Questions and answers about the 1986 Instrument of Amendment to the ILO Constitution

    What is the Amendment about and what would it do?

    In 1986 the International Labour Conference discussed and adopted an Instrument of Amendment proposing changes that affect 11 of the 40 articles within the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

    The 1986 Amendment addresses four main areas:
    • the composition and governance of the Governing Body of the Office;
    • the procedure for appointment of the Director-General;
    • voting at the International Labour Conference; and,
    • rules governing how the Constitution may be amended.

    How would it affect the composition of the Governing Body?

    The principal aim of the proposed Amendment is to make membership of the Governing Body more representative by providing a means of appointment that takes into account the various geographic, economic and social interests of its constituent groups.

    If the 1986 Amendment enters into force, the number of members of the Governing Body under the Constitution will increase from 56 to 112 - and the manner of their allocation will also be affected. Of the 112 seats, 56 would be allocated to government representatives and 28 each to employers' and workers' representatives. There would no longer be seats guaranteed for the member States of chief industrial importance.

    Of the 56 seats reserved for governments, 54 would be distributed among four geographic regions - Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe - with a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 15 seats for each region. Distribution of seats would be weighted by taking into account the number of member States within the region, their total population and their economic activity assessed by appropriate criteria (gross national product or contributions to the budget of the Organization). The initial allocation provided for is 13 seats for Africa, 12 for the Americas and alternately 15 and 14 seats for Asia and Europe. The two remaining seats would rotate: one between Africa and the Americas and the other between Asia and Europe.

    Under the proposed amendment, Government delegates representing the member States from each of the four regions would form an electoral college to fill seats for each region. Each electoral college would need to ensure that a substantial number of Members appointed to fill the regional allocation of seats are chosen on the basis of population size and to take into account an equitable geographical distribution. Other factors, such as economic activity of the Members in accordance with the special characteristics of the region, should also be taken into consideration.

    At the same time, the 1986 Amendment makes allowances for special characteristics within regions where subdivisions may be formed on a sub-regional basis to appoint Members separately to fill the seats assigned to the sub-region. It is important to note however that the four regions can be adjusted by mutual agreement among all governments concerned.

    What impact would it have on the election of the Director-General?

    Under the 1986 Amendment, the Director-General of the ILO would continue to be appointed by the Governing Body but the appointment would be submitted to the International Labour Conference for approval.

    Is there an impact on the way the ILO Constitution may be modified?

    The 1986 Amendment proposes changes to article 36 of the Constitution covering future amendments and sets out voting and ratification requirements for amendments related to specific considerations.

    Adoption of any amendment relating to the fundamental purposes of the Organization, the permanent establishment of the Organization, the composition and functions of its collegiate organs, the appointment and responsibilities of the Director-General, the constitutional provisions relating to international labour conventions and recommendations, and the provisions of article 36 of the Constitution, would require three-fourths of the votes cast and would have to be ratified or accepted by three-quarters of the Members of the Organization in order to come into effect.

    For any other amendment to the Constitution, two-thirds of the votes cast and ratification by two-thirds of the Members would be required to take effect.

    What is the relationship between the 1995 Amendment to the Standing Orders of the International Labour Conference and the 1986 Amendment to the Constitution?

    The adoption in 1995 of the Amendment to the Standing Orders of the International Labour Conference (by the International Labour Conference) increased the number of deputy members in the Governing Body and resulted in the current composition of the Governing Body membership. It may seem to some to make the entry into force of the 1986 Amendment unnecessary. However, the 1995 reform does not offer the full range of changes proposed by the 1986 Amendment, in particular, it does not affect powers of Members of chief industrial importance. It also does not alter the manner in which constitutional amendments are made, nor the process for the appointment of the Director-General.

    What is the status of ratification of the 1986 Amendment?

    To enter into force, the 1986 Amendment must be ratified or accepted by two-thirds of ILO member States, including at least five of the 10 Members of chief industrial importance. As there are currently 187 Member States, the 1986 Amendment needs to be ratified by 125 of them. As at 8 December 2022, 125 ratifications or acceptances were registered, of which two were from Members of chief industrial importance (India and Italy).

    A further three ratifications are therefore required for the 1986 Amendment to enter into force. This must include at least three ratifications from Members of chief industrial importance (from among Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and United States). As at 8 December 2022, 20 Member States from the Americas, 19 from the European region and 23 from the Asia and the Pacific have not yet ratified the Amendment

    How can a member State accept the 1986 Amendment to the Constitution?

    The consent of the member State must be expressed by a representatives having power to bind the State in external relations and done in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of the national constitutional order.

    Sample format for an Instrument of Ratification or Acceptance of the 1986 Instrument of Amendment to the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation