Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock
Chapter 14: Freedom of association in deliberative spaces: The ILO Credentials Committee
Longstanding criticism of the ILO’s tripartite structure—particularly its failure to encompass a sufficiently broad array of interests reflective of new socio-economic realities—is grounded in what could be referred to as the multi-interest approach. Under this view, to bolster the ILO's democratic features and promote civic equality and participation in the Organization, its tripartite structure must be altered to incorporate currently unrepresented groups and interests. Alternatively, broader participation could, in practice, be achieved by adopting the internal functioning approach, with focus placed on the democratic legitimacy of internal representation mechanisms, in particular in the framework of the ILO Credentials Committee. The Committee’s scope of activity has expanded during the last decade. It has acquired new powers relating to violations of freedom of association, including instances in which member-states deliberately avoid credentialing ILO delegates of functional groups, and the authority to ensure that functional delegates are as representative as possible. Reinforcing mechanisms ensuring representatives' accountability to their constituents—a value already incorporated in freedom of association—would be one way of achieving representation that is responsive and, thus, inclusive and genuine. Ideally, retroactive accountability measures should be supported by mechanisms of ongoing deliberation between representatives and their constituents. This would promote stability, which, in turn, facilitates the monitoring of the internal functioning of workers and employers groups participating in the ILO tripartite structure and is consistent with a transformative understanding of identities as intersectional and fluid. This approach has significant promise, despite potential concerns that initial political configurations might ‘freeze’ the framing of subsequent identities and behaviours and that intensified scrutiny of functional groups could, in practice, restrict, rather than promote, diverse participation.
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