Jimmy Carter photo

International Labor Organization Letter to the President from Prime Minister Leo Tindemans of Belgium, President of the Council of the European Communities.

September 21, 1977

The President received yesterday the following letter from Prime Minister Leo Tindemans of Belgium, acting in his capacity as President of the Council of the European Community--Nine. President Carter announced that he will study with care all the points raised in the letter.

Brussels, September 9, 1977

Mr. President,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Nine member Governments of the European Communities to convey to you our views on the present situation in the International Labour Organization.

The member Governments of the European Communities have been following recent events in the ILO with keen concern. We share the preoccupations of the United States Government. Like the US Government, we consider that certain developments at the annual Conference of the ILO, held in June 1977, were damaging to the Organization. One of the results of that Conference, the failure to adopt the report of the Committee on the Application of Conventions, seems to us particularly regrettable. It is our firm view that the successful operation of the ILO requires that the annual reports of this Committee should be adopted and should be acted upon. It is our intention, which we believe is shared by many member Governments, to ensure that the main points in this years report, and in particular its endorsement of the need for a single standard in judging performance, are actively pursued within the organization.

The 1977 Conference was the more disappointing in that we consider the ILO to be an element of major and indeed growing importance in the UN system. As the World Employment Conference showed, the ILO has a significant role to play in the attempts of the United Nations to tackle the crucial problems of north/south relations and of global economic development. It has a substantial contribution to make to the success of the basic needs strategy. Similarly it has a major contribution to make in the field of human rights where the ILO machinery is the longest established and, so far, the most effective of that deployed by any international organization. Finally the regular work of the ILO, the only world-wide tripartite organization, in standard setting and in improving conditions of work throughout the world seems to us of undiminished importance.

For these reasons we consider the ILO remains an organization fully worthy of our support. It would be a major blow both to the Organisation itself and to the UN system as a whole if the US were to withdraw. Nor do we believe that the resulting situation would be readily rectified. The task of reform and of achieving the objectives we share in the ILO might well be impossible in the absence of the United States even though the Governments of the Nine would continue their efforts to preserve and enhance the value of the ILO's services to the international community.

On the other hand, working together with the United States in the organisation and seeking the support and goodwill of the many member states who share our objectives, we consider that there would be a reasonable prospect of making progress in the right direction and of preserving the integrity of the Organisation. This would of course require flexibility on the part of all involved in the negotiations which lie ahead. We believe it will be possible to secure a strengthening of the defence of due process through amendment of Article 17 of the Standing Orders. The necessary restructuring of the Organisation, including, for instance, changes in voting procedures, will require the most careful consideration. But if the discussions are approached in a spirit of mutual understanding the essential requirements of the membership of the Organisation, including the preservation both of the principles of tripartism and of the partnership between the industrial and developing countries can be satisfied.

There is of course no prospect of resolving these complicated issues in the next two months. But a recent opinion by the Legal Adviser to the ILO in response to our inquiry concludes that notice of intent to withdraw from membership can be extended for a defined period of time. We greatly hope that the United States will withdraw its notice of intent. If however there are factors which make that impossible, we urge that you take appropriate steps to extend the formal notice for a new period so as to allow time to work out lasting solutions to the problems which confront the ILO. Such an extension would cover next year's Conference, to which any results of our work in the months ahead will need to be submitted.

In this way all of us, together, will be able to work effectively in support of an organisation whose historical commitment to social justice is so consonant with the purpose of your Government.

Respectfully yours,


Jimmy Carter, International Labor Organization Letter to the President from Prime Minister Leo Tindemans of Belgium, President of the Council of the European Communities. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242230

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives