding the resolution on the situation in Myanmar, contained in the appendix to Provisional Record No. 6-4. The question before us is one of great importance and extreme gravity. This is a time for soul searching. We must search our hearts and minds and think deep within our hearts. We must weigh more carefully whether the path of confrontation and coercion recommended in the resolution is, I quote, “wise and expedient”. Or, whether the path of dialogue and cooperation is better, and more likely to produce fair results desired by us all. Let us not talk about the past. Let us talk about the present. More importantly, let us talk about the future.
Myanmar has indicated that it is ready, and willing, to cooperate with the ILO. The report of the technical cooperation mission makes it absolutely clear that Myanmar has indeed cooperated, and is willing to carry forward the process of dialogue and cooperation. To cast doubts on Myanmar's intentions and to insist on extreme measures will not serve the cause of the workers. Instead of imposing sanctions, a more reasonable course, in the view of most delegations, is the corporate approach proposed by the ASEAN member States, which is to continue the ongoing process of dialogue and cooperation, and to review progress at the November session of the Governing Body.
Never in the history of the ILO has article 33 been invoked to impose sanctions on a member State. This should never occur. Much less, if the member State concerned has voluntarily cooperated with the ILO, and if it has been already subjected to sanctions under the resolution of the 87th Session of the International Labour Conference. The sanctions contemplated under article 33 are contrary to the spirit of the ILO Constitution. As stated in the Selection Committee on 9th June last, the application of sanctions will be tantamount to the ILO assuming the powers of the United Nations Security Council. More importantly, it would set a dangerous precedent. Any developing country may fall victim to this mechanism. The resolution contained in the appendix to Provisional Record No. 6-4 as it now stands, is excessive and extreme. It is, therefore, totally unacceptable to my delegation. It is a dangerous resolution. Its provisions, particularly operative paragraphs 1(b), 1(c) and 1(d), recommend sweeping and unwarranted drastic measures. The resolution would certainly have far-reaching legal implications. Particularly, the legal basis and the permissibility of measures recommended in operative paragraph 1(c), are highly questionable, to say the least. The moral and political implications of the resolution are also disturbing. It is hoped that the Conference will choose the path of dialogue and cooperation, rather than the path of confrontation and coercion. The former path will certainly enhance the image of the ILO, and will further advance the cause of workers. It is also hoped that reason, sense of justice and fairness, and spirit of cooperation shall prevail eventually.
Ms. GERVAIS-VIDRICAIRE (Government adviser, Canada) — Canada remains gravely concerned about the situation in Burma and the grave violations of human rights in that country. We are satisfied that the ILO's technical cooperation mission was able to visit Burma a few weeks ago, and I have read the conclusions of the mission with great interest.
While pleased with the spirit of the Minister of Labour's letter of 27 May 2000, we are disappointed that, despite repeated calls from the ILO and its Members, the Government of Burma has not yet taken yet any concrete or tangible steps to implement the recommendations of the 1996 Commission of Inquiry about bringing an end to forced labour in that country.
Article 33 was included in the ILO Constitution to deal with countries that fail to comply with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, within the time specified in those recommendations. Canada believes that the lack of concrete response so far by the Burmese authorities and the seriousness of the situation with regard to the continued existence of forced labour in Burma fully justify the invoking of this article. At the same time, in a spirit of compromise, we are prepared to give some more time to Burma before the measures provided for under article 33 take effect. We sincerely hope that Burma will use the coming months to take concrete steps to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and demonstrate that its words can, indeed, be matched by the actions required. Canada will, therefore, support the resolution put before us, and is grateful for the efforts of the Chairperson of the Selection Committee in preparing this text.
Mr. FARRELL (Government adviser and substitute delegate, New Zealand) — I would like to take this opportunity to outline briefly the New Zealand view on the report of the Selection Committee. It is evident to us that there has been little serious effort by the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with the ILO and comply with the Commission of Inquiry's recommendations. Considering the seriousness of the Commission of Inquiry's findings, it is appropriate that this matter be given due and prompt consideration and that action be taken by the ILO. We support the recommendation of the technical cooperation mission to the effect that Myanmar needs to develop a comprehensive framework of legislative, executive and administrative measures to halt all practices of forced labour. Consistent with our approach during the March session of the Governing Body, we support the resolution before us, approving in principle the measures recommended by the Governing Body under article 33. But we agree that Myanmar should be given until 30 November to undertake sufficient and concrete measures to demonstrate that the Commission of Inquiry's recommendations have been fulfilled. This gives Myanmar an opportunity, which we trust it will take up, to translate into practical action the intentions expressed by the Minister of Labour of Myanmar in his letter dated 27 May to the Director-General of the ILO.
Mr. SAMET (Government delegate, United States) — We are here to consider a most serious matter, that is, whether we will stand with the people of Burma who are suffering greatly or whether we will turn away. The proposal before the Conference is that drafted by the able Chairperson of the Selection Committee, Minister Alfaro Mijangos of Guatemala. It is, as has been said, a compromise. It gives the Burmese regime five more months to bring about full compliance with its obligation to stop subjecting the Burmese people to forced labour.
Frankly, my Government saw no reason to delay our action for even one more day, let alone five months, but we have accepted to move forward on the basis of the consensus proposal now before the Conference.
The arguments presented against the proposal are essentially that it is too harsh or too hasty. For our part, we think the proposal is neither. If we want to consider what is harsh, what is extreme, let us remind ourselves of what the report of our Commission of Inquiry tells us, and let us also remind ourselves that our Commissioners are persons who work with the greatest care and deliberation. They are the former Chief Justice of India, the former Chief Justice of Barbados, and a distinguished jurist and public official from Australia. And here is what they concluded: “All the information and evidence before the Commission shows utter disregard by the authorities for the safety and health as well as the basic needs of the people performing forced or compulsory labour. Porters, including women, are often sent ahead in particularly dangerous situations as in suspected minefields, and many are killed or injured this way … Forced labourers, including those sick or injured, are frequently beaten or otherwise physically abused by soldiers, resulting in serious injuries; some are killed, and women performing compulsory labour are raped or otherwise sexually abused by soldiers.” Harsh, indeed, Mr. President.
Or let us consider the argument that we are being hasty. On the contrary, the action before this Conference comes after a very, very long time, and after the repeated rejection by the Burmese regime of the validity of this Organization's concerns expressed over literally decades to the Committee of Experts, the Committee on the Application of Standards and the Committee on Freedom of Association. A rejection repeated as recently as last Friday, when the Burmese representative again denounced the proposal presented by Chairperson Alfaro Mijangos, and denounced the Selection Committee for approving it. We are here today two years after the report of the Commission of Inquiry which recommended that forced labour in Burma be immediately stopped. We are here after two subsequent Reports by the Director-General, one in May 1999, and one in February of this year, that forced labour has not been stopped. We are here a year after the emergency resolution passed by last year's Conference, and we are here because the Governing Body in March determined, after the most thorough consideration, to recommend action under article 33 of the Constitution.
Again let us recall what the Commission of Inquiry said and consider whether they would accuse us of haste, and I quote again: “This report reveals a saga of untold misery and suffering, oppression and exploitation of large sections of the population inhabiting Myanmar by the Government, military and other public officers. It is a story of gross denial of human rights to which the people of Myanmar have been subjected particularly since 1988 and from which they find no escape except fleeing from the country. The Government, the military and the administration seem oblivious to the human rights of the people and are trampling upon them with impunity. Their actions gravely offend human dignity.”
No, we have not acted hastily. Perhaps the record will show we have acted, if anything, too slowly.
Let us also consider the arguments that we are being unreasonable, unfair or punitive, and that dialogue is far more likely to yield results.
We would submit that it is the Burmese regime which has been unreasonable, unresponsive, punitive and, indeed, contemptuous not only of the needs of their own people but also of every effort made by this Organization over more than a decade to ask them, plead with them and, finally, to demand that they simply stop using forced labour.
As for the alleged new-found interest in dialogue, unfortunately we think the record hardly shows the change of attitude that some suggest.
The report of the technical team before the Conference shows only that all four senior Burmese officials denied the existence of forced labour in Burma — denied it. They only seem to disagree as to whether there ever might have been forced labour in Burma. And anyone who sat through the Selection Committee debate could quite easily hear that there is no dialogue, only more denial.
Finally, as to those who would say that our action will not be effective in stopping forced labour in Burma, they might well be correct, although they are surely wrong that we will get better results from doing less. And it most clearly remains the fact that the ability to stop forced labour is with the Burmese military, where it has always been.
The question before us is what is our moral or political and our legal responsibility, given the human rights crisis reported to us by the Commission of Inquiry? We must be as clear and as steady as our Commissioners. We must uphold their work. We must uphold their courage. We must uphold the Constitution of this Organization. We must uphold our basic obligations to each other. To do any less, to look away, to avert our gaze would be to break faith with all that we are and hope to be. We dare not. Now is the moment to stand with the Burmese people and not with those who oppress them.
I pray and I trust that we will do what we know to be just for the Burmese people, and that we will approve this resolution.
Original Spanish: Mr. RAMIREZ LEON (Workers' delegate, Venezuela) — The draft report and the draft resolution placed before us in this plenary by the Selection Committee is the product of a calm analysis of rational discussions, and this is clear from the speeches of Mr. Thüsing (Employers' delegate at the Conference) and Brother Bill Brett (Workers' delegate at the Conference).
In the report we have, in summary, ideas which have been expressed by different Governments on the subject regarding the need to approve this resolution. This would not be a punishment for the Burmese people. It is not a condemnation of the country. On the contrary, it is in favour of a people that is being subjugated, sacrificed to the worst and most horrifying of practices that strike at the very essence of humanity. We cannot be indolent and unmoved in the light of these facts.
The International Labour Organization has paid close attention to this issue. Last year's Conference, the Governing Body, the Committee on Freedom of Association: in all these forums the authorities made a number of promises to correct this aberration of forced labour, as if we were still in the Middle Ages. We cannot go on tolerating the scene of people, men and women and children, trampled underfoot. They are forced to work and give their labour in a way that is counter to their dignity.
Thus, the Workers, conscious of their responsibility, unreservedly support the conclusions in the draft report and in the resolutions submitted by the Selection Committee.
However, this resolution has achieved neither a greater nor a better balance because it envisages providing continued assistance to the authorities so that they can correct the errors and the practice of forced labour and it still requires the ILO to provide full cooperation, and, in spite of everything, a new deadline of the meeting of the Governing Body in November has been proposed when article 33 of the ILO Constitution will be invoked.
The international community, which has considered this issue in depth, cannot continue to accept this situation. In November the ILO, for its own credibility, must adopt a position with a view to establishing measures that could put an end to the practices of forced labour in Burma.
Mr. SKOGMO (Government adviser and substitute delegate, Norway) — Norway is gravely concerned by the persistent violations of human rights in Burma. We deeply deplore the fact that, despite repeated calls from the ILO and the international community, the Burmese authorities have continued to inflict the practice of forced labour on their people.
Norway welcomes the report of the ILO technical cooperation mission, which took place in Yangon from 23 to 27 May this year, and the letter dated 27 May 2000 from the Minister of Labour to the Director-General. However, we are deeply worried that the Burmese authorities have not yet taken any concrete action to comply with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.
Norway urges the Burmese authorities to enter into a constructive dialogue with the ILO in order to ensure immediate and full compliance with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.
Norway considers that, unless the Burmese authorities promptly take steps to adopt the necessary framework for implementing the Commission of Inquiry's recommendations, specific measures should be implemented in accordance with article 33 of the Constitution of the ILO.
The Norwegian Government therefore supports the resolution submitted to the Conference by the Selection Committee.
Ms. JANJUA (Government delegate, Pakistan) —Pakistan has ratified the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and we are opposed to all forms of forced labour.
Forced labour in Myanmar has been an issue of concern in the ILO, following the submission of the report of the Commission of Inquiry.
We note, however, that Myanmar has shown a willingness to cooperate with the international community to address the problem of forced labour.
Pakistan, therefore, is opposed to the resolution forwarded by the Selection Committee for consideration by the Conference. Our position is based on two points of principle.
First, we oppose a sanction-based approach. Therefore, we believe that measures should not be adopted under article 33 of the Constitution. Invoking sanctions under article 33 is an extreme provision, and has never been resorted to in the history of the Organization.
Today, adopting measures under this article would send an extremely negative signal to member States of the Organization that are willing to cooperate and work with the ILO to implement international labour standards.
Secondly, Myanmar has recently welcomed the technical cooperation mission and has expressed its clear willingness to work with the ILO to eliminate forced labour.
The technical cooperation mission was given complete freedom of action by the authorities in Myanmar. The situation, therefore, has changed since the adoption of the recommendation to the Conference by the Governing Body. This should be taken into account by the Conference.
Myanmar invited the technical cooperation mission which has presented a rather balanced report. It is clear from the report that the Government of Myanmar has shown its commitment to work with the ILO in dealing with the problem of forced labour.
We believe that adopting the resolution before the Conference today may not help to deal with the problem. It could hardly help the Government of Myanmar to work towards dealing with the issues identified in the report of the Commission of Inquiry.
We strongly support the path of cooperation and dialogue between the ILO and the Government of Myanmar. The process of cooperation and dialogue, which commenced with the technical mission, must move forward.
We, therefore, disagree with the content of the resolutions sent by the Selection Committee to the Conference, and strongly recommend that we should work for cooperative action instead of adopting a confrontational approach.
Those who are proposing action on the resolution proposed by the Selection Committee, must realize that such confrontation will only create fissures in the Organization, and can hardly serve the purpose of promoting ILO standards.
The adoption of harsh measures is not advisable by any Organization, especially the ILO, which is based on tripartite cooperation.
The promotion of labour standards to a sanction-based approach has been consistently opposed by developing countries. This is a fact.
There is an obvious need for greater dialogue and cooperation within this Organization, instead of resorting to punitive action by adopting the proposal before us today.
Finally, we do not believe that the resolution forwarded by the Selection Committee provides the middle ground, or a compromise. We stated clearly in the Selection Committee that the extreme poles were between those who wanted punitive measures under article 33 and those who, like us, wanted the Conference to take cognizance of the commitment made by the Government of Myanmar by inviting the technical cooperation team. We are of the view that this invitation could help in resolving the issues.
The resolution drafted by the Selection Committee ensures the implementation of punitive measures against a developing country.
Original Chinese: Mr. LI (Government adviser and substitute delegate, China) — The Chinese Government has consistently been of the opinion that technical cooperation and dialogue are the means with which to promote the effective application of international labour standards by the member States, whereas any form of sanction and punishment is not conducive to the general resolution and solution of such problems.
We have noted that there has been very positive progress in terms of technical cooperation in the field of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), between the ILO and the Government of Myanmar. Yet the Selection Committee still insists on the application of article 33 of the Constitution, and has carried out extreme measures against Myanmar.
This has now occurred for the first time in the ILO's history. It has created a very dangerous precedent. Therefore, the Chinese Government opposes the application of article 33 of the Constitution.
We hope that the ILO and the Myanmar Government establish a dialogue in the field of the application of Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and will be able to achieve better results.
Original Spanish: Ms. HERNÁNDEZ OLIVA (Government and substitute delegate, Cuba) — The purpose of my statement is not so much to deal with the substance of this issue, as we do not have sufficient knowledge for an objective view of the situation in Myanmar. For my delegation, the crux of the matter is to demonstrate that the application of an ILO Convention is a matter which should be dealt with by this Organization. The refusal of most Members to apply a sanction for non-observance of a Convention has been repeated on many occasions.
It has also been repeated that it is for the ILO to deal with labour standards within the framework of its own procedures. Therefore, transferring these responsibilities, or establishing links with other international bodies for this purpose is not in keeping with the ILO's mandate. The most effective way of achieving the objectives of improving the situation in Myanmar would be through cooperation and dialogue. We feel that these means have not been exhausted yet. The decisions which have been proposed should be put off.
My delegation calls upon the Members to think about the danger involved in applying article 33 of the Constitution. That would establish a precedent for the use of coercive methods and mechanisms which are not part of the ILO's procedures.
Mr. AHMAD (Workers' delegate, Pakistan) — I intervene at this late hour because the workers of Pakistan belong to the part of Asia to which Myanmar also belongs, and we participated in the deliberations of the Governing Body and of the Selection Committee.
I would like to remind the distinguished delegates that this Organization was founded in 1919 on the principles of promoting social justice, freedom, and dignity for working men and women.
We are entering the twenty-first century. The question is whether slavery is compatible with freedom, whether that indignity is compatible at all with human dignity. These are among the fundamental questions with which we are confronted in this great Organization and which have led to the complaint against the Government of Myanmar.
The Commission of Inquiry in its report gave very concrete indications that a state of slavery exists in Myanmar, that workers there are victims of exploitation, and that the practice must be abolished.
Under these circumstances, the ILO and the Workers' group have appealed to the Government of Myanmar to accept dialogue and technical cooperation in order to eradicate these evils. Unfortunately, for the last three years the authorities have not heeded those calls. The ILO Governing Body passed a resolution calling for specific measures, and the Government of Myanmar agreed to admit a technical cooperation mission which visited the country. During the course of the discussions in the Selection Committee, we in the Workers' group, led by Mr. Brett, felt that we should give an opportunity to the Government of Myanmar to take advantage of the technical cooperation, instead of adopting a resolution. This has been deferred. There is thus no victimization or any sort of sanction, or any intimidation of developing countries.
We all believe in the dignity of human beings and in the promotion of freedom, which are the basic rights of workers all over the world. The ILO has been declared the conscience of the world. That is why it was awarded a Nobel Prize on its 75th anniversary.
Now, I listened with great interest to the intervention of the distinguished Government spokesperson. We have also filed a complaint against the previous Government of Pakistan which violated certain basic workers' rights. The Governing Body passed a resolution on the matter, and we are very happy that, thanks to our own efforts and the intervention of the Director-General, the Government has resolved that particular issue. We welcome this.
Therefore, the developing countries need not worry if they are ready to abide by their obligations which they have undertaken under the Constitution and the ILO Conventions which they have ratified.
The Government of Myanmar is entitled to avail itself of the opportunity during the course of five months to eradicate slavery and forced labour. Such are the conclusions which have been made by this independent body and we therefore call upon all delegates to support this report as their commitment to freedom, to social justice, to the dignity of working men and women all over the world. Our delegation fully supports the adoption of this report.
Original Arabic: Mr. HAIDOUB (Government delegate, Sudan) — I would like to inform you of my country's position with regard to Myanmar and to remind you of our position as stated in the Governing Body and during discussions in the Selection Committee.
We encourage discussion and dialogue with the Government of Myanmar in order to find the best solution. Such solutions have yielded positive results in other situations, as the visit by the technical cooperation mission to Myanmar in May proves.
In addition, any sanctions which would be imposed by virtue of this resolution would not be helpful, but would adversely affect not only the Government but also the people of Myanmar.
This resolution first mentions sanctions, but then goes on to suggest that the question could be referred to another body, even one outside the ILO. We do not know exactly how the matter will be dealt with, but we have always said that the ILO has a mandate to study questions relating to violations in the world of work.
We have read the letter dated 27 May 2000 from the Minister of Labour of Myanmar addressed to the Director-General. We believe that it shows that the Myanmar Government is acting in good faith. It is for this reason that we encourage dialogue. We think it is very difficult to accept the draft resolution as it stands.
Mr. FUTRAKUL (Government delegate, Thailand) — The Thai Government is of the view that, as a matter of principle, cooperation should not be rewarded with threats or punishment. In this connection, the Government of the Union of Myanmar has fully cooperated with the ILO by inviting a technical mission to Myanmar, to engage in dialogue with the highest level of the Myanmar Government. Furthermore, the Government of the Union of Myanmar has declared its willingness to work closely with the ILO to implement the recommendations of the ILO technical mission, by producing a comprehensive framework to ensure that all relevant laws and regulations fully comply with the ILO's Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).
Given such commitment by the Government of the Union of Myanmar to cooperate with the ILO to resolve this issue, the Thai Government believes that every effort should be made by all parties concerned to foster such cooperation. However, this resolution, as it stands, with its punitive measures, will be counter-productive to such cooperation. It will adversely effect the atmosphere, dialogue and cooperation between the ILO and the Government of the Union of Myanmar.
Who among us would give wholehearted and voluntary cooperation with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads? The Thai Government is of the conviction that the ILO should try its utmost to foster the voluntary cooperation of all its member States. This positive course of action will enhance the stature and effectiveness of the ILO.
The Thai Government, therefore, expresses its sincere hope that this august Conference will encourage further cooperation between the ILO and the Government of the Union of Myanmar in order to fully implement, as soon as possible, the recommendations of the ILO technical mission. This should be carried out in an atmosphere that is conducive to such cooperation — an atmosphere that is free from any threats or punitive measures.
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — If there are no more speakers, can I assume that the fourth report of the Selection Committee, paragraphs 1 to 98, is approved?
(The report — paragraphs 1 to 98 — is adopted.)
I would now like to submit for your adoption the draft resolution which is contained in the appendix to the report. Before I open the discussion on the draft resolution, I would like to inform you that Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Viet Nam have tabled various amendments which I believe have been distributed. There are two ways of our dealing with these amendments: either we can take them together in their entirety, and I would ask those who tabled the amendments if they would agree to proceeding in that fashion, or we can take the amendments one by one.
Mr. DATO'ZAINOL ABIDIN (Government delegate, Malaysia) — We are submitting this draft amendment for the consideration of this Conference.
Mr. BRETT (Workers' delegate, United Kingdom; Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Selection Committee) — The Minister that represents the Government of Malaysia said that he has submitted this amendment in the singular, and I think we understand why, because technically they have to be separate amendments. But of course these amendments take us on a journey to the previous text put forward by the ASEAN Governments, which was discussed in the Selection Committee and is reported, but is not, of course, the subject before us.
The Workers' group would think it would be a wise decision if the Chairperson were to suggest and the Malaysian Government to accept that we simply take the text of amendments set on this sheet as a single amendment. This means that if there has to be a vote, we vote once, and all those amendments that are carried are incorporated in the text of the resolution; if they are defeated, they are all defeated. It seems an expeditious way of dealing with this matter. We would thus complete this work by 6 p.m., in the time allotted to it.
Mr. LEPATAN (Government delegate, Philippines) — In fact it was the intention of our group to ask that this set of amendment be considered as a package and therefore we will ask for a vote on these amendments as a package.
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — We shall now proceed to take a vote on the amendments to the resolution tabled by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Viet Nam. If the vote is “yes”, then the amendments will be approved as a package. If the vote is “no” then the amendments will be rejected as a package.
(A vote is taken.)
The result of the vote on the amendments is as follows: 52 votes in favour, 242 against, with 27 abstentions. Since the quorum is 271 and the required majority is 148, the amendments have been rejected.
(The amendments are rejected.)
We shall now vote on the resolution as it was originally submitted to us by the Selection Committee.
I have a request from the floor from Lord Brett.
Mr. BRETT (Workers' delegate, United Kingdom; Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Selection Committee) — Under article 19.6 of the Standing Orders, I call for a record vote.
Record vote on the resolution concerning the measures recommended by the Governing Body under article 33 of the Constitution with respect to Myanmar
Original Spanish: The PRESIDENT — As Lord Brett has requested a record vote on the resolution, we shall proceed to a record vote.
(A record vote is taken.) Result of the vote
[The detailed results of the vote will be found at the end of this Provisional Record.]
The result of the vote on the adoption of the resolution as presented by the Selection Committee is as follows: 257 votes in favour, 41 against, with 31 abstentions. Since the quorum is 271 and the required majority is 150, the resolution, as submitted by the Committee, is adopted.
(The resolution is adopted.)
I would like to congratulate the Officers of the Committee and also the secretariat on the excellent work they have done.
Mr. ANN (Government adviser, Singapore) — The Government delegation of Singapore would like to present an explanation of the vote as follows.
We know that Myanmar has taken the initiative to invite a technical cooperation mission to assist it in complying with Convention No. 29.
An ILO mission visited Myanmar in May 2000. The mission reported on Myanmar's willingness to seek further cooperation with the ILO.
We also understand that Myanmar has conveyed to the ILO's Director-General an assurance to consider administrative, executive and legislative measures to prevent instances of forced labour.
Since Myanmar has made a positive step regarding compliance with Convention No. 29, it should be encouraged and allowed the time and opportunity to pursue further cooperation with the ILO in this regard. To do otherwise would be counter-productive to the implementation of a comprehensive framework of measures in Myanmar to comply with Convention No. 29.
Moreover, the invocation of article 33 is a very serious and unprecedented measure. It should only be used when all avenues of cooperation and dialogue have been exhausted.
For the above reason, the Singapore Government delegation has reservations over the underlying approach in the resolution and therefore has decided to vote against the resolution.
Mr. THAN (Government delegate, Myanmar) — Today is indeed a sad day for the ILO and a sadder day for the developing countries that are member States of the ILO. Today Myanmar is singled out for censure and punitive action. Tomorrow it may be another developing country. As all of us are aware, judgements of observance or non-observance of labour standards are more often than not subjective, arbitrary and in some instances even politically motivated.
In the case of Myanmar the problem arose from an arbitrary judgement based on misinformation. This misinformation emanates from elements opposed to the Myanmar Government — insurgent groups and self-proclaimed workers' organizations which are more politically motivated than dedicated to promoting the interests of workers. It is obvious that a fair and balanced perception cannot be obtained if the judgement is to be based on such misinformation.
Notwithstanding the more prudent approach advocated by many of its member States, the International Labour Conference has chosen a path of confrontation and coercion by invoking article 33.
The ASEAN member States, together with like-minded countries, have expressed reservations against the action taken by the International Labour Conference.
Myanmar appreciates the principal stand taken by those countries that article 33 of the ILO Constitution should never be invoked and that sanctions should never be imposed on Myanmar. It is most regrettable that a drastic decision, contrary to what many Members believe in and uphold, was taken by the International Labour Conference. It is obvious that this unwarranted and unjustified action by the International Labour Conference is aimed at exerting pressure on Myanmar. The positive steps taken by the Myanmar Government have been completely ignored.
The decision just taken by the Conference will no doubt place the credibility, integrity and the reputation of the ILO in question. It penalizes a member State which has been voluntarily cooperating with the ILO and which has already been subjected to other punitive measures.
This action by the Conference is most unfair, most unreasonable and most unjust. This resolution is totally unacceptable to my delegation. For these reasons, my delegation totally and categorically rejects the resolution and dissociates itself from it and any activities or effects connected with it.
Nevertheless, I should like to express our hope that the avenue of cooperation has not been completely closed. We have indicated our willingness to cooperate in good faith on our part on the basis of the letter of the Minister of Labour, dated 27 May 2000, provided that the other side reciprocates this spirit and refrains from taking coercive measures.
Mr. HARAGUCHI (Government delegate, Japan) — Thank you for recognizing me all the way up here on the second floor. The ILO has a history of valiant efforts and outstanding achievements towards the improvement of conditions and standards of work throughout the world, and many of us present here have directly or indirectly benefited from those efforts. The issue before us now is a situation of forced labour in Myanmar. A resolution has been adopted threatening to gradually drive that country into isolation, while aiming at the elimination of forced labour in that country. The Government of Japan voted against this resolution. We did so not because we think the problem of forced labour does not exist in Myanmar. On the contrary, it is exactly because we recognize the graveness of the problem and because we concluded that the best way to redress the situation would be to strongly encourage the present administration of Myanmar to ensure that there should be no forced labour in that country through a process of dialogue and assistance on the spot, rather than through drastic punitive measures. After a process of five years, Myanmar has finally begun to show its willingness to cooperate with the ILO. This was brought about by the efforts of the Members, as well as the Office, and we should well appreciate and take into account the significance of these changes.
The Government of Japan frankly was not happy with the resolution, but now that it has been adopted we wish to read optimism in its language.
Let us hope, and call upon the Government of Myanmar to maintain its dialogue and working relationships with the ILO. In this context, I would particularly like to draw the attention of our colleagues from Myanmar to the fact that, in recognition of its positive response to the mission sent by the ILO, the deadline is set, not for today, but for the end of November, that is to say, a new window of opportunity has been opened for Myanmar. This window of opportunity has been opened because of the perception, not only on the part of Government delegates, but also of the Workers and the Employers, that however subtle the change in Myanmar's stance may be, it is worth taking it seriously. Had the Government of Myanmar not accepted the technical mission, this extension would not have been offered: Myanmar has earned it.
I would strongly urge the Office to assist the Government of Myanmar, by the means mandated to it, including the dispatch of more technical cooperation missions, in order to support and facilitate the process of transition in Myanmar towards the elimination of forced labour. I sincerely advise the Government of Myanmar not to take such offence from this resolution as to cast away the positive elements contained in it, but rather to make the most of them and take the necessary steps before November, along the lines already clearly expressed in the letter from the Labour Minister, thereby proving its seriousness and sincerity in its commitment. In so doing, by honouring its promise, Myanmar will be able to gain renewed standing and recognition in the ILO and the international community as a whole. In this regard, the Japanese Government will stand ready to facilitate further dialogue between Myanmar and the ILO, by providing good offices and any assistance that may be called for, for the sake of resolving the issue.
Mr. BRETT (Workers' delegate, United Kingdom; Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Selection Committee) — I applaud the wise words of the Japanese Ambassador he delivers a wise and timely message. I endorse everything he has said except his optimism, because I did not hear anything in the response from the Government of Myanmar to justify it.
We came to the rostrum today seeking a consensus. We asked for a recognition that more time was now available. Instead, what we got — as we had before in the Selection Committee on Friday — was a prepared text. It is actually written in “Word Perfect”, which is a very speedy way of communicating, but even the Ambassador of Myanmar could hardly have written it after our decision had been taken. What we have yet again is a prepared text which rejects the findings of the Commission of Inquiry. We cannot let such a thing pass without comment. The Minister of Labour, in his comments on the Director-General's Report in Provisional Record No. 18, spoke in much the same terms as those used today by the Ambassador of Myanmar. He talked of bogus workers' organizations and politically oriented organizations. We are afraid that the Government of Myanmar is an expert on what bogus workers' organizations are. We were prepared to overlook that insult, but not to be insulted again.
I fear that the wise words of the Japanese Ambassador will be ignored by the Government of Myanmar at its peril. The Governing Body will not hesitate in November to enact all parts of this resolution, but it will also refrain from enacting any part of it, if that is appropriate. This will depend entirely on the Government of Myanmar.
Original German: Mr. THÜSING (Employers' delegate, Germany; Chairperson of the Employers' group) —I would also like to thank the Japanese Ambassador for his contribution. Now that we have arrived at the end of this debate, the employers do not agree completely with the unions, they do not agree with Lord Brett's position. I would say that the most important thing here is trust. Trust has been abused, but I am sure that with common sense on the part of everybody we can move ahead; I am sure that, with the support of other countries in the region, the Government of Myanmar will enter into the necessary cooperation with the ILO. If I have made a mistake, I am sorry, I am sure we will move on.
The International Labour Conference,
Meeting at its 88th Session in Geneva from 30 May to 15 June 2000,
Considering the proposals by the Governing Body which are before it, under the eighth item of its agenda (Provisional Record No. 4), with a view to the adoption, under article 33 of the ILO Constitution, of action to secure compliance with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry established to examine the observance by Myanmar of its obligations in respect of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29),
Having taken note of the additional information contained in the report of the ILO technical cooperation mission sent to Yangon from 23 to 27 May 2000 (Provisional Record No. 8) and, in particular, of the letter dated 27 May 2000 from the Minister of Labour to the Director-General, which resulted from the mission,
Considering that, while this letter contains aspects which seem to reflect a welcome intention on the part of the Myanmar authorities to take measures to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, the factual situation on which the recommendations of the Governing Body were based has nevertheless remained unchanged to date,
Believing that the Conference cannot, without failing in its responsibilities to the workers subjected to various forms of forced or compulsory labour, abstain from the immediate application of the measures recommended by the Governing Body unless the Myanmar authorities promptly take concrete action to adopt the necessary framework for implementing the Commission of Inquiry's recommendations, thereby ensuring that the situation of the said workers will be remedied more expeditiously and under more satisfactory conditions for all concerned;
1. Approves in principle, subject to the conditions stated in paragraph 2 below, the actions recommended by the Governing Body, namely:
(a) to decide that the question of the implementation of the Commission of Inquiry's recommendations and of the application of Convention No. 29 by Myanmar should be discussed at future sessions of the International Labour Conference, at a sitting of the Committee on the Application of Standards specially set aside for the purpose, so long as this Member has not been shown to have fulfilled its obligations;
(b) to recommend to the Organization's constituents as a whole – governments, employers and workers – that they: (i) review, in the light of the conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry, the relations that they may have with the member State concerned and take appropriate measures to ensure that the said Member cannot take advantage of such relations to perpetuate or extend the system of forced or compulsory labour referred to by the Commission of Inquiry, and to contribute as far as possible to the implementation of its recommendations; and (ii) report back in due course and at appropriate intervals to the Governing Body;
(c) as regards international organizations, to invite the Director-General: (i) to inform the international organizations referred to in article 12, paragraph 1, of the Constitution of the Member's failure to comply; (ii) to call on the relevant bodies of these organizations to reconsider, within their terms of reference and in the light of the conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry, any cooperation they may be engaged in with the Member concerned and, if appropriate, to cease as soon as possible any activity that could have the effect of directly or indirectly abetting the practice of forced or compulsory labour;
(d) regarding the United Nations specifically, to invite the Director-General to request the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to place an item on the agenda of its July 2001 session concerning the failure of Myanmar to implement the recommendations contained in the report of the Commission of Inquiry and seeking the adoption of recommendations directed by ECOSOC or by the General Assembly, or by both, to governments and to other specialized agencies and including requests similar to those proposed in paragraphs (b) and (c) above;
(e) to invite the Director-General to submit to the Governing Body, in the appropriate manner and at suitable intervals, a periodic report on the outcome of the measures set out in paragraphs (c) and (d) above, and to inform the international organizations concerned of any developments in the implementation by Myanmar of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry;
2. Decides that those measures will take effect on 30 November 2000 unless, before that date, the Governing Body is satisfied that the intentions expressed by the Minister of Labour of Myanmar in his letter dated 27 May have been translated into a framework of legislative, executive and administrative measures that are sufficiently concrete and detailed to demonstrate that the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry have been fulfilled and therefore render the implementation of one or more of these measures inappropriate;
3. Authorizes the Director-General to respond positively to all requests by Myanmar that are made with the sole purpose of establishing, before the above deadline, the framework mentioned in the conclusions of the ILO technical cooperation mission (points (i), (ii) and (iii), page 8/11 of Provisional Record No. 8), supported by a sustained ILO presence on the spot if the Governing Body confirms that the conditions are met for such presence to be truly useful and effective.
Updated by HK. Approved by RH. Last update: 15 June 2000.