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ILO Governing Body Concludes 280th session: Labour Standards, Myanmar and HIV/AIDS among agenda items

GENEVA (ILO News) - The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) concluded its 280 th session today after reviewing annual reports filed by member States under the Follow-up to the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and discussing forced labour in Myanmar, workers' rights in Colombia, HIV/AIDS and the links between globalization and the world of work.

Press release | 30 March 2001

GENEVA (ILO News) - The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) concluded its 280 th session today after reviewing annual reports filed by member States under the Follow-up to the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and discussing forced labour in Myanmar, workers' rights in Colombia, HIV/AIDS and the links between globalization and the world of work.

The Governing Body reviewed the annual reports required under the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work on the basis of an introduction prepared by a group of Expert-Advisers. The reports provide an annual review of the efforts made by 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.

In the discussions, many speakers expressed satisfaction with the increase in the rate of reporting on national situations. As to the countries which had not responded, the Office was asked to intensify contacts with them, particularly through assistance by the ILO's multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) and field offices. The discussions also provided guidance on how to deal in the future with specific cases taking into consideration the promotional nature of the Declaration.

The ILO and the Gulf Cooperation States (Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) also agreed to continue cooperation in relation to the promotion of freedom of association and effective recognition of the rights to collective bargaining in those countries.

Myanmar, Colombia, Occupied Territories

The Governing Body considered a report by national governments, employers' and workers' organizations and international organizations on their relations with Myanmar and on measures they had taken to ensure that such relations do not perpetuate or extend the system of forced labour in that country. The report was submitted pursuant to the entry into force 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. In accordance with the conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry, the Governing Body decided to transmit the report to the International Labour Conference together with additional information on subsequent relevant developments. In that respect, the Governing Body took note of an oral report by the Director-General on his recent discussions with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Myanmar which may open the way for an objective assessment of the practical implementation and actual impact of the measures announced by the authorities to end forced labour in Myanmar.

The Governing Body also heard 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. In response to the request of the workers' group that a demand for a Commission of Inquiry be placed on the agenda of the next meeting, agreed to wait until June 2001 to evaluate whether there had been any progress in the strengthening of protection measures for trade union leaders and in adopting a firm policy to improve the conditions of punishment for violators of unionists rights.

The Governing Body also decided to accept a proposal that the Director-General's annual report on the situation of workers in the Occupied Arab Territories be considered in a special sitting of the ILC in June 2001, restoring for this year the practice which had been suspended in recent years.

Working party on the Social Dimensions of Globalization

Rubens Ricupero, the Director-General of UNCTAD and Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, were guest speakers at the Governing Body' Working Party on the Social Dimension of Globalization. Mr. Ricupero focused on the forthcoming UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries to be held in Brussels in June, urging the ILO to contribute its expertise on employment, enterprise and human resource development to the effort to reverse the marginalization of the world's poorest countries. Mr. Lubbers highlighted the potential for employers and trade unions working with governments to find innovative methods of resettling refugees. Their remarks led to an exchange over how the multilateral system, and the ILO, could provide a more coherent response to the challenge of significantly reducing poverty by 2015 as targeted by the UN Millennium Summit.

The ILO's decent work approach to poverty reduction was the subject of more detailed review. The Working Party backed plans to pull together a wide range of ILO activities and expand the Organization's contribution to poverty reduction strategies currently under preparation in many developing countries. The ILO's research strategies on the social dimension of globalization, which will inform the agenda of future discussions in the Working Party were also discussed and endorsed.

The future strategic direction of the Working Party was raised by Director-General Juan Somavia. He suggested that it was a timely moment to think about how to enhance its presence as a forum where it was possible to pursue the social dimensions of globalization in a more integrated way than is presently found elsewhere in the multilateral system. The integrated view should encompass globalization and the world of work, taking into account how decent work connects with the development agenda. Following a preliminary exchange of views on various options, the Working Party invited the Director-General to pursue his consultations, and to prepare a paper for discussion at a next meeting of the Working Party to be convened in June.

As well as Governing Body members, representatives of other international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, OECD and the World Trade Organization attended the Working Party.

Other business

The Governing Body recommended a provisional programme and budget level of $472,488,505 at the 2000-01 budget rate of exchange of 1.53 Swiss francs to the US Dollar. The final exchange rate and the US dollar level of the budget and the Swiss franc assessment will be determined by the International Labour Conference in June 2001.

The programme and budget continues and consolidates reforms instituted in the 2000-01 budget by Mr. Somavia when he became Director-General in 1999 and that set in motion 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, including the creation of "Decent Work Teams" 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, expanding ILO efforts against HIV/AIDS and the implementation of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work adopted in 1998.

The Employment and Social Policy Committee of the Governing Body discussed labour market and employment implications of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, concluding that a collective effort by governments, workers and employers was essential and that education was the key to prevention. The Committee also recommended close cooperation between the ILO and all international organizations and parties concerned in such issues as drug financing and the non-discrimination of infected workers.

The Governing Body also formally appointed the participants in a Tripartite Meeting of Experts to be held on 14-22 May. The 36 experts represent all regions of the ILO and will adopt a new ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work . The code is intended to protect the fundamental rights of those infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS and prevent transmission of the disease.

The Governing Body also made a firm commitment to the new, integrated approach to ILO standards-related activities. It decided unanimously to apply this approach in the context of a general discussion at the ILC in 2003 on occupational safety and health. It also initiated a review of ILO's supervisory mechanisms in a positive and constructive spirit. With a focus on the reporting mechanisms, which are up for a review according to an agreement in 1993, this discussion will be pursued in more detail during the Governing Body session in November.

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.