309th session of the Governing Body of the ILO

ILO Governing Body concludes discussions on policy coherence, social protection in jobs crisis response

The Governing Body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) examined initiatives to secure a jobs-rich recovery and more policy coherence in the international system at its meeting in Geneva on 4-19 November. It also took a number of decisions regarding fundamental rights at work.

Press release | 19 November 2010

GENEVA (ILO News) – The Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO) examined initiatives to secure a jobs-rich recovery and more policy coherence in the international system at its meeting here on 4-19 November.

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia addressed the Governing Body’s Working Party on the Social Dimension of Globalization on 15 November, saying the idea of policy coherence was now deeply imbedded in the international community as was most notably seen in the G20 Summit he had just attended. However, he added, “policy coherence is not yet yielding the results the global economy needs”.

“The recovery is still fragile and not producing enough jobs and investment in small enterprises. The need for policy coherence has never been as high as today. Yet progress is slow, because we do not have enough policy experience and confidence”, he said.

He went on to cite four areas in which the ILO has been promoting policy coherence, including the need for better coordination between employment and macroeconomic policies, a coherent approach to international standards, the need for a social protection floor and the notion that no recovery is possible without a recovery in jobs.

The Governing Body also heard addresses by Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Richard Kozul-Wight, senior economist at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Wiseman Lumkile Nkuhlu, President of the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and Sharan Burrow, General-Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Mr. Lamy called for increased coordination between trade and social protection policies as a way of achieving stronger growth and a more sustainable economic recovery. He argued in favour of strong employment and social protection policies as essential to an open multilateral trading system. While Mr. Kozul-Wight from UNCTAD warned that “the failure to introduce reforms contained the risk of returning to business as usual”, Ms. Burrow of the ITUC referred to the risk of focusing on fiscal austerity while the real challenge was employment generation through a wage-led recovery strategy and an extension of social protection to all. Mr Nkuhlu said the IOE endorsed “the promotion of policy coherence at national and international level to ensure effective governance and a productive private sector”.

The Committee on Sectoral and Technical Meetings and Related Issues of the Governing Body continued its discussion on the sectoral impact of the global economic and social crisis. According to an ILO report to the meeting, employment in public administration has been declining most in the United States and Europe following the crisis.

The Governing Body also took a number of decisions regarding fundamental rights at work.

The meeting considered developments in Myanmar with respect to forced labour on the basis of a report by the ILO Liaison Officer in Yangon. ILO Director-General Juan Somavia welcomed the recent release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest but reminded delegates that many more labour activists in the country were still in prison, including some fighting against forced labour.

In its conclusions the Governing Body called on the new Parliament in Myanmar to proceed without delay to bring legislation into line with the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No.29), starting with the repeal of the relevant provisions of the Villages and Towns Acts. It further called for the release of labour activists and persons associated with the making of complaints who remained in detention. Despite the reported progress in increased awareness of both Government personnel and the community at large, the Committee noted that much remains to be done to eliminate the use of forced labour in the country, including under-age recruitment into the military and human trafficking.

The Governing Body noted the increased number of forced labour complaints received but considered it essential that the movement towards an environment free from harassment or fear of retribution be sustained. It requested the Government therefore, to grant the ILO Liaison Officer in Myanmar access to court files and detainees for the purpose of verifying the absence of judicial retribution. It also called on the Government to ensure the conditions and facilities necessary for the effective and timely receipt and processing of complaints throughout the country and to cooperate with the Liaison Officer on cases raised at the Officer’s own initiative.

The Governing Body decided to request information on situations in relation to freedom of association from the Governments of Myanmar and Venezuela, against which the workers and employers respectively have lodged complaints under the procedure that could lead to commissions of inquiry. The Committee on Freedom of Association drew the special attention of the Governing Body to the cases of Argentina, Cambodia, Fiji, Panama and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (see separate release).