The ILO is responsibleD123 for formulating and overseeing international labour standards. The main aims of the ILO are to promote rights at work and decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen social dialogue on work-related issues. Its tripartite constituency brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to discuss and draw up policies and programmes aimed at promoting decent work for all.
The ILO has emphasized South-South and triangular cooperation as important means of achieving its Decent Work Agenda. Its tripartite constituency offers a useful platform for consensus building and cooperation between actors in developing countries. Governments, employers and workers in Member States represent the largest network of expertise on the world of work. The knowledge and experience of this tripartite constituency are documented, discussed and shared across countries and regions in the South. Social dialogue is the path to share views on issues of common interest concerning economic and social policy. Respect for national autonomy and priorities, the diversity of circumstances and solutions, and solidarity between nations, are among the SSTC’s orientations which converge with the approach of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda.
The ILO has been drawing on the particular definition of SSTC presented in the 2009 Nairobi outcome document, endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2010. This definition provides the most comprehensive definition of SSTC in the framework of the UN system; accordingly the ILO, as part of the UN system, has adapted it in line with the ILO’s particular mandate as follows: 1
(a) SSTC involves initiatives in the social, economic, environmental, technical and political fields, and in this perspective it can be a useful tool to engage social partners from developing countries to promote the Decent Work Agenda through development cooperation.
(b) SSTC is a manifestation of solidarity among the countries and peoples of the South that contributes to their national well-being, national and collective self-reliance, and the attainment of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
(c) SSTC should not be seen as official development assistance, but as a partnership among equals based on solidarity, and it is not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North–South cooperation. From this stems the concept of “triangular cooperation” which is defined as South–South cooperation supported by a Northern partner.
(d) SSTC takes different and evolving forms, including, inter alia, the sharing of knowledge and experience, training, and technology transfer.
(e) SSTC embraces a multi-stakeholder approach. The ILO has a comparative advantage in this regard, due to its tripartite nature, and social partners can play a key role in promoting SSTC.
(f) SSTC recognizes that “interrelated global crises, in particular the financial and economic crisis, volatile energy prices, the food crisis, poverty, and the challenges posed by climate change, as well as other challenges, including communicable and non-communicable diseases, are already reversing the gains achieved in developing countries and hence require action at all levels”. In the UN system, the ILO can play a distinctive role and make a unique contribution to addressing and helping to resolve these crises, including, for example, through the application of the 2009 Global Jobs Pact and the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization.
The ILO has for several decades been involved in regional economic cooperation initiatives, which were already a form of SSTC. This involvement in South-South cooperation dates back to 1987 with the signing of an agreement with the Government of Brazil to undertake technical cooperation projects in other countries in Latin America and Africa. In 2005, Brazil became the first partner country from the South to support the ILO’s Technical Cooperation Programme through a South–South cooperation arrangement. Since then, ILO has expanded its partnerships and participated in a number of South-South cooperation projects and programmes, facilitating the sharing of experience and lessons learned in its Decent Work Agenda and working jointly with developing countries in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Moreover, the ILO Inter-American Centre for Knowledge Development in Vocational Training (CINTERFOR) has been promoting SSTC through a regional knowledge-sharing platform and network for skills development policies. The International Training Centre of the ILO, Turin has also used South–South and triangular capacity-building and training. Strategic partnerships with several regional entities in the South have also facilitated SSTC, including the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Andean Community, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market of the Southern Cone (MERCOSUR), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).The ILO, in cooperation with the regional commissions and the regional UN Development Group teams, has been fostering good practices in horizontal cooperation and networking.
In addition, the ILO has also been engaged with triangular cooperation initiatives; namely, the agreement between the United States and Brazil to support Haiti in combating child labour in the construction sector, and the 2011 Brazil–United States Memorandum of Understanding to promote Decent Work through South–South and trilateral cooperation.
The ILO signed a Declaration of Intent with India, Brazil and South Africa (the IBSA countries) to promote the Decent Work Agenda through South-South cooperation. In addition, a South-South cooperation partnership agreement was signed between China and the ILO on 12 June 2012. The ILO has also expanded its partnerships with other multilateral organizations, non-State entities and other important actors in South-South and triangular cooperation. New partners from the Global South have indicated an interest in promoting the Decent Work Agenda through SSTC, including Argentina, Chile, India, Kenya, Panama, Singapore and South Africa. This indicates a positive enhancement of multilateralism in a changing geopolitical environment.
Globally, the ILO promotes South-South and triangular cooperation by hosting events such as the Global South-South Development Expo in 2010. At the country level, ILO facilitates exchanges of good practices targeting areas such as the promotion of employment generation and of social protection floors, sectoral activities, migration, child labour, green jobs, forced labour, social dialogue, skills development and capacity building.
ILO Regional Offices
Senior External Relations Specialist:
United Nations & South-South Cooperation
Tel.: +41 22 799 63 46
Mob.: +41 79 593 13 55
Fax: + 4122 799 71 46