Edited by Geoffrey Wood and Mehmet Demirbag
Nigel Haworth and Steve Hughes 8.1 INTRODUCTION Since 1994, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has undergone a significant shift in focus, requiring a simultaneous reordering of the ILO’s structures and priorities. At the heart of its contemporary activity is the concept of ‘Decent Work’, introduced under the guidance of the Director General, the Chilean Juan Somavia, following his appointment in 1999 Decent Work is, for Somavia, the mechanism by which the ILO displays its historic capacity for adaptation, renewal and change and, as we shall see, its relevance and presence in the international economic order. In 2019 the ILO will celebrate its centenary, underlining its existence as one of the oldest international organizations. Its tripartite system of governance, providing independent votes to government, employer and worker bodies of member states, remains unique among United Nations (UN) institutions, and is the legacy of those moved by a mix of political, economic and humanitarian concerns in the aftermath of the First World War. Given its longevity, it is often a surprise that this ‘firstborn’ of existent international organizations is so little known, and yet its activities are central to addressing the social and economic problems of global integration and its role is increasingly prominent in debate on the reconfiguration of global governance. When in 1975 the ILO moved its administrative headquarters to a large and imposing building in Geneva, it vacated its original home to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) secretariat and, eventually, the World Trade Organization (WTO). The...
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