The standards initiative

The standards initiative aims to enhance the relevance of international labour standards through a standards review mechanism and to consolidate tripartite consensus on an authoritative supervisory system.

The Standards Initiative is one of the seven centenary initiatives being implemented in advance of the ILO’s centenary year in 2019.

Its objective is twofold. It aims:
  • to enhance the relevance of international labour standards through a standards review mechanism, and
  • to consolidate tripartite consensus on an authoritative supervisory system.

1. Standards Review Mechanism (SRM)

The SRM is an in-built mechanism of the ILO standards policy to ensure that the ILO has a clear, robust and up-to-date body of international labour standards that respond to the changing patterns of the world of work, for the purpose of the protection of workers and taking into account the needs of sustainable enterprises.

It was established by the Governing Body in November 2011 but became operational at a later stage in 2015 through two decisions:
  • a decision in March 2015, by the Governing Body to establish under the SRM a tripartite working group (SRM TWG) composed of 32 members (16 representing Governments, eight representing Employers and eight representing Workers);
  • a decision in November 2015 to adopt the terms of reference of the Standards Review Mechanism Tripartite Working Group.
The SRM TWG has been mandated to review the ILO’s international labour standards with a view to making recommendations to the Governing Body on:
  • the status of the standards examined: up to date standards, standards requiring further action to ensure continued and future relevance and outdated standards;
  • the identification of gaps in coverage, including those requiring new standards;
  • practical and time-bound follow-up action, as appropriate.
The SRM TWG has had three meetings so far: the first one in February 2016, the second meeting in October 2016 and the third meeting in September 2017. The fourth meeting is scheduled in September 2018 and is set to examine 11 instruments concerning occupational safety and health (specific branches of activity), labour inspection and labour administration.

Together with the launching of a standards review mechanism, the entry into force in October 2015 of the 1997 Instrument for the Amendment of the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation, has reinforced the ILO’s efforts to ensure that it has a robust and up-to-date body of labour standards serving as a global reference. With the entry into force of the Instrument for Amendment of the Constitution, the Conference is now empowered, by a two-thirds majority and upon recommendation by the Governing Body, to abrogate a Convention in force if it appears that it has lost its purpose or that it no longer makes a useful contribution to attaining the objectives of the Organisation. At its June 2017 Session, the Conference undertook its first discussion following the entry into force of the Instrument for Amendment and examined and adopted the abrogation of four and the withdrawal of two international labour Conventions.

2. A consolidated tripartite consensus on an authoritative supervisory system

Its implementation began with a request from the Governing Body, in March 2015, that the Chairperson of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, and the Chairperson of the Committee on Freedom of Association jointly prepare a report on the interrelationship, functioning and possible improvement of the various supervisory procedures related to articles 22, 23, 24 and 26 of the ILO Constitution and the complaints mechanism on freedom of association.

This joint report was received and discussed by the Governing Body in March 2016.

At its March 2017 session, the Governing Body adopted a work plan and timetable concerning the strengthening of the supervisory system including ten proposals grouped under four focus areas. The ten proposals cover a broad range of topics such as: the relationship between the ILO supervisory bodies, the streamlining of reporting, information-sharing with organizations or legal certainty.

The work plan is now being implemented. Its progress report was discussed and partially decided upon in November 2017. Further discussions took place in March 2018. Further decisions by the Governing Body and a review of the workplan are scheduled for November 2018.

For additional information on the ILO standards system and its supervision, please consult the ILO website.

3. The Standards Initiative is spearheading current international labour standards policy. This policy aims to strengthen the role of international labour standards in advancing the key objective of the Organization, i.e. to further social justice through the promotion of decent work. To realize this aim, standards policy is also informing efforts to –
  • achieve greater visibility of international labour standards;
  • reach out to constituents through technical assistance, technical cooperation and capacity building.

ILO International Labour Standards Department, 1 May 2018