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276th Session
Geneva, November 1999

Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards



Review of the activities of the multidisciplinary
teams in relation to standards

1. The present document follows those submitted to the Committee at the November sessions of the Governing Body since November 1994, giving a brief description of the work of the ILO's multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) in relation to standards. Developments over the last 12 months, based mainly on information provided for this purpose by the various MDTs, are summarized, with activities grouped by subject-matter. Information relating to the promotion of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up and of Conventions concerning fundamental rights is reported in detail separately.(1)  More generally, the question of the relationship between standards and technical cooperation is considered in a paper before the Committee on Technical Cooperation.(2)  The present paper refers to work done by MDTs with a direct relation to standards.

2. In October 1999 there were specialists on international labour standards on the teams in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, Dakar, Harare, Lima, Moscow, New Delhi, Port of Spain and San José. Appointments were under way to corresponding vacancies in Abidjan, Manila and Santiago (Chile). No such post was provided for in the Budapest, Cairo or Yaoundé MDTs. An associate expert on standards was present in the Manila team, and another had just left the Addis Ababa team.

3. The activities reported to the Governing Body in November 1998 have continued, as have the efforts by the MDTs and the International Labour Standards Department (NORMES) to furnish standards expertise on an ad hoc basis. All of the MDT standards specialists and the two associate experts on standards were invited to headquarters before the 87th Session (1999) of the International Labour Conference for consultations. In particular, this provided an opportunity for the specialists -- whose responsibilities already in many cases cover labour legislation as well as international labour standards -- to receive information and instructions relating to the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, in relation to which they have performed promotional activities. Several specialists also carry out other functions within the MDTs (for example, as focal points for gender issues or administrative functions).

4. The following is a summary of the information available from the multidisciplinary teams.

I. Promotion of fundamental Conventions

5. This has been a high priority for the MDTs, especially through activities for the promotion of the Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up. The child labour issue has received particular attention in the light of the preparation and adoption of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), and the campaign launched by the Director-General for its rapid ratification. The Organization's emphasis on the cross-cutting theme of gender has led standards specialists to increasingly cover equality and issues concerning women workers.

II. Constitutional obligations

6. In Africa, efforts continued to provide assistance to constituents on the preparation of reports under articles 19 and 22 of the Constitution on ratified and unratified Conventions, and on Recommendations, and on the submission of new instruments to the competent national authorities. In southern Africa, advisory and information services on constitutional obligations were provided in response to requests from constituents and by holding special sessions during seminars, such as the national tripartite seminars on international labour standards in Namibia and Zambia in this field. In Egypt, a national seminar on standards dealt especially with reporting obligations.

7. In the Arab States, technical assistance was provided to Jordan, Kuwait and Yemen with regard to reporting on ratified and unratified Conventions, and to Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic with regard to the submission of new instruments. In an effort to facilitate the work of constituents in fulfilling their reporting obligations, the MDT for Arab States plans further translations of relevant material. In Asia and the Pacific, advisory services on reporting on ratified and unratified Conventions have continued to be provided to China, Indonesia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Malaysia; Papua New Guinea has received assistance on submission to the competent authorities. The MDT in New Delhi assisted officials of the ministries of labour of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in fulfilling their reporting obligations under the follow-up to the Declaration. A training course on discharging the ILO's constitutional and reporting requirements was conducted in Pakistan.

8. In the Americas, the Caribbean Subregional Tripartite Seminar on National Legislation and International Labour Standards (Bahamas, August 1999) provided information on the status of submissions of instruments to the competent authorities and on reporting obligations on ratified Conventions, with emphasis placed on submitting the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). In addition, assistance was furnished for the annual reports on follow-up to the Declaration.

III. Labour legislation

9. In Africa, MDTs cooperated with the Labour Law and Labour Relations Branch (LEG/REL) in reviewing activities on labour legislation in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Madagascar, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. In the United Republic of Tanzania a new Trade Union Act was promulgated as a result of earlier ILO assistance on the harmonization of labour law and freedom of association in East Africa. Technical assistance was also provided in the establishment of an industrial relations institute in Mauritius. In Ethiopia, three tripartite or bipartite workshops were organized to review the Labour Proclamation. In-depth drafting assistance was also provided to several member States. In Botswana, which recently ratified all seven fundamental Conventions and several others, the MDT provided direct drafting assistance to the process of finalizing the new national labour laws that are now on the way to adoption. In South Africa, following technical assistance in finalizing the Employment Equity Act of 1998, a new Employment Equity Commission is to be created.

10. In Central and Eastern Europe, advisory services concerning industrial relations or labour law reform were given to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova. The Moscow MDT provided advisory services for parliamentarians and government officials on issues related to ILO instruments and supervisory procedures in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and the Russian Federation. In The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Poland national seminars on industrial relations were organized. Several Arab States are in the process of revising labour legislation with a view to the possible ratification of Conventions or to ensure conformity with Conventions already ratified (Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia). In Asia and the Pacific, following a tripartite seminar on safety and health in construction in 1998 the Government of China is undertaking procedures to bring the legislation into conformity with the Safety and Health in Construction Convention, 1988 (No. 167), with a view to its ratification. In Thailand, the State Enterprise Labour Relations Act is being reviewed for amendment following comments by the Committee of Experts and assistance by the MDT in charge. In the Republic of Korea, which ratified two fundamental Conventions recently, the legal framework for other Conventions is being reviewed with a view to their eventual ratification. Labour law reform has been a primary focus of ILO assistance in Indonesia, and is also the subject of discussions in the Philippines.

11. In the Americas, advisory services were provided to Costa Rica through a memorandum on the possible contents of a new regulation on unions, which also included recommendations on legislative reforms. In Saint Lucia, at the request of the Government, advisory services for labour law reform have been recently initiated. On the occasion of the Caribbean Subregional Tripartite Seminar on National Legislation and International Labour Standards, trends in labour legislation in the region were discussed and information was also provided on drafts of model laws prepared under the CARICOM project on the harmonization of labour law. A programme of assistance on standards for all the MERCOSUR countries provided by the Santiago MDT includes technical cooperation on the constitution of a social-labour commission.

IV. Social dialogue and activities of the social partners

12. In Africa, the ILO continued to provide assistance to member States in the area of capacity-building for employers' and workers' organizations, the promotion of social dialogue and the strengthening of tripartism. A five-year regional programme for the promotion of social dialogue, PRODIAF, funded by the Government of Belgium, is being implemented by MDTs covering Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Togo. A one-year subregional project was also conducted on the promotion of tripartism and social dialogue, known as PRODIAL, funded by Portugal for Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe). In Ethiopia, efforts to improve social dialogue and to revise labour law have been initiated by the Ethiopian workers after numerous seminars and workshops. This has led to advice to Ethiopian employers and to the establishment of a Labour Advisory Board. Several seminars and workshops on international labour standards were also organized for one or more of the social partners in Africa. In southern Africa, the MDT assisted ARLAC (Harare) in its high-level policy seminar on tripartite cooperation. A High-Level Tripartite Regional Symposium on Social Dialogue as a prerequisite for social and economic development in Africa was organized in October 1999 in consultation with relevant MDTs, field offices and the International Labour Standards Department.

13. In Asia and the Pacific, workshops and seminars for employers' and workers' organizations on standards, industrial relations and related issues were organized in Bangladesh, China, India, Republic of Korea, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand. In Sri Lanka, a regional workshop for the international labour standards focal points of trade unions was organized by the New Delhi MDT with the ILO Turin Centre and funded by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. A seminar on tripartism, international labour standards and industrial relations was also organized in Cambodia.

14. Several national and subregional tripartite and other seminars on international labour standards and related issues were organized by the Moscow MDT for constituents in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cyprus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Uzbekistan. In the Russian Federation, the MDT held regular meetings with representatives of NGOs on the issues involved in the development of regional labour legislation. It also assisted several universities to create information centres on international labour standards. In the Arab States, a national seminar on the impact of globalization on labour legislation was organized by the Amman Chamber of Industry and the Adenauer Foundation in Jordan. A tripartite national seminar on international labour standards was also organized in the Syrian Arab Republic. In the Americas, the Caribbean Subregional Tripartite Seminar on National Legislation and International Labour Standards in the Bahamas provided a forum for discussing and sharing the effectiveness of tripartite mechanisms in the subregion, particularly concerning standards-related issues and activities. Activities designed for workers' organizations included a meeting on international labour standards and workers' rights and the Caribbean Subregional Meeting on Workers' Education Institutions held in Barbados. The Caribbean Subregional Labour Administration Conference held in the Bahamas also addressed social dialogue and social partnership in the subregion.

V. Gender issues

15. In Africa, in the framework of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), ILO technical input was provided by MDTs on the draft Additional Protocol on Women's Rights to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. A follow-up study on violence against women fuelwood carriers in Ethiopia was completed, and consequently a structural dialogue has been established to reduce and eliminate violence against women. A revision of labour law from a gender perspective is being undertaken in the United Republic of Tanzania. Labour law reform on equality matters is also under way in Mauritius following a national seminar on discrimination issues held in 1997. In Ghana, a workers' seminar was organized on gender and equality issues. In Kenya a conference was held on eastern African indigenous women taking into account the provisions of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169). In southern Africa the MDT provided advice on gender issues through various activities, such as special lectures in the ILO projects in Zimbabwe and the United Republic of Tanzania.

16. In Asia, national tripartite seminars and workshops on the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), were held in Malaysia and India. In India, advisory services were provided to a poster campaign and action manual to promote women workers' rights. The MDT in New Delhi conducted research and made a contribution to the action taken by the 25 ILO member States in Asia and the Pacific to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action in the area of women workers' rights. The gender specialist in the Manila MDT organized a conference on labour markets and globalization in the Philippines with information on Conventions Nos. 111, 122, 142 and 156.

17. In Central and Eastern Europe, activities on gender equality were carried out in relation to women workers' rights in the field of labour in Romania. In the Americas, input was provided to the Caribbean Subregional Tripartite Seminar on National Legislation and International Labour Standards (Bahamas, August 1999) and the Caribbean Subregional Tripartite Seminar on Recent Trends in Employment Equality Issues for Labour Courts and Tribunals (Port of Spain, October 1999).

VI. ILS updates and other activities

18. International labour standards updates, conducted for a number of years by certain MDTs, offer information on standards-related procedures and obligations and on new developments in the setting and application of international labour standards through national tripartite one-day meetings. These activities have shown a marked success in ensuring the fulfilment of reporting obligations, especially in Africa, where updates have been presented in Kenya and Uganda.

19. Several MDTs report on cooperation with regional labour administration centres, where complementary expertise can lead to the promotion of Conventions relating in particular to labour administration, inspection and tripartite consultations. This has been the case in Harare (with ARLAC), Port of Spain (with CLAC) and Yaoundé (with CRADAT); but promotion of the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144), and the Labour Administration Convention, 1978 (No. 150), forms a regular part of most of the teams' work on standards.

20. Other issues have been the subject of various activities. Migration for employment -- following the General Survey by the Committee of Experts discussed by the Conference in 1999 -- has for example been receiving attention in the Bangkok, Harare and San José MDTs. The San José team has continued to draw on the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), for activities in Central America, especially in Guatemala, where the instrument inspired the provisions of constitutional reforms. Information on the same Convention has been provided by the Manila team for the Philippines and New Zealand. Standards on occupational safety and health are mentioned most notably by the MDTs in Abidjan, Moscow and Santiago. The globalization theme is of course universal: one African MDT mentions participation in meetings to discuss responses in cases where violations of Conventions have occurred in the context of economic globalization and liberalization; another refers to the provision of advice on the impact of structural adjustment programmes and legal regimes in export processing zones on the application of Conventions.

21. In Africa, MDTs have taken part in country objectives exercises in Nigeria, Ghana, Djibouti, Eritrea and the Seychelles. The country objectives documents are being revised for Malawi and Zambia in discussions with the social partners. The Moscow MDT used the occasion of the preparation of the country objectives programmes for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Russian Federation to promote standards.

22. Another noticeable trend is the increase in the demands made on MDTs for information or training in international labour standards from outside the usual circle of ILO constituents and correspondents: these have come from labour law practitioners, academics and courts, and parliamentarians. This has been evident, for example, in the reports of the Addis Ababa, Harare, Moscow and San José teams.

VII. Final remarks

23. All of the teams have given high priority to the promotion of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, assisting in the preparation of reports for the follow-up while continuing to promote the campaign for the ratification of fundamental Conventions. It is at the same time clear that demands for wider-ranging standards-related work are undiminished or growing. This means considerable pressure to handle tasks such as providing assistance for the fulfilment of other constitutional reporting and submission obligations (articles 19 and 22 of the Constitution).

24. The significance of the standards dimension of technical cooperation with which MDTs are concerned has become increasingly appreciated by the constituents and other bodies dealt with by MDTs. The multidisciplinary teams continue to provide a vital means of articulating the relationship between standards and technical cooperation and finding practical means of exploiting it.

Geneva, 15 October 1999.

1. GB.276/LILS/6.

2. GB.276/TC/2.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.