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Facing Up to the Complexities of the Ilo’S Core Labour Standards Agenda

14 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2008 Last revised: 19 Mar 2011

Philip Alston

New York University School of Law

Date Written: June 1, 2005


This article responds to two detailed critiques by Brian Langille and Francis Maupain of an article dealing with the `transformation of the international labour rights regime` which followed the adoption by the ILO of the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The author argues that the ILO does, in fact, play a central role in the process of defining core labour standards and that its approach is invoked by a wide range of actors seeking legitimacy for their own approaches to such standards, whether in the context of bilateral free trade agreements or of private voluntary initiatives. For these reasons it is important to understand clearly the role played by the ILO, to acknowledge the extent to which the Declaration has become detached from the existing jurisprudence of labour rights, and to seek to ensure that the ILO adopts a more balanced approach which does not unduly privilege a limited range of procedural rights at the expense of equally important substantive social rights. The article concludes by outlining the steps which the ILO ought to take in order to ensure that it remains a relevant and influential actor in efforts to protect the basic rights of workers in the 21st century.

Keywords: Diffuse-porous, hydraulic conductance, orthostichy, phyllotaxy, ring-porous, sectoriality, temperate deciduous trees, vascular architecture

Suggested Citation

Alston, Philip, Facing Up to the Complexities of the Ilo’S Core Labour Standards Agenda (June 1, 2005). European Journal of International Law, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 467-480, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Philip Alston (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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