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Janice Collins
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Supervising ILO Conventions

When ratifying an ILO Convention, countries commit themselves to make its provisions part of their national law. To ensure that this is done properly and also has an impact on a practical level, countries have to report back to the ILO on measures taken and on any problems encountered. This has to be done at intervals of one to five years, depending on which Convention is concerned.

The ILO is a tripartite organization. This means that its constituents – and decision-makers – are not only governments, but also workers and employers. These all have an active role to play in the supervision of ratified Conventions and workers’ and employers’ organizations can submit information concerning the application of ratified Conventions to the ILO.

Dialogue between experts and governments
The ILO body examining the application of ratified Conventions is the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR). The CEACR receives and analyses reports from governments and provides comments to guide the implementation of ILO Conventions in the concerned country. In this way, the CEACR engages in a process of ongoing dialogue with the government. This regular supervision can be very effective in identifying implementation and information gaps and suggesting measures and mechanisms for improved implementation.

The conclusions of the CEACR’s examination of States’ reports come in two forms: Observations, which are the CEACR’s public comments on the application of ILO Conventions; and Direct requests. These are sent directly to the government in question, and generally ask for more information on specific subjects.

There are also special procedures to deal with more serious situations and alleged violations of ILO Conventions. The most commonly used form of complaint in the ILO system is called a Representation. A Representation, alleging a Government’s failure to observe certain provisions of ratified ILO Conventions, can be submitted to the ILO by a workers’ or employers’ organization.

How to participate in the supervision
Indigenous peoples can ensure that their concerns are taken into account in the regular supervision of ILO Conventions by the CEACR in several ways:

  • By sending verifiable information directly to the ILO on, for example, the text of a new policy, law, or court decision.
  • By making alliances with trade unions, and through them, raising issues of concern.
  • By asking for technical cooperation from the ILO, through which governments and indigenous peoples can get assistance in the implementation of ratified Conventions.
  • By drawing the attention of the ILO to relevant official information from other UN supervisory bodies, fora or agencies.

ILOLEX (www.ilo.org/ilolex), ILO’s trilingual database, provides information about ratification of ILO Conventions and Recommendations, comments of the CEACR, Representations, Complaints, interpretations of ILO Conventions, and the like. In ILOLEX, you can search for information about a specific Convention and/or about a particular country.

ILO’s database APPLIS provides information on the application of International Labour Standards.

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A guide to ILO Convention
No. 169

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