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Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR)

Q&A with Corinne Vargha on the launch of the 2021 CEACR Report

The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) is one of the key elements of the ILO’s supervisory system for International Labour Standards. It is an independent body composed of 20 high-level legal experts, charged with examining the application of ILO Conventions and Recommendations by ILO Member States. It has just published its annual report. ILO News discussed the main findings with Corinne Vargha, Director of the International Labour Standards Department.

Comment | 25 February 2021

1.  ILO News: What were the key findings and recommendations of the report?

The key message is that the COVID-19 crisis did not suspend obligations under ratified international labour standards (ILS) and the concrete commitments made by ILO Member States to protect the dignity and freedom of people at work remained during the current pandemic, and will strengthen the resilience of societies in building back better. Any derogations should be exercised within clearly defined limits of legality, necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination.

The CEACR also identified some specific challenges resulting from the pandemic:
  • First, as countries have taken exceptional measures to safeguard national security and public health, the power of the executive has grown exponentially. But this does not remove the need to comply with international law.
  • Second, human rights and ILS remain universal.
  • Thirdly, the pandemic has exacerbated the plight of many vulnerable and marginalized groups. This will create an increase in inequality and needs to be properly addressed by policy makers.
  • Finally, the pandemic has severely disrupted the maritime sector (which employs nearly two million seafarers worldwide and handles more than 90 per cent of world trade). The CEACR noted with deep concern that while ports around the world continued to operate uninterrupted, seafarers face extreme difficulties in disembarking and transiting through countries during their repatriation.

2.  ILO News: What challenges has the CEACR faced in maintaining its supervisory function during the pandemic?

During its 2020 session the CEACR formulated some 1,700 comments related to compliance with ILS. These consistently urged ILO Member States to prevent a downward spiral in labour conditions and pursue a virtuous cycle of recovery and development, consistent with lawful measures to protect the health of the public. ILS, coupled with effective and authoritative supervision can be a fundamental part of the solution to this crisis, while recovery measures that weaken labour law protection would further undermine social cohesion and stability and erode public confidence that policy-makers understand their needs.

3.  ILO News: Normally, ILO Member States submit reports detailing how Conventions they have ratified are being applied. Were Member States able to fulfill this obligation in 2020?

Knowing it was very challenging for countries to meet their reporting obligations, the ILO’s Governing Body requested Member States to provide supplementary information on reports submitted last year. Nearly 900 reports were received by the start of the CEACR session.

4.  ILO News: The CEACR also released an addendum to its previous General Survey of some ILO instruments related to employment policy.

In November 2019, the CEACR adopted a comprehensive General Survey on Promoting employment and decent work in a changing landscape. The Addendum, adopted in December 2020, examined the impact of the pandemic on the application of eight instruments related to the strategic objective of employment. In particular, measures taken to prevent transmission of COVID-19, stabilize economies, reduce enterprise closures and job losses, and support the sectors, groups and individuals most affected by the pandemic, including those in the informal economy. It also highlighted good practices and made recommendations for greater preparedness and resilience in facing future crises. Both the General Survey and Addendum will be discussed at the 2021 International Labour Conference.