Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards
THIRD ITEM ON THE AGENDA
Other legal questions
Legal issues relating to the setting in motion
of the Follow-up on the ILO Declaration on
Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
1. Since the discussions in the Governing Body in November 1998 concerning follow-up action on the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the consultations on this subject that were held at the beginning of 1999, it has been suggested that the issues falling within the mandate of the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards be referred to it for discussion before being submitted to the Governing Body for appropriate action.
2. These issues concern the following three aspects:
(a) the coordination of periods for the reports under article 22 of the Constitution with the cycle of global reports provided for in the Declaration, which for the moment is of immediate concern with regard to the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138);
(b) the possible clarification of the status of the annual reports referred to in section II of the Annex to the Declaration by means of an amendment to article 7 of the Standing Orders of the Conference;
(c) the possible regulation, through an amendment to article 12 of the Conference Standing Orders, of the way in which the global report referred to in section III of the Annex to the Declaration is discussed at the Conference.
Although only the last two issues fall within the Committee's mandate on legal issues (the first falls under the Committee's mandate on international labour standards), in order to facilitate consideration by the Governing Body of the different aspects relating to the follow-up, all three aspects are dealt with in the present document so that the views and recommendations arising from the discussions in the Committee will be contained in the same report to the Governing Body.
(a) Coordination of periods for the reports under article 22 of the Constitution
3. At its 273rd Session (November 1998), the Governing Body decided that the periods for the reports required under article 22 of the Constitution should be coordinated so as to ensure that they were in line with the four-year global report cycle foreseen in the Annex to the Declaration.
4. For the moment, this coordination concerns the reporting cycle for the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), which under the current system is five years. This system was decided upon by the Governing Body at its 258th Session (November 1993). It was introduced for a five-year trial period in 1996 and provides for two-yearly reports to be requested for the ten priority Conventions, which in addition to the Conventions characterized as fundamental at the time -- Conventions Nos. 29, 87, 98, 100, 105 and 111 -- include Conventions Nos. 81, 122, 129 and 144. For all other Conventions, including Convention No. 138, five-year reports were to be requested.(1) Convention No. 138 has been characterized as a fundamental Convention following the World Summit for Social Development in 1995 and the 1998 ILO Declaration. The reporting interval should accordingly be reduced from five to two years.
5. As stated in section III of the Annex to the Declaration, the global reports will, in the case of Members that have ratified the fundamental Conventions, be based in particular "on reports as dealt with pursuant to article 22 of the Constitution". The most recent request for reports from all ratifying countries on Convention No. 138 was in 1996, and the next one in the five-year cycle would be requested in 2001, leading to possible discussion at the Conference in June 2002 of any observations on the Convention made by the Committee of Experts in its report. However, it is foreseen that the first global report on the effective abolition of child labour will be discussed at the Conference in 2002.
6. The global report for 2002 would thus not be able to reflect the information contained in article 22 reports on Convention No. 138 that are requested only in 2001. In order for the global report of 2002 to be based on more recent information, it would be advisable to request the first report of the new biennial cycle at an earlier date, namely in 2000. In this way the article 22 reports, with any comments made by the Committee of Experts and the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards, could be available in time for the preparation of the global report on the effective abolition of child labour.
7. Other possible adjustments to the article 22 reporting cycle could be considered in 2001, when the Governing Body is due to assess the reporting cycles of all Conventions under article 22.
8. The Committee may accordingly wish to recommend to the Governing Body that the first report in respect of Convention No. 138 under the two-yearly reporting cycle be requested in 2000.
(b) Proposed amendment to article 7 of the Standing Orders of the Conference
9. The Follow-up on the Declaration is composed of two elements: an annual review of the situation in countries that have not ratified one or more of the Conventions relating to the four categories of fundamental principles and rights, to be carried out once a year in the Governing Body; and a global report which will deal, each year, with one of these four categories of principles and rights in turn for all countries, irrespective of whether they have ratified the relevant Conventions.
10. The annual review is based on reports requested under article 19, paragraph 5(e), of the Constitution, and the question arises of whether to amend article 7 of the Standing Orders of the International Labour Conference, which provides that reports submitted under article 19 shall be considered by the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards, as this will not be the case with the reports submitted for the annual review.
11. Article 7, paragraph 1, of the Conference Standing Orders provides:
The Conference shall, as soon as possible, appoint a Committee to consider:
(a) the measures taken by Members to give effect to the provisions of Conventions to which they are parties and the information furnished by Members concerning the results of inspections;
(b) the information and reports concerning Conventions and Recommendations communicated by Members in accordance with article 19 of the Constitution;
(c) the measures taken by Members in accordance with article 35 of the Constitution.
12. Subparagraph (b) could be interpreted as not applying to the reports requested under the Follow-up on the Declaration, as the "information and reports" to which it refers do not, strictly speaking, concern "Conventions and Recommendations". It might therefore be possible for the Governing Body, in adopting the detailed procedure pertaining to the annual review, to specify that the information requested for that review would not be regarded as information concerning Conventions and Recommendations for the purposes of article 7 of the Standing Orders of the International Labour Conference.
13. However, a very simple amendment to subparagraph (b) above would avoid any possible ambiguity or uncertainty. Such an amendment could consist of the addition of the phrase "except for information requested under paragraph (5)(e) of that article where the Governing Body has decided upon a different procedure for its consideration".
14. The Committee may accordingly wish to propose to the Governing Body that it recommend that the International Labour Conference, at its 87th Session (June 1999), amend article 7(1)(b) of its Standing Orders to read as follows: (2)
(b) the information and reports concerning Conventions and Recommendations communicated by Members in accordance with article 19 of the Constitution, except for information requested under paragraph (5)(e) of that article where the Governing Body has decided upon a different procedure for its consideration;
(c) Proposed amendment to article 12 of the Standing Orders of the Conference
15. The Follow-up approved by the Conference provides in respect of the discussion of the global report that it --
will be submitted to the Conference for tripartite discussion as a report of the Director-General. The Conference may deal with this report separately from reports under article 12 of its Standing Orders, and may discuss it during a sitting devoted entirely to this report, or in any other appropriate way.(3)
16. Of the three options discussed by the Governing Body at its 273rd Session (November 1998), namely discussion as part of the Director-General's Report to the Conference under article 12 of its Standing Orders, discussion as a separate part of the Director-General's Report, or discussion in a committee of restricted membership, the vast majority favoured the second option consisting of discussion during a Conference plenary sitting devoted to the global report.
17. Under the Standing Orders of the Conference (article 12, paragraph 3), participation in the discussion of the Reports of the Chairperson of the Governing Body and the Director-General is limited to the delegates and ministers of member States, who may take the floor only once, and a time-limit applies to speeches.(4)
18. To give effect to the solution chosen by the Governing Body, there are two possibilities:
19. Since according to the Declaration, the global report is to be a regular item for consideration by the Conference, it would seem advisable, for reasons of simplicity, to opt for the first solution. This could consist in the addition of a new paragraph to article 12 of the Conference Standing Orders to the effect that its paragraph 3, concerning the right to speak and on the time-limit for speeches, would not apply. In order to leave a certain degree of flexibility as to the way in which constituents may wish the discussion of the global report to evolve, the draft amendment could be worded in the following terms:
4. Paragraph 3 shall not apply to the discussion of special reports prepared by the Director-General for a separate discussion in accordance with a decision of the Conference. The Selection Committee shall fix the times of this discussion and the manner in which it shall be conducted.
20. The Committee may accordingly wish to propose to the Governing Body that it recommend that the International Labour Conference, at its 87th Session (June 1999), amend article 12 of its Standing Orders by adding a new paragraph 4 worded as in the paragraph 19 above.
Geneva, 17 February 1999.
Points for decision:
1. For further details, see GB.258/6/19, Appendix I.
2. Italics indicate the words that it is proposed to add.
3. Annex, section III.B.2.
4. For further details of the rules governing the time-limit for speeches, see GB.274/LILS/2.