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

by Andre Nunes Chaib

MPILux Working Paper 6 (2017)

Introduction: The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (‘CEACR’) is one of the most important supervisory mechanisms of the International Labour Organization [ILO]. It performs a central function in analysing reports from states and verifying their compliance with international labour conventions. It belongs to the ILO’s ‘regular system of supervision’ and differs significantly from the two ‘special procedures’ the organization has also developed.

The ILO’s special procedures are generally intended to respond to individual claims raised by social partners (employers’ and workers’ representations) and Member States regarding other states’ violations of certain provisions of ILO Conventions. The first type of special procedure is the Representation Procedure [ILO], provided for in Arts 24 and 25 of the ILO Constitution. According to the Constitution, both employers’ associations and trade unions can make a representation to the International Labour Office arguing that a state member of the ILO has not effectively observed a particular Convention within its jurisdiction. If the Governing Body of the ILO (‘ILOGB’) finds a representation receivable (‘receivable’ is the term used in the ILO Constitution), it will set up a tripartite committee to discuss the merits of the representation. In case the representation deals with a Convention on trade union rights, the ILOGB may choose to refer the case to the Committee on Freedom of Association [ILO]. Following a report by the ILO, the ILOGB will decide the follow-up action it considers appropriate for the case, which may include making public the petitioned representation. In addition to the representation procedure, the ILO Constitution provides for the so-called Complaints Procedure [ILO] set forth in Arts 26-33 of the ILO Constitution. This mechanism allows for any member state to file a complaint against the non- observance by another member state of a particular ILO Convention

Unlike these special procedures, the regular system of supervision seeks to provide a general assessment of states’ compliance with the Conventions and Recommendations to which they are bound. The two most important mechanisms of this regular system of supervision are the International Labour Conference’s Tripartite Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (‘Conference Committee/CAS’) and the CEACR. The Conference Committee is a standing committee of the International Labour Conference (‘ILO-ILC’) tasked with reviewing the CEACR’s annual report. The Conference Committee selects a few observations from this report for discussion and invites the governments referred to in these observations to provide further information. In many cases, the Conference Committee makes recommendations to the ILC, which may decide to recommend ways in which these governments can address the issues brought up in the observations made by the CEACR. The CEACR has performed its supervisory function since 1926, however the type and nature of this function has changed over time. The role of the CEACR has ranged from a simple consultative organ of the ILO to a quasi-judicial body that, despite not having decision-making powers, can provide crucial readings of whether Member States are in violation of ILO Conventions and Recommendations. After all, it has been argued that ‘much of the prestige of the ILO standards’ is due to the work of the CEACR (Maupain, 2013, 120).