GENEVA (ILO News) - The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) opened its 280 th session today and was to consider an innovative, zero, real-growth programme and budget for the years 2002-2003 that is designed to further enhance the Organization's ability to create jobs, promote basic rights at work, and foster social protection and social dialogue.
In addition, the Governing Body agenda also included consideration of annual reports under the Follow-up to the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work as well as discussions on such issues as forced labour in Myanmar, workers' rights in Colombia, and the impact of globalization, HIV/AIDS and poverty.
The Governing Body is to meet through 30 March.
Programme and Budget
The Governing Body will examine a zero, real-growth programme and budget proposal of US$ 474,529,465 for the 2002-03 biennium which Director-General Juan Somavia said was "designed to achieve three goals: improved performance accountability, greater transparency and greater coherence" while addressing the problems of globalization, unemployment, development and poverty.
"Our mandate, our issues, the questions that the ILO cares for are in the heart of politics and in the heart of family life," Mr. Somavia said in his introductory statement. "We are connected with the reality of people's lives as few other international organizations are. But what is clear is that there is an extraordinary disproportion between the extent of our mandate and the limitations of our resources. This is one of the main reasons for the need to be strategic."
The spending plan continues reforms instituted in the 2000-2001 budget by Mr. Somavia when he became Director-General in 1999 and that set in motion a number of innovations in the ILO's operational objectives, indicators and targets for measuring the Organization's performance, while adding such new mainstream objectives as Decent Work, development and poverty reduction.
The new budget also contains proposals that are new or that expand existing work of the highest priority, including the creation of "Decent Work Teams" which will be responsible for improving collaboration on the implementation of the ILO's Decent Work agenda, both at the headquarters and regional level, increasing the number of regionally-based ILO specialists working in the global campaign against child labour, especially in its worst forms, the implementation of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work * adopted in 1998 and provisions for expanding the ILO's efforts against HIV/AIDS.
The debate is to conclude with a proposed resolution for adoption of the Programme and Budget for submission to the annual International Labour Conference to be held in June.
Follow-up to the ILO Declaration
The Governing Body will also review the annual reports required under the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work on the basis of an introduction, which has been prepared by a group of Experts-Advisers. The reports provide an annual review of the situation in countries that have not ratified one or more of the ILO's core Conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining, forced labour, child labour and discrimination in employment and occupation.
The Governing Body will consider recommendations made by the Expert Advisers, including:
- Initiating dialogue with the 18 governments that have not yet provided any reports owed under the Declaration follow-up (Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uzbekistan);
- Request further information from the Governments of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in relation to efforts made to promote the principle of freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; and,
- Request further information from the Government of China in relation to efforts made to promote the principle of the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour.
The Expert-Advisers mention Nepal as an example of a country where significant progress in the elimination of bonded labour has taken place. They also express concern about continuing forced labour in several places around the world, including the contracting of prisoner's labour to private companies. On the positive side, the Expert-Advisers note that countries are increasingly acknowledging problems of child labour. However, in their view governments and workers' and employers' organizations have produced little information on racial discrimination around the world.
Myanmar, Colombia, Occupied Territories
The Governing Body is also to receive a report on action taken by national governments, employers' and workers' organizations and international organizations to review their relations with Myanmar and to take appropriate measures to ensure that such relations do not perpetuate or extend the system of forced labour in that country.
The report is being submitted under measures adopted at the last meeting of the Governing Body in November 2000 aimed at having the Government of Myanmar (Burma) meet its obligations to eliminate forced labour in the country. At that meeting, the Governing Body effectively opened the way for the full implementation of a resolution of the International Labour Conference, adopted in June 2000, aimed at compelling the Government of Myanmar to comply with Convention No. 29 on forced labour. Burma ratified the Convention in 1955.
The unprecedented resolution under the never-before invoked article 33 of the ILO Constitution allowed for a series of measures to take effect on 30 November 2000 and called on Myanmar to "take concrete actions" to implement the recommendations of a 1998 Commission of Inquiry, which found that resort to forced labour in the country was "widespread and systematic".
The Governing Body was also expected to hear the second report from Rafael F. Alburquerque, Special Representative of the Director-General, regarding widespread violence against trade unionists in Colombia and measures taken by the government to protect them.
The Governing Body will also consider a proposal to deal with the Director-General's annual report on the situation of workers on the Occupied Territories in a special sitting of the International Labour Conference in June of 2001. For some years, the issue had been dealt with in a special sitting, but this treatment of the question had been suspended in recent years.
Working party on the Social Dimensions of Globalization
The ILO Working Party on the Social Dimensions of Globalization is seen by many as a unique forum valuable for discussion of key policy issues, offering as it does an opportunity for interested international organizations as well as representatives of trade unions, employers' organizations and governments to address the pressing social questions surrounding globalization.
The meeting of the Working Party will undertake a review of the ILO's strategies for poverty reduction and decent work in the global economy. Rough estimates suggest that of the nearly 3 billion people who survive on less than $2 a day mainly in the developing world, one billion - or some one third of the world's workforce - are working but unable to provide adequate subsistence for themselves or their families. The ILO report suggests that the organization should prioritise this group by developing a decent work component to poverty reduction strategies now being elaborated by developing countries with the World Bank, IMF and other agencies.
The ILO offers a range of advisory services to its constituents aimed at helping the working poor to earn their way out of poverty. The report suggests that these services could be brought together with its research activities and the promotion of labour standards in a more coherent package as a decent work component to meet the international development target for poverty reduction. ILO plans to work with the World Bank and other agencies on pilot programmes in Honduras, Mali, Tanzania, Nepal and Cambodia as part of these countries' poverty reduction strategies. A parallel ILO pilot programme in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Panama will try to operationalize decent work through an integrated employment, social protection, social dialogue and labour standards promotion strategy as part of national development plans.
The ILO Working Party has initiated a research strategy aimed at a better understanding of how the processes of international integration impact on employment creation and poverty reduction. Important components of the study programme include an examination of best practices in the development of labour market institutions, how to promote freedom of association in the informal sector and upgrading the availability of international data on organization, bargaining and dialogue. The Working Party will review progress on plans for this three year programme.
The Governing Body Committee on Employment and Social Policy will discuss the impact of the fast spreading HIV/AIDS epidemic on the labour force and formally appoint a group of experts to review, revise and adopt a new ILO Code of Practice. The new Code is being drafted to protect the fundamental rights of HIV-infected women and men in the world of work, promote prevention of HIV/AIDS and protect their basic rights in the world of work.
The Subcommittee on Multinational Enterprises will examine the results of the 7th survey on the effect given to the ILO's Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy. The survey which is based on replies from 100 countries reports an important increase in the number of multinational enterprises (MNEs) between 1996 and 1999, from 45,000 to 60,000 parent companies and 280,000 to 700,000 foreign affiliates. In 1999, MNEs directly employed some 86 million people worldwide.
With the aim to reinforce the coherence and relevance of the international labour standards, the ILO is pursuing its efforts to improve its standards-related activities. The Governing Body will also decide on the follow-up to last year's decision to adopt a new strategy - including developing subject specific in-depth analyses and plans of action - by testing this integrated approach in the context of a general discussion at the International Labour Conference in 2003 in the area of occupational safety and health. In parallel to this, the Governing Body will also embark on a review of ILO's supervisory mechanisms. The present initial discussion will focus on an inventory of relevant issues, to be followed in November 2001 by a more detailed review of the reporting mechanisms.
The Governing Body is the executive body of the International Labour Office (the Office is the secretariat of the Organization). It meets three times a year, in March, June and November. It takes decisions on ILO policy, decides the agenda of the International Labour Conference, adopts the draft Programme and Budget of the Organization for submission to the Conference, and elects the Director-General.
It is composed of 56 titular members (28 Governments, 14 Employers and 14 Workers) and 66 deputy members (28 Governments, 19 Employers and 19 Workers). Ten of the titular government seats are permanently held by States of chief industrial importance (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States). The other Government members are elected by the Conference every three years. They are Algeria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Croatia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Namibia, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
* ILO Declaration commits the Organization's 176 member States to respect the principles inherent in four sets of core labour standards and promotes their universal observance. Under its terms, all member States have an obligation to respect the fundamental principles involved, whether or not they have ratified the relevant ILO Conventions.