Call for Papers: “Globalization and Social Justice: A Century of ILO action, 1919-2019”

Papers will be presented during the international symposium in June 2019

The symposium will take place in Paris, on the 26-27-28 June 2019 at the Conseil économique, social et environnemental and the University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne

Call for papers

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary. For historians, sociologists, political scientists, lawyers, economists, and anthropologists working on the ILO, this is a unique occasion to re-examine its origins, assess its experience over the century, and reflect upon its future and its (challenged) influence today. The ILO was founded in 1919 and survived the League of Nations. After World War II, the ILO became a specialized UN agency and brought to the UN system its unique experience and know-how derived from the tradition of the first internationalism.

Moreover, the ILO is the only organization which guarantees the representation of the world of work. Together with representatives of governments, of employers’ and workers’ representatives cooperate in order to establish international labor standards and implement them on national level. Since 1919, the ILO’s mission has therefore been to regulate the economy and the society at the international level, and to elaborate standards on work and employment, social protection and social dialogue. The ILO also seeks to produce expertise on these questions and organize technical cooperation. This mission was reasserted by the Declaration of Philadelphia in 1944, the Declaration on Fundamental Principals and Rights at Work (1998) and further developed by the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Glabalization (2008).

This scientific and multidisciplinary symposium proposes to study the ILO by considering it as a part of broader institutional system whose primary goal is to create the conditions for universal peace and social justice. Therefore, the ILO has formulated and followed ideals of social reform while remaining pragmatic on specific questions. In many areas, the ILO can be considered as a pioneering institution.

This symposium aims to assess the academic knowledge currently available on the ILO. It will also include testimonies from different actors involved in the work of the ILO (directly or indirectly), in order to debate on the future of the organization. The scientific committee welcomes communications about other organizations whose activities are related to the missions of the ILO’s mandate. The symposium covers the period from 1919 to the present.

Four areas of research are suggested:
If you want to participate in the conference, please send a CV and an abstract (maximum of 500 words) by June 15, 2018 to the following address:

The abstract should clearly indicate the focus of the paper, its main arguments and research methods. Those selected for participation will be informed by the first week of July, 2018. Final papers must be submitted by May 30, 2019.

Axis 1: Labour and social justice

Social justice has been presented as the cornerstone of the International Labour Organization since its foundation, and as the main condition for peace. Yet, this flexible notion has evolved throughout the organization’s history. By specifying new social categories and labour standards, the ILO significantly contributed to the regulation of the world of work at a global level, in the name of this ideal of social justice. Analyzing how labour and social justice are linked will allow us to better understand the organization’s mode of action, as well as its efforts to adapt to an increasingly globalized world economy. 

Axis 2 Universalism and globalization

Since its foundation, the ILO has been torn between the ideal of universal workers’ rights and the diversity of workers’ situations which has dramatically increased with globalization. To what extend did the opening-up of the ILO, who was originally a European organization, toward what we call today the Global South, modify its internal power balance and impact the universalization of its principles and recommendations?
Are economic globalization and global phenomena such as migration, climate change and new technologies a hindrance to the universalization of social justice? What are the coming challenges for the ILO who needs to reconcile its universal principles with the social transformations and especially the rising inequalities brought on by these phenomena?

Axis 3: Representation and social dialogue

Tripartite social dialogue is a core aspect of the normative and regulative of the ILO’s activities, enhancing the cooperation but also the confrontation between the representatives of governments, employers, workers the two latter ones coming from the most representative organizations of their country. The majority of employers’ and employers’ delegates are now affiliated with the International Confederation of Trade Unions and the International Organization of Employers.

In the era of globalization, where “new” actors of the world of work, such as NGOs and multinational enterprises participate in civil dialogue and multi-stakeholders initiatives, the efficiency and legitimacy of the ILO system has been put into question.

Does tripartite social dialogue still allow an adequate representation of the world of work? Is the ILO ‘s tripartite approach still unique, compared to other regional and international institutions, which all include these days the “civil society” in their decision-making process?

Axis 4: Norms and Regulation

The International Labour Organization has not become the workers’ global parliament, that a few socialist reformers and trade-unionists dreamt of in 1919. Nevertheless, during its century of existence, the organization has produced an impressive set of standards, which contributed to establishing an international labour legislation.

This normative activity has undoubtedly been one of the organization “raisons d’être”, but the tensions it causes also tend to weaken it. The possibility of establishing international standards still relies on Nation-States, which take part in the drafting process, ratify and implement them. The tension between the national and international level is thus at the core of the ILO’s normative system.

Moreover, because of the deepening socio-economic differences between memberstates, the establishing “one size fits all” type of standards becomes increasingly difficult. The ILO’s normative capacity is thus challenged by the tension between universalism and particularism as well as by new normative approaches, in form of soft law instruments such as the Declarations which became more important after the end of the Cold War, or the promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility. If not exhaustive, these questions allow us to think about the importance and difficulties of the normative and regulative role of the ILO.


Organization committee: Ministère du travail, de l’emploi, de la formation professionnelle et du dialogue social, Comité d’histoire des administrations chargées du travail de l’emploi et de la formation professionnelle (CHATEFP), Conseil économique social et environnemental (CESE), Association française pour l’OIT, Bureau de l’OIT en France, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Université Grenoble-Alpes, Université de Genève.

Coordination committee: Adeline Blaszkiewicz (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, CHS), Marine Dhermy-Mairal (Université Grenoble-Alpes, Science Po Grenoble, Pacte CNRS), Sandrine Kott (Université Genève), Isabelle Lespinet-Moret (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, CHS) et Marieke Louis (Université Grenoble-Alpes, Science Po Grenoble, Pacte, CNRS)

Scientific committee: Adeline Blaszkiewicz (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Eileen Boris(UC Santa Barbara), Alain Chatriot, (Sciences Po Paris), Cyril Cosme (OIT Paris), Marine Dhermy-Mairal (Université Alpes Grenoble, PACTE), Norberto Ferreras (Universidade federal Fluminense),Lydia Fraile (IIES), Patrick Fridenson (EHESS), Eric Geerkens (Université de Liège), François Hénot, (Université de Picardie, AFOIT), Dorothea Hoehtker (OIT, Genève) Sandrine Kott (Université de Genève), Michel Lallement (CNAM) Isabelle Lespinet-Moret (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Marieke Louis (Université de Grenoble) Jean-Bernard Ouedraogo (CNRS), Emmanuel Reynaud (ancien OIT, Genève), Alain Supiot (Collège de France), Vincent Viet (CNRS), Susan Zimmerman (Central European University), Aiqing Zheng (Université Remnin, Pékin).