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The Standards Initiative: Background and Scope

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Introduction to International Labour

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Submission and ratification of ILO instruments

Background and Scope

Según lo define la OIT, el diálogo social comprende todo tipo de negociaciones y consultas - e incluso el mero intercambio de información - entre representantes de los gobiernos, los empleadores y los trabajadores sobre temas de interés común relativos a las políticas económicas y sociales. La definición y el concepto de diálogo social varían en función del país o de la región de que se trate y no tienen todavía una formulación definitiva.

At the 310th Session (March 2011) of the Governing Body, the Office submitted a document under the agenda item of Improvements in the standards-related activities of the ILO entitled “ILO standards policy: An approach for a robust and effective international labour code”.

The document focused on the ILO’s standards policy (the first component of the standards strategy) and was based on consultations and discussions that had taken place in 2010. It contained a number of proposals for the implementation of the standards policy using the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization as an overarching framework.

It made a specific proposal for the development of a standards review mechanism (SRM) in which the Committee on Legal Issues and International Labour Standards (LILS Committee) of the Governing Body would play a central role, and which would result in a clear and up-to-date body of international labour standards.

After a rich debate, the Governing Body agreed in principle to the setting up of an SRM and invited the Office to “prepare a paper for submission to the 312th Session (November 2011) of the Governing Body, taking into account comments made during the discussion and containing concrete proposals for the establishment and the implementation of the standards review mechanism”.

The standards strategy covers four main components:

1) developing, keeping up to date and promoting ILO standards (standards policy);
2) enhancing the impact and strengthening the supervisory system;
3) improving the impact of the standards system through technical assistance and cooperation; and
4) enhancing the visibility of the ILO standards system (information and communication).

The standards policy and the supervisory system deal with the substantive issues covered by international labour standards; technical assistance and cooperation and a communication strategy are the tools that support these two substantive components.

Towards a final plan of action for the implementation of the standards strategy (GB.306/LILS/4(Rev.), 2009)

 The Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards

Cartier Working Party

"The ILO supervisory system is the most advanced in the UN system. It has stood the test of time and has helped countries to achieve significant social progress" (from GB.294/LILS/4, p5 of the pdf)

"The Governing Body has, at regular intervals, examined ILO’s body of standards. A previous review was concluded in 1987" (from Governing Body 292nd Session, March 2005 GB.292/LILS/7 

By 1994, most of the recommendations for standard setting and revision of standards identified in 1987 had been implemented. The rapidly changing political context was also clearly a reason for the need to carry out another examination of the ILO’s standards and to assess whether they needed updating.

A proposal to set up a working party of the Governing Body for this purpose under the LILS Committee took shape in March 1995 and the Working Party on Policy regarding the Revision of Standards held its first session in November 1995.

Over seven years this Working Party, also known as the “Cartier” group, carried out a case-by-case examination of all the “other” 11 Conventions and Recommendations 12 adopted before 1985. It concluded its work in March 2002.


Working Party on International Labour Standards (1984-1987)
"Among the various measures adopted by the Governing Body to follow up the discussion on international labour standards at the International Labour Conference in 1984, it decided at its 228th (November 1984) Session to establish a Working Party on International Labour Standards". 

The second Ventejol Working Party (1987) established a list of 87 Conventions classified as "instruments to be promoted on a priority basis" and another list of 63 Conventions described as "other instruments".

ILO Official Bulletin, 1987 issue LXX 

Improvements in the standards-related activities of the ILO: A progress report  GB.292/LILS/7 p. 3
ILO Official Bulletin, 1979, issue LXII series A

Working Party on International Labour Standards (1977-1979)

The Governing Body set up a Working Party on international labour standards in 1977, also known as the first Ventejol Working Party.

"The initial focus of the Working Party was to identify the need for revision of existing standards and, as a result, the Governing Body decided that 22 Conventions 15 and 15 Recommendations should be revised.

The recommendations of the Working Party also enabled the Governing Body to identify 71 Conventions 16 and 71 Recommendations that should be promoted for ratification as well as 60 outdated Conventions and 68 outdated Recommendations.

Unlike previous reviews, this examination did not, however, result in recommendations concerning the need for new standards".

Source: Fourth report on the programme, financial and administrative Committee, GB 209/7/24, Feb-March, 1979, p. 4 of the pdf).

Since the 1960s the Conference and the Governing Body have periodically discussed the evolution of the standard-setting system and the measures to take to correct its shortcomings. This Working Party is the fourth serious attempt to do so. As early as 1963 the Director-General's Report to the Conference emphasized the need to revise and abrogate certain standards and proposed the establishment of a technical revision committee.
​Source:  ILO: Report of the Director-General, International Labour Conference, 47th Session (1963), pp. 152-171 (p.80 of the pdf).

The in-depth study of intemational labour standards carried out in 1974 was the starting point for a second phase.
​Source: GB.194/PFA/12/5

It contained a detailed analysis of most of the issues that are still being discussed today and proposed numerous solutions that served as a basis for the activities of the Ventejol Working Party in 1976-79. 
​Source:  ILO: Official Bulletin, Vol. LXII​, 1979, Series A, special issue 

The third phase began with the Director-General's Report to the Conference in 1984, (ILO: Report of the Director-General, International Labour Conference, 70th Session (1984).) and ended in 1987 with the publication of the report of the second Ventejol Working Party.
​Source:  ILO: Official Bulletin, Vol. LXX, 1987, Series A, special issue.

Thus, the standard-setting system has regularly been called into question over the past 30 years, but it seems that none of the previous attempts have been particularly conclusive.

To ensure that the fourth attempt, initiated in 1994 by the Director-General's Report to the Conference does not encounter the same obstacles as the previous three, it is imperative for the Working Party once again to undertake an in-depth study, which takes into account changes that have occurred since previous studies, and then to make its decisions accordingly. 
Source:  ILO: Defending values, promoting change, Report of the Director-General, International Labour Conference, 81st Session (1994). (See Ch. 3: "Standards: A broader approach", pp. 41-66)