ILO Considers Final Report on Reform Proposals for Supervisory System

On March 18, 2016 the Governing Body (GB) of the International Labour Organization (ILO), its executive arm, deliberated upon a report authored by Professor Paul van der Heijden (ILO Committee on Freedom of Association) and Judge Abdul G. Koroma (International Court of Justice / ILO Committee of Experts) following their review of the ILO supervisory mechanism. The review ─ initially requested by the GB and ─ conducted over ten months, was hosted by The Hague Institute for Global Justice and facilitated by the Social Justice Expertise Center (SJEC).

The origin of the project can be traced to disagreement between the ILO constituents concerning the interpretation of the right to strike in connection with the ILO Convention concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (No. 87). This led to a debate about the mandate of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Standards and Recommendations. Further, concerns had been expressed about the multiplicity of ILO supervisory bodies, how they relate to one another, and their effectiveness.

The goal of the current report is to provide a clear and concise overview of the ILO supervisory machinery and to suggest means by which the transparency, effectiveness and legitimacy could be enhanced. The 70-page report contains numerous concrete reform proposals. Examples of the recommendations by the authors are:

  • An annual meeting between the chairpersons of the different ILO Committees towards enhancing the coordination between the committees and averting possible overlaps with regard to cases under their purview.
  • The need to better address the interests of unorganized groups of workers, for instance the large number of workers in the informal economy in accordance with the ILO’s promotion of universal minimum standards.
  • The use of (non-judicial) dispute settlement options at the national level – that have the confidence of conflicting parties – to relieve the increasing case load of the Geneva-based ILO committees.

After receiving report, the GB requested the Director-General of the ILO to undertake further consultations with a view to formulating recommendations for consideration by the Governing Body. Further, a large number of ILO member states and groups including the European Union have expressed their support for many for the proposals in the report and welcome further efforts to implement these.

The SJEC is a collaboration between The Hague Institute for Global Justice and Leiden University with the aim to address the deficiencies in the governance and protection of fundamental rights at the workplace. It serves as a one-stop shop for advice and information, technical assistance, and multi-stakeholder dialogues on matters relating to the implementation of these rights. The contribution of SJEC to the ILO supervisory mechanism review is part of its efforts to support and provide advisory services to institutions with regard to the enforcement and application of labor rights.

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