Leaving the ILO Administrative Tribunal - Proposed amendment to the Statute of the Tribunal

By Frédéric Dopagne, Saskia Lemeire and Bert Theeuwes

The International Labor Organization (ILO) is contemplating an amendment to the Statute of its Administrative Tribunal to establish a formal procedure of withdrawal for any international organization wishing to withdraw its consent to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. The Governing Body has been discussing this matter since March 2018 and has not yet approved the proposed amendment.


Following several rounds of consultations with the Administrative Tribunal, the international organizations which have recognized its jurisdiction and their staff associations, the Office of the Legal Advisor of ILO submitted a draft resolution with a proposed amendment to the Governing Body of the ILO. However, the Governing Body has deferred the matter to its 337th session which will take place in October-November 2019 for further discussion.

The call for the establishment of a formal procedure of withdrawal came from the judges of the Administrative Tribunal. Since July 2016, the following four international organizations have withdrawn their recognition of the jurisdiction of the ILO Administrative Tribunal and have introduced an alternative internal review mechanism:

  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) joined the United Nations Appeals Tribunal.

  • The Intergovernmental Organization for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) joined the Council of Europe Administrative Tribunal.

  • The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) decided to have recourse to arbitration.

  • The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) established its own administrative tribunal.

Following these withdrawals, the judges of the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO expressed their concern over the legal and policy issues raised by the withdrawal of an international organization.

The current proposed amendment to the rules would merely codify the practice that has been followed in the past for a withdrawal of consent to the jurisdiction of the Administrative Tribunal. Further ranging proposals – containing a notice period for withdrawal and an obligation to provide the reasons for a withdrawal – have been rejected. The proposed procedure of withdrawal would entail an official notification of the international organization wishing to withdraw its consent to the Governing Body of the ILO. The Governing Body would take note of this decision of the international organization, thereby determining the effective date of withdrawal (being the day on which the Governing Body takes note of the official communication of the international organization). The proposed amendment foresees that the official communication should contain:

  • The reasons for withdrawing the recognition of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction and the alternative internal review mechanism envisaged;

  • Information on prior consultations with the staff representative bodies of the organization concerned regarding withdrawal; and

  • An express commitment to execute all judgments rendered by the Tribunal prior to the effective date of the withdrawal.

 The Governing Body of the ILO will resume discussions on the proposed amendment during its 337th session in October-November 2019.