The Role of the State in the Exercise of Transnational Public and Private Authority over Labour Standards

In: International Organizations Law Review
Janelle M. Diller University of Bern Institute of Public Law

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Interdependence among States in an era of globalization exacerbates the increasing emphasis on competing claims of national interest in the global arena. Rising nationalism is a symptom of the weakness of conception of transnational governance that insufficiently coordinates public and private interactions across multiple systems of governance which overlap on matters of common interest such as labour standards. The State-centric system of world governance lacks effective structures to bridge the gap between transnational labour governance (‘TLG’) and national, interstate, and international governance. However, emerging evidence suggests that the State is capable of facilitating inclusive and consensual action with non-state bodies of collective interest at national and transnational levels that helps connect TLG with national and international governance. This review compares differing degrees and methods of State action in selected TLG prototypes and their outcomes relevant to public and private policy choices affecting decent work and equal opportunity for well-being. Particular focus is placed on the State’s role in attributing private authority to non-state bodies of collective interest, facilitating consensual decision-making and regulatory action, aligning TLG with international norms and relevant national law and institutions, and cooperating in TLG with other States, including with or through international organizations. Challenges to effective TLG, such as opting-out, competing structures, and difficulty in leveraging short-term initiatives for longer-term capacity, are examined within the context of the legitimacy and coherence of TLG systems and across phases of governance, including agenda setting, norm development, implementation, oversight, evaluation, correction and revision. Preliminary conclusions call for further theoretical and empirical research to evaluate factors that influence such innovations and the extent to which they lead to durable and effective TLG within and across States that advances decent work and equal opportunity for well-being in globalized markets.

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