The complaint procedure is governed by articles 26 to 34 of the ILO Constitution, under which a complaint may be filed against a member State for not complying with a ratified Convention by another member State which has ratified the same Convention, a delegate to the International Labour Conference or the Governing Body of its own motion. Upon receipt of a complaint, the Governing Body may establish a Commission of Inquiry, consisting of three independent members, which is responsible for carrying out a full investigation of the complaint, ascertaining all the facts of the case and making recommendations on measures to be taken to address the problems raised by the complaint. A Commission of Inquiry is the ILO’s highest-level investigative procedure and is generally set up when a member State is accused of committing persistent and serious violations and has repeatedly refused to address them. To date, 14 Commissions of Inquiry have been established, the most recent of which was established by the Governing Body in March 2018 following an article 26 complaint filed against the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

When a country refuses to fulfill the recommendations of a Commission of Inquiry, the Governing Body can take action under article 33 of the ILO Constitution. This provision establishes that “[i]n the event of any Member failing to carry out within the time specified the recommendations, if any, contained in the report of the Commission of Inquiry, or in the decision of the International Court of Justice, as the case may be, the Governing Body may recommend to the Conference such action as it may deem wise and expedient to secure compliance therewith.” Article 33 was invoked for the first time in the ILO’s history in 2000, when the Governing Body asked the International Labour Conference to take measures to lead Myanmar to end the use of forced labour. An article 26 complaint had been filed against Myanmar in 1996 for violations of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and the resulting Commission of Inquiry had found “widespread and systematic use” of forced labour in the country.