Tripartism and Social Dialogue

The popular uprisings that have swept through the Middle East and North Africa since 2011 serve as a reminder that social justice is at the heart of peoples’ aspirations for a better life.

Social dialogue – which is any form of negotiation, consultation or exchange of information between and among representatives of governments, workers and employers – is key to fostering social and economic progress. It is relevant to any effort aiming to achieve more productive and effective enterprises and sectors and a fairer and more efficient economy.

As the only tripartite United Nations agency, the ILO promotes dialogue among and between governments and the two “social partners” to jointly shape labour standards, policies and programmes. Social dialogue between these three parties underpins the ILO’s work, and the ILO helps to develop the capacity of its constituents so they can effectively engage in this process.

In the Arab states, the ILO promotes social dialogue by:
• Promoting international standards concerning social dialogue, including ILO Conventions 87 and 98;
• Helping to modernize national labour legislation and strengthening labour administrations;
• Strengthening independent workers’ and employers’ organizations through technical capacity building and access to information;
• Promoting gender equality in each of its programmes and activities;
• Elaborating social dialogue indicators as part of the overall indicators of decent work;
• Organizing bipartite and tripartite meetings in many technical and sectoral fields.

The Arab Action Agenda for Employment – adopted by 22 states at the Arab Employment Forum in 2009 – identifies the promotion of social dialogue as a priority area for action and encourages the establishment of social and economic councils. The Agenda encourages governments to ratify and implement ILO conventions related to social dialogue, linking it to all public freedoms, and calls for its institutionalization.

In 2010, the ILO and the Arab Labor Organization hosted the first Arab Regional Conference on Social Dialogue, which concluded with an agreement to build new, and bolster existing, national frameworks for social dialogue.

In 2013, the ILO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released “Rethinking Economic Growth: Towards Productive and Inclusive Arab Societies”. The report notes that the Arab region’s greatest deficits are in the areas of social protection and social dialogue.

For more on the ILO’s support to social dialogue in the Arab states, visit our Workers and Employers pages.