ILO Will Review MNE Declaration

The International Labor Organization’s (ILO) 1977 Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration) provides guidelines for regulating the conduct of global businesses and defines the terms for their relations with workers and host countries in the developing world. The ILO Governing Body has recently discussed the possible review of the declaration, which was last updated in 2006, with some groups pushing for a full revision of the text that could include additional burdens and obligations on businesses.

While the business community, represented within the ILO by the global employers’ group facilitated by the International Organization of Employers (IOE), supports the MNE Declaration and recognizes the importance of updating it to reflect recent developments – such as the endorsement of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – the employers’ group does not believe a more comprehensive revision of the declaration would be needed.

During a meeting of the ILO Governing body this week, the employers’ group warned against any excessive revision of the declaration for the following reasons. First, any major changes to the declaration could create a conflict between it and other international regulatory texts, such as the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, which has a chapter on Employment and Industrial Relations that is already carefully aligned to the existing text of the MNE Declaration. Significant changes to the MNE Declaration  could create confusion for OECD member states and the companies subject to the Guidelines’ recommendations, which were substantially revised in 2011 after much multistakeholder discussion. Second, the employers noted it is unrealistic to believe that the text can be fully updated in just one year, in time for the 40th anniversary of the declaration in 2017. Finally, the employers’ group argued that given the ILO’s limited resources, money should be invested in essential work in the field, rather than formal bureaucratic procedures in Geneva.

Although the employers called for a limited revision of the declaration to be executed by the ILO Secretariat, the ILO governing body agreed to undertake a full revision of the Declaration through a tripartite working group over the coming year, with the aim of completing the update in time for the text’s 40th anniversary. However, the employers’ group was able to negotiate a clause in the text regarding the structure of the tripartite working group, which underlines that the tripartite working group will make its decisions by consensus. This provision will give the employers considerable leverage as the process unfolds.

More information on the ILO’s decision can be found on the IOE’s website.

Staff Contact:   Ewa Staworzynska

Director, Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs
Tel: 212.703.5056

Ewa Staworzynska is USCIB’s Director of Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs. Staworzynska brings to USCIB her extensive policy experience from both public and private sectors. Prior to joining USCIB, she led DoorDash’s policy efforts in international markets and was in charge of diplomatic relations. Before her position at DoorDash, Staworzynska was an officer at the International Labor Organization (ILO), where she worked multilaterally to advance support for decent work and related policies at UN headquarters. Staworzynska began her career in New York working for a real estate start-up. Staworzynska will be based in USCIB’s New York office and will work with Jose Arroyo, USCIB policy associate on corporate responsibility and labor affairs, on a wide range of issues, including human rights and industrial policy, responsible business conduct, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She was born and raised in Norway and has a B.A. in Economics and M.A. in International Relations, with a specialty in International Business, from New York University.
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