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ILO Governing Body: Proposal for a Declaration on Fundamental Rights to be discussed


Press release | 06 November 1997


GENEVA (ILO News) ­ A key decision on how best to promote universal respect for fundamental rights relevant to ILO's mandate is expected to be made by the Governing Body of the International Labour Office in the course of its 270 th session, held in Geneva from 6 to 20 November.

The Governing Body will decide whether to place on the agenda of the next International Labour Conference a proposal concerning the possible consideration and adoption of a solemn Declaration on fundamental rights, including a follow-up mechanism.

The Declaration would seek to reaffirm the meaning and scope of the commitments to which all ILO member States have subscribed when freely accepting, upon their admission, the ILO Constitution enshrining the fundamental values and principles which have been developed in the seven "core" Conventions of the ILO relating to fundamental rights (Endnote 1) .

These fundamental rights concern the prohibition of forced labour and of child labour, freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively, equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value, and non-discrimination in employment.

According to the proposal to be discussed by the Governing Body, even where Members are not yet ready to ratify the specific Conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference in which these rights are developed, they would acknowledge in a Declaration their commitment to work towards the elimination of situations that are incompatible with their principles. To assist them in this endeavour, the Declaration would be accompanied by a mechanism, based on existing constitutional provisions, that would ensure a proper and effective follow-up.

Should the Governing Body decide at its present session to place the question of such a Declaration on the agenda of the 1998 International Labour Conference, the specific content of the Declaration, as well as the modalities of its follow-up mechanism, would be the subject of further discussions before being submitted to the Governing Body at its next session in March 1998.

During the current session the Governing Body will also discuss other aspects of the follow-up to the discussions of the Director-General's report to the 1997 International Labour Conference on "The ILO, Standard Setting and Globalization", as well as a number of other issues.

The Working Party on the Social Dimensions of the Liberalization of International Trade will follow up on its previous debates and will in particular review relevant developments in other agencies, the progress of country studies relating to the social impact of globalization for which a Task Force has recently been established, as well as the situation as regards other projects which have a bearing on the subject.

The Committee on Employment and Social Policy will examine the work of the Task Force on Full Employment and Sustainable Livelihoods established by the United Nations' Administrative Committee for Coordination (ACC) following the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995). The Task Force, which is coordinated by the ILO, has conducted seven country reviews covering Chile, Hungary, Indonesia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal and Zambia. Their purpose is to develop recommendations on employment policy based on a review of employment trends in each of the countries concerned.

The ILO has, in addition, begun work on country reviews covering Brazil and Ukraine. Austria, Ireland, Kenya, The Netherlands and Pakistan have indicated an interest in a review and may soon be the object of similar reviews.

The Committee on Freedom of Association will examine complaints lodged against various governments for violations of the fundamental principle of freedom of association, including the right of workers to organize and to bargain collectively.

The Governing Body will also be called upon to set the timetable and agree on the procedures for the election of the next Director-General of the ILO. The incumbent, Mr. Michel Hansenne, has announced that he will not be seeking a third five-year term. His current term of office expires in March 1999.

The Governing Body ­ composed of 28 government members (Endnote 2)

, 14 employer members and 14 worker members convenes three times annually. It serves as the executive council of the ILO and takes decisions on ILO policy. Ten of the government seats are permanently held by major industrialized countries. The remaining seats are filled on a rotating basis, taking account of geographical distribution, for three year terms. The employers and workers elect their own representatives. The ILO has 174 member States.

The Chairman of the Governing Body is Mr. Ahmed Ahmed El Amawy, Minister of Manpower and Immigration of Egypt, to serve as Chairman of its 1997-98 session. Mr. Jean-Jacques Oechslin (France) is the employer Vice-Chairman and Mr. William Brett (United Kingdom) is worker Vice-Chairman.

Endnote 1:

Freedom of association and collective bargaining (No. 87 and 98); Forced labour (No. 29 and No. 105); Non-discrimination (No. 100 and No. 111); and Minimum Age (No. 138).

Endnote 2:

Bangladesh, Brazil*, Canada, Chile, China*, Colombia, Congo, Egypt, France*, Germany*, Guinea, Hungary, India*, Italy*, Japan*, Republic of Korea, Mauritius, Nigeria, Panama, Poland, Russian Federation*, Saudi Arabia, Suriname, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom*, United States*.

( * = members holding non-elective seats as States of chief industrial importance).