More than 3,000 government, employer and worker delegates concluded the 93rd annual Conference of the International Labour Organization today following intense discussions on the need for urgently eliminating forced labour, creating jobs for youth, improving safety at work and tackling what ILO Director-General Juan Somavia called a "global jobs crisis".
"Faced with a global jobs crisis that involves trillions in GDP growth but just a trickle of new jobs, we need as many good ideas as we can generate to guide our future course of action", ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said in his wrap-up of the 93rd International Labour Conference. "The credibility of democracy and open markets are at stake. This conference has risen to the challenge by providing a rich laboratory of ideas for our efforts to make decent work a global goal."
The annual meeting of the ILO's 178 member States also discussed the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories, the state of labour standards in Belarus, Colombia and other countries and the on-going situation of efforts to stop the use of forced labour in Myanmar. Delegates also discussed the current state of working hours and how to balance the need for flexibility with protecting workers' security, health and family life.
In the absence of a quorum for the vote on a proposed Convention on work in the fishing sector, the Conference asked the Governing Body to place a corresponding item on the agenda of the Conference in 2007, and that the report submitted to the Conference plenary be used for further consideration.
Two eminent guest speakers brought messages on the need to redress problems with globalization and decent work to the Conference. H.E. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of the People's Republic of Algeria and current President of the Arab League, called for a new social dimension of globalization at the Millennium Summit in September 2000. H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria and currently Chair of the African Union (AU), urged Africa's development partners to join it in making the decent work agenda of the ILO a global goal.
The Conference President was Mr. Basim Khalil Alsalim, Minister of Labour of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Conference elected as Vice-Presidents Mr. Andrew J. Finlay (Employers) of Canada, Mrs. Hilda Anderson (Workers) of Mexico and Mr. Galo Chiriboga Zambrano (Governments), Minister of Labour and Employment of Ecuador.
The 93rd International Labour Conference adopted a programme and budget of US$594.31 million for the 2006-07 biennium. The 2006-07 budget includes moderate real growth of 1.1 per cent to address institutional investment needs and extraordinary items.
The new program and budget focuses on decent work as a global goal and action needed at the local, national, regional and international levels to make it happen, including Decent Work Country Programmes. The program reinforces and deepens the four strategic objectives of the ILO: promoting standards and fundamental principles and rights at work, creating greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment and income and for enterprise development, enhancing the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all, and strengthening tripartism and social dialogue. It also proposes initiatives on decent work for youth, corporate social responsibility, export processing zones, and the informal economy.
The Conference also selected new government, employer and worker members of the Governing Body.
The Conference marked the fourth World Day Against Child Labourby calling for the elimination of child labour in one of the world's most dangerous sectors - small-scale mining and quarrying - within five to 10 years. This "call to action" was aimed at freeing the estimated 1 million or more children aged five to 17 who currently toil in dangerous conditions in small-scale mines and quarries around the world.
Confronted with record levels of youth unemployment in recent years, delegates from more than 100 countries discussed pathways to decent work for youth and the role of the international community in advancing the youth employment agenda. In its final report, the Conference Committee on Youth Employment concluded that an ILO plan of action to promote youth employment should be practical and based on building knowledge, advocacy, the promotion of young workers' rights in line with international labour standards, and technical assistance.
Delegates recognized that decent employment opportunities for young people would need to grow substantially, with particular emphasis on developing countries where 85 per cent of the world's more than 1 billion youth live. The Committee also encouraged the ILO to continue playing a leading role in the UN Secretary General's Youth Employment Network (YEN) and to extend the YEN to other countries, both developing and developed.
The Committee on Safety and Health considered a promotional framework in the area of occupational safety and health. Delegates decided that the instrument establishing this framework should take the form of a Convention supplemented by a Recommendation.
The proposed instruments would support placing occupational safety and health high at national agendas, and promote safer and healthier working environment based on the prevention principle through a management systems approach, the development of national occupational safety and health programs and the continual improvement of national occupational safety and health systems.
The Committee on the Application of Standards discussed a wide variety of issues.
As part of ILO efforts to end the use of forced labour in Myanmar, the Committee again held a special sitting on the application by Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), following up measures taken in the context of Article 33 of the ILO Constitution.This was the fifth time such a special sitting has been held.
Noting that the extent of forced labour in the country had not significantly changed, and its worst forms continued, the Committee expressed particular alarm at the Government's stated intention to prosecute those it accuses of making false forced labour complaints and the apparent intimidation of complainants. Other serious issues in need of urgent resolution involve outstanding serious allegations of forced labour, the freedom of movement of the Liaison Officer, and the issuing of visas to strengthen the ILO presence in Myanmar.
Noting that the "wait and see" attitude adopted by most members since 2001 cannot continue, the Committee urged tripartite members to urgently review their relations with Myanmar, including foreign direct investment and state and military-owned enterprises, and report back before the Governing Body meeting in November. Depending on developments in Myanmar the Governing Body should then be ready to consider new and further steps.
The Applications Committee placed its conclusions on Myanmar in a special paragraph for continued fai0lure to implement Convention No. 29. In addition, the Committee concluded that, given that the persistence of forced labour could not be disassociated from the prevailing situation of a complete absence of freedom of association, the functions of the Liaison Officer should include assistance to the Government to implement fully its obligations under Convention No. 87.
With respect to freedom of association in Belarus, the Committee noted that no real concrete and tangible measures have been taken by the Government to comply with the recommendations of the ILO Commission of Inquiry. As details of a government Plan of Action on freedom of association were not known yet, the Committee urged that an ILO mission be sent to Belarus, to assist the government and also to evaluate the measures that the government has taken to comply with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.
In addition to this special sitting, the Committee carried out the examination of 25 other individual cases on cases covering such concerns as freedom of association, forced labour, discrimination, child labour, employment policy, labour inspection and wages.
The General Survey discussed by the Conference Committee this year, was on working time. While the Committee concluded that international labour standards limiting working time are still necessary to contribute to fair competition between countries in a globalized world, its discussions made it also clear that ILO Conventions Nos. 1 and 30 do not fully reflect modern realities in the regulation of working time and are viewed by an increasing number of countries as prescribing overly rigid standards.
Delegates stressed the need to find a balance between flexibility on the one hand and protecting workers' security, health and family life on the other. The discussion also highlighted the important role of the regulatory framework, collective bargaining and social dialogue in this field. The ILO will present a document to its Governing Body summarizing the debate and leaving the decision on any follow-up to its tripartite membership.
During a special sitting of the plenary of the Conference, delegates held an in-depth discussion on the situation of the more than 12 million people around the world who are trapped in forced labour, including some 2.4 million who are victims of trafficking. They strongly condemned forced labour as a violation of human dignity and supported the ILO Director-General's call for a Global Alliance to address a global problem.
The discussion was based on a Global Reportissued under the follow-up of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Workadopted in 1998. Law enforcement, awareness raising campaigns, capacity building for governments and social partners, rehabilitation of victims, local and global alliances and sustainable technical cooperation programmes were identified as building blocks if forced labour is to be eliminated worldwide.
The Governing Body of the ILO will discuss an action plan against forced labour, based on the report and the Conference discussion on it.
The annual Conference of the ILO drew more than 3,000 delegates, including heads of State, labour ministers and leaders of workers' and employers' organizations from most of the ILO's 178 member States. Each member country has the right to send four delegates to the Conference: two from government and one each representing workers and employers, each of whom may speak and vote independently.
The role of the International Labour Conference is to adopt and oversee compliance with international labour standards, establish the budget of the Organization and elect members of the Governing Body. Since 1919, the Conference has served as a major international forum for debate on social and labour questions of worldwide importance.