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1 Introduction In February and March 2003, the Committee on Monitoring Interna- tional Labor Standards (CMILS) of the National Research Council (NRC) convened regional forums in Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. Par- ticipants included representatives from the International Labour Organiza- tion (ILO), national governments, workers' and employers' organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the academic community. These meetings were designed to provide the CMILS with a broad range of international perspectives on the many complex issues related to monitor- ing compliance with international labor standards, particularly within de- veloping countries. The CMILS has convened similar forums in the United States and held workshops examining data quality, assessing national legal frameworks, and exploring linlc~ges between human capital development and compliance with labor standards. These activities have been sponsored as part of an NRC contract with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), requesting expert, science-based advice on monitoring compliance with international labor standards. The NRC convened the CMILS for the study, a two-year project with multiple - - 1 11 Intersecting activities that Wll1 identify relevant, valid, reliable, and useful sources of country-level data on labor standards and incorporate them into a database tailored to the current and anticipated needs of DOL's Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB); 1

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2 INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES . assess the quality of existing and potential data and indicators that can be used to systematically monitor labor practices and the effectiveness of enforcement in order to determine compliance with national labor legis- lation and international standards; identify innovative measures to determine compliance with inter- national labor stanclar~ls on a country-by-country basis and to measure progress on improved labor legislation and enforcement; explore the relationship between labor standards compliance and national policies relating to human capital issues; and recommend sustainable reporting procedures to monitor countries' progress toward implementation of international labor standards. The substantive scope of the CMILS study includes national compli- ance with the international standards identified in the ILO's 1998 Declara- tion on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which are 1. freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; 2. the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor; 3. the effective abolition of child labor; and 4. the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. Additionally, the committee will examine issues related to "acceptable con- ditions of work," as defined in U.S. trade law, including minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health. The committee's find- ings and recommendations to the DOL will be published in a final report to be released in early 2004. The final report will be accompanied by a web- based database, which compiles available sources of information on coun- try compliance with labor standards. In convening the international forums, the CMILS was seeking not only to identify sources of information and indicators that may assist in measuring compliance with core labor standards, but also to gain a greater understanding of the national and regional context and factors that must be considered in such an endeavor but often escape statistical measure- ment. Thus, presenters were asked to address a broad range of topics, such as the policies and programs that are being developed to adclress labor is- sues in their countries, the obstacles to implementation, and how these obstacles may be overcome. While already aware of the nature of these

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INTRODUCTION 3 challenges such as resource constraints, lack of political will, inadequate legal frameworks and enforcement mechanisms, training needs, etc. the CMILS convened these forums to hear about these issues directly from the people with firsthand knowledge so that committee recommendations and the web-based monitoring resources would be based on evidence from the field and incorporate a wide variety of international perspectives. Although members of the CMILS assisted in identifying speakers and developing the agenda of the forums, they did not participate in writing this summary. This summary does not contain any deliberations, conclu- sions, or recommendations of the committee or NRC staff but presents edited contents of each forum participant's presentation and summaries of audience questions and comments. KE Y THEMES AND ISSUES The forums in Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, and South Africa provided an opportunity for participants to discuss local, national, and regional issues relating to compliance with international labor standards. While some tOp- ics received greater attention on a regional basis such as child labor in Asia and the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africathe three forums, when viewed together, demonstrate more similarities than differences when it comes to the challenges of adopting, promoting, and monitoring compli- ance with international labor standards. This report indudes a brief summary of the presentations of 61 par- ticipants from 24 countries in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Forum par- ticipants representing the ILO, national governments, workers' and em- ployers' organizations, NGOs, and the academic community provided a variety of insights into both country-specific and more global challenges or obstacles to compliance. The following is a brief overview of some of the critical, often interrelated, themes that emerged from these three forums. Poverty, debt, and the challenges of maintaining a "comparative ad- vantage" in a fiercely competitive globalized economy were all described as having a significant impact on the policies and practices of key stakeholders in developing countries. For example, the desire to attract trade and foreign investment has in many cases placed macroeconomic policies above those designed to protect workers' rights in terms of national priority. Structural adjustment programs promoting more "flexible" labor market regulation, the nonapplication of freedom of association and other rights to workers in Economic Processing Zones, and other inducements to potential investors

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4 INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES are among the issues demonstrating the tension between generating em- ployment and ensuring that the quality of employment meets certain mini- mum standards. This tension is particularly pronounces! when one consid- ers the high rates of unemployment and underemployment in the countries cliscussed. Against this background, regional trade agreements and the possible linkage of trade and labor standards received considerable attention from the participants. While some opposed the conditioning of trade benefits on compliance with certain labor rights, others describer! this link as a valuable tool that offers leverage in promoting change within their countries and protecting against a "race to the bottom." Another key issue, the rapid increase in the proportion of workers in the informal economy, was cited by numerous presenters as a challenge both to promoting compliance and to monitoring it. Falling outside the scope of national labor legislation, the wages, hours, and workplace condi- tions of those workers in precarious informal work most often escape regu- lation and inspection, even though the conditions are frequently exploit- ative or illegal. Standard statistical instruments, such as the household! or labor force surveys discussed by several presenters, provide a broad range of data on the formal labor market but have severe limitations in their ability to capture activities in the informal economy. Other issues relating to the quality, reliability, and accessibility of information were raised by numer- ous presenters, illustrating the difficulties of monitoring compliance not only in the informal economy but in all sectors. Often inextricably linked to poverty and resource constraints, the lack of institutional capacity whether of governmental institutions or of other organizations with a role in implementing workers' rights was most of- ten cited as a primary obstacle to compliance. At the governmental level, adequate limping of labor inspectorates or judicial and educational sys- tems may simply not be available. Given these resource limitations com- bined, in some cases, with a lack of political will- building the capacity of the individuals within these institutions is of utmost importance, requir- ing education and training of inspectors, judges, workers, factory owners, and union leaders, among others. As noted by many presenters, the result is that national commitment to international labor standards, while ex- pressed theoretically by ratification of ILO Conventions and the existence of legislative provisions on labor rights, is often found lacking in its practi- cal application.