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ILO Histories

Essays on the International Labour Organization and Its Impact on the World During the Twentieth Century


Edited By Jasmien Van Daele, Magaly Rodriguez Garcia and Geert van Goethem

In 2009, the International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrated its ninetieth anniversary. The First World War and the revolutionary wave it provoked in Russia and elsewhere were powerful inspirations for the founding of the ILO. There was a growing understanding that social justice, in particular by improving labour conditions, was an essential precondition for universal peace. Since then, the ILO has seen successes and set-backs; it has been ridiculed and praised. Much has been written about the ILO; there are semi-official histories and some critical studies on the organization’s history have recently been published. Yet, further source-based critical and comprehensive analyses of the organization’s origins and development are still lacking. The present collection of eighteen essays is an attempt to change this unsatisfactory situation by complementing those histories that already exist, exploring new topics, and offering new perspectives. It is guided by the observation that the ILO’s history is not primarily about «elaborating beautiful texts and collecting impressive instruments for ratification» but about effecting «real change and more happiness in peoples’ lives».


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19 Conclusion: The ILO’s Impact on the World 461


8=6EI:G Conclusion: The >AD’s Impact on the World Magaly Rodríguez García* This collection of papers stands out both for its original combination of “old” and “new” topics and for its nuanced account of certain aspects of the history of the International Labour Organization (>AD). The book is a compilation of papers presented during the conference “International Labour Organization: Past and Present” (Brussels, - October ). The purpose of this conference was to give an open forum to scholars from all over the world to present their research results on the >AD rather than to set up a clear-cut programme, which could have formed the basis for the first >AD history. Indeed, the preceding chapters do not offer a comprehensive history of the organization, but they do form a welcome historiographic overview of the themes present-day historians find interesting. Before out- lining the commonalities found in these analyses, I will point out the main lacunae in the current scholarly research on the >AD. First, scholars from middle- and low-income countries are still under- represented in the current >AD academic debate. Although the number of labour studies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America has substantially increased since the s, the study of international organizations in the periphery has not received the same attention as in metropolitan countries. This lack of attention either derives from a belief that international organizations have had a limited impact in less developed societies or from practical dif- ficulties such as limited accessibility to sources....

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