The Governing Body of the International Labour Orgainsation held its 340th Session from 2nd– 14th November 2020, which took place virtually for the first time in the history of the ILO.

In this interview with ILO News, originally titled A look back at the 340th session of the ILO Governing Body,” Juan Llobera, Clerk of the Governing Body gave insight into the discussions by the Governing Body.

ILO News: Because of the COVID-19 crisis the Governing Body took place virtually for the first time in the ILO’s history. How did that work out?

Juan Llobera: Organizing something so complex in such difficult circumstances was not an easy task, but thanks to teamwork, the experience gained since March with new remote participation technologies, and the collaboration of constituents in adjusting, all the sittings went very smoothly. The Governing Body (GB) dealt with almost as many items as it does at a regular session, with some twenty decisions made by correspondence and twenty more discussed and decided in the sessions.

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ILO News: The Governing Body discussed the ILO response to the pandemic. What were the main points?

Juan Llobera: A paper on the ILO response showed that despite the discontinuation of normal ILO governance activities in the past nine months, the organization has rapidly adjusted and re-purposed its work. Among the achievements outlined were the ILO Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work, the publication and dissemination of the ILO Monitor series outlining the impact of the pandemic on labour markets, and establishment of the COVID-19 information hub. The paper also outlined the implementation of the ILO policy framework for tackling the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on a four-pillar strategy. The GB asked the ILO to start consultations on the adoption of a global response for a human-centred recovery from the crisis by next year’s International Labour Conference.

The COVID-19 crisis informed the discussions and adoption of the ILO Strategic Plan for the next four-year cycle (2022-25). The GB approved the Development Cooperation Strategy for the next four years, shaped by the human-centered agenda of the Centenary Declaration, taking into account the impact of the pandemic on the world of work and the implementation of UN reform.

ILO News: What other key issues were discussed?

Juan Llobera: The ILO plan of action on youth employment, particularly in light of the pandemic, was a key issue. The Governing Body requested that the Director-General take into account the strategy when allocating resources to youth employment initiatives. GB members also agreed on the further promotion and implementation of the ILO Green Initiative strategy on climate change and decent work.

The Governing Body endorsed a disability inclusion policy and strategy, reflecting the ILO’s commitment to become a fully disability-inclusive organization in accordance with the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS), launched in June 2019.

ILO News: What decisions were taken on the implementation of International Labour Standards?

Juan Llobera: The Governing Body discussed two new complaints filed at the 2019 International Labour Conference. These concern freedom of association, the right to organize, and labour inspection in Bangladesh; and the right to organize and maternity protection in Chile

It also reviewed progress on previous cases relating to freedom of association in Guatemala, and forced labour in Myanmar and Qatar.

No decision was reached on the ILO’s response to the non-acceptance by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela of the report and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on complaints relating to freedom of association, the minimum-wage fixing machinery and tripartite consultations. The Governing Body will take up the matter at its next session in March 2021.

ILO News: What was the result of the draft resolution on 400,000 seafarers currently trapped on board ships because of COVID-19 border and travel restrictions?

Juan Llobera: Employers and Workers jointly submitted the draft resolution just before the end of the Governing Body session. It urges member States to establish and implement measurable, time-bound plans to ensure safe crew changes and travel of seafarers, and to consider the designation of seafarers as “key workers”.

In view of the complexity of the issues the Governing Body agreed to continue discussing this matter through consultations, including with key players in the maritime industry, with a view to the adoption of a resolution by correspondence as a matter of urgency.

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