No policy coherence? No poverty reduction
July-September 2017
By: Raymond Saner and Lichia Yiu

In the case of the European Union, while it does make detailed recommendations to its trade partners regarding labor conditions and keeps more in line with the official periodic review reports, more can be done – especially involving the major EU members in advancing the free trade agreement-labor rights dialogue. In this example, if the United States, the European Union and Australia are to present a coherent and unified front in combating labor rights violations, they should better align their recommendations during universal periodic review sessions with the recommendations of the official reports, especially the United States and Australia. Incidentally, one way of tracking progress would be to develop a quantitative human rights index that records and ranks countries based on their commitment to human and labor rights.

Third, the International Labor Organization decided in 2002 to begin an initiative aimed at increasing the “Decent Work” content of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers originally developed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and embarked on a program of partnership building. While significant progress was achieved, an analysis of its partnership found that more needed to be done to trigger a significant reframing of the strategy papers debate and a shifting of its boundaries. This included a partial repositioning of the ILO’s partnership building within the strategy papers process, and an effort to move beyond the traditional tripartite constituency of the ILO and build more systematic alliances with other segments of the national civil society of least developed countries, as well as global poverty reduction advocacy groups.

However, such alliance building was shown to be difficult because of the absence of a strong hierarchical regulatory policy mechanism. The destiny of partnerships is often decided by their conveners’ ability to achieve and maintain buy-in from different actors. Since partnerships can only exist on the basis of a common goal, the ability of different actors to steer the common agenda in directions that suit them is another crucial element. These factors, in turn, are the result of the different interests, values and perceptions coming into the partnership, as well as the power relations among the involved organizations. In this sense, partnerships are perhaps the most “political” of all interorganizational relations. 

Boundary conditions and policy coherence

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