chapter  9
16 Pages

Coming in from the cold: labour, the ILO and the international labour standards regime


In surveying the galaxy of international organisations the International Labour Organisation (ILO) stands out in two respects: it is one of the oldest existing intergovernmental organisations, and it is unique among these organisations in its tripartite system of governance. In many respects this tripartism helps explain the ILO’s longevity. Since its founding in 1919, interest accommodation-between government, business and labour-has defined ILO decision-making and guided the development of an international organisation dedicated to labour protection and social justice. Significantly, this tripartite structure links domestic and international interests in a way that influences, and in important respects determines the modus operandi of ILO activity-the development and maintenance of the international labour standards regime. Much of the debate over trade and labour standards, for example, has been brokered by the ILO through this system of interest accommodation. This has helped carry forward an often stale and polarised deliberation and nurtured alternate paths for the development of labour protection.