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GB roundup

Highlights of the 344th session of the ILO Governing Body

The Governing Body of the International Labour Organization concluded on 25 March. ILO News discussed the key elements with Dimitrina Dimitrova, Deputy Director of the ILO’s Official Meetings, Documentation and Relations Department.

Analysis | 30 March 2022
© M. Crozet / ILO

This was a particularly important meeting since the Governing Body elected a new Director-General. What was the outcome?

The Governing Body elected Mr Gilbert Houngbo, from Togo, as the 11th Director-General. He will become the first Director-General from the African continent. His term of office will begin on 1 October 2022. The current Director-General, Mr Guy Ryder, from the United Kingdom, has held the office since 2012.

The Governing Body discussed the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. What was agreed?

The Governing Body adopted a resolution calling on the Russian Federation to ‘immediately and unconditionally cease its aggression against Ukraine’, and expressing grave concern at reports of civilian casualties and the situation of refugees. It recognized the ‘enormous scale’ of internally displaced persons and refugees forced to flee their homes, workplaces, enterprises, communities and the severe impact on workers and employers risking their lives and requested the ILO to develop programmes within its mandate to support the tripartite constituents – workers, employers, and its democratically-elected Government. The GB also decided to temporarily suspend ILO technical assistance to the Russian Federation, while safeguarding the ILO’s technical cooperation to all other countries within the purview of the ILO Decent Work Technical Support Team and Country Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It furthermore requested the Director-General to follow the situation in Ukraine and to submit to its 345th Session (June 2022) a report on the application of the resolution.

The Governing Body took an important step towards the possible inclusion of occupational safety and health as a fundamental principle and right at work. What is the significance of this?

The GB instructed the ILO Director-General to propose a draft resolution on the issue, to be discussed at the June 2022 International Labour Conference. It is a far-reaching decision. If adopted, the proposed amendment would indicate that all Member States would have an obligation to respect and promote safe and healthy working conditions in the same manner and level of commitment as the four categories currently covered by the Declaration which are: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. Adopted in 1998, the ILO Declaration commits Member States to respect and promote these fundamental principles and rights at work whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions.

What can you tell us about the follow up action to the 2021 Conference resolution on inequality in the world of work?

The Governing Body adopted an ambitious plan of action on inequalities in the world of work for 2022–27 and provided guidance on its implementation. It requested the Office to prepare a comprehensive and integrated ILO strategy aimed at preventing and reducing inequalities and to submit it for its consideration at its 346th Session (November 2022).

The GB also agreed to strengthen multilateral cooperation, following the high-level Global Forum for a human-centred recovery that took place in February 2022. What details can you give us?

The Governing Body took note of the success of the Global Forum, which brought together heads of State and Government, heads of international organizations and multilateral development banks, and employers’ and workers’ leaders from around the world to propose concrete actions to build back better and strengthen the level and coherence of the international community’s response to the social and economic fall-out of the pandemic. It put forward concrete steps aimed at optimizing and enhancing institutional arrangements, through better prioritization and resource allocation and stronger collaboration within the multilateral system in support of a human-centered recovery. The Governing Body decided to further boost the ILO’s work within the multilateral system to enhance and systematize institutional arrangements, as part of the continuing implementation of the ILO Global Call to Action adopted by the International Labour Conference last year.

The GB examined the developments in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Venezuela. What decisions were taken?

The Governing Body decided to establish a Commission of Inquiry in respect of Myanmar’s non-observance of International Labour Standards following the military coup in February 2021. The Commission will investigate the non-observance of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). The Governing Body deplored the lack of progress in attaining respect for democratic institutions and processes, continuing grave human and labour rights violations, the escalation of violence against civilians and increased use of forced labour.

The Governing body also discussed the progress report by the Government of Bangladesh on the implementation of the roadmap to address the outstanding issues raised in the complaint submitted on the non-observance of Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81), the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98). It deferred a decision on further action, asking the Government to report on further progress at the November 2022 session of the Governing Body.

The GB also discussed Venezuela’s failure to implement the recommendations of a Commission of Inquiry appointed in March 2018 to consider a complaint alleging the non-observance of ILO Conventions. While taking note of the establishment of a social dialogue forum, the Governing Body strongly reiterated its call on the Government to accept the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, requested the Director-General to continue to engage with the Government, and asked him to present a report to its 345th Session (June 2022) on any progress concerning the functioning of the forum.