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Jean-Marc Thouvenin

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has not traditionally been perceived as a major actor in international labour law or—for that matter—in any other field. But the OECD and the ILO have had cooperative agreements dating back to the 1950s, updated most recently in 2011, and have prepared joint statements stressing the importance of job creation to G20 meetings of Leaders and of Labour and Employment Ministers. Despite that the OECD’s lack of coercive tools, such as the IMF’s conditionality mechanism, OECD initiatives nonetheless have the capacity to add weight to ILO efforts to guarantee core labour standards, both by lending them external legitimacy, and through independent pressure from the OECD. This chapter explores some illustrations of this potential. First, accession was used the case of South Korea to make South Korea’s OECD membership conditional on it showing greater respect for freedom of association. Second, the OECD Declaration and Recommendation for the Employment of Women now emphasizes the importance of closing the earnings gap between men and women, and explicitly refers to the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention. Third, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, adopted in 1976 and updated most recently in 2011, contain recommendations that provide the foundation for corporate social responsibility. The Guidelines explicitly render homage to the work of the ILO and line up behind its authority while reaffirming its relevance. Governments accepting the Guidelines must establish National Contact Points tasked with promoting the Principles and handling issues raised publicly relating to alleged non-implementation. As of now it seems fairly clear that the OECD is following in the ILO’s wake rather than competing with it, and that the OECD intends to allow ILO standards to acquire still greater authority.