Re-reading the Preamble to the 1919 ILO Constitution in Light of Recent Data on FDI and Worker Rights


The Preamble to the 1919 Constitution of the International Labor Organization (“ILO”) makes two major claims: (1) that universal peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice, and (2) that the failure of any nation to adopt humane labor standards may be an obstacle in the way of social justice improvements in other nations. For some time, these two claims have been read together as providing one rationale for the existence of the ILO. But this received wisdom must now be re-assessed in light of recent evidence of the positive relationship between a nation’s respect for core labor rights and its ability to attract foreign direct investment (“FDI”). New and better interpretations of the Preamble’s two claims are both required and available. These new interpretations not only provide a more satisfactory explanation of the ILO’s role, but also call for a fundamental rethinking of the reasons for much of what it does.