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Social Dialogue in the 21st Century Project

A collaborative project between the Cornell ILR School’s New Conversations Project and the Strategic Partnership for Garment Supply Chain Transformation (SP), which includes the Fair Wear Foundation, CNV Internationaal, and Mondiaal FNV.

Social Dialogue in the 21st Century is a collaborative project between the Cornell ILR School's New Conversations Project and the Strategic Partnership for Garment Supply Chain Transformation (SP), which includes the Fair Wear Foundation, CNV Internationaal, and Mondiaal FNV with support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project provides a root-cause analysis of barriers to impactful social dialogue in the project's ten target countries: Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Mexico, Honduras, and Vietnam (see figure 1)

World map showing the study's target countries: Mexico, Honduras, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonessia, Bangladesh

Figure 1 Target Countries

The Project has published a Synthesis Report summarizing findings of a year-long mapping exercise across the 10 garment-producing countries listed above. Additionally, the Project produced country reports analyzing the barriers to social dialogue in these countries. This research looks beyond the traditional social partners in order to map the interests and roles of the complex network of actors in supply chains: factory-level, national and global unions, employer organizations, local civil society organizations, and government agencies and regulators in the main apparel-producing and consuming countries. The research also takes into account the diverse legal frameworks, habits of social dialogue and democratic interaction, structures of work organization, understandings or industrial relations, and degrees of coordination among suppliers, unions, governments, and other actors. 

These reports also examine the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic - a high-stakes 'stress test' - on social dialogue structures and habits in the global apparel industry. The ILO encourages social dialogue in response to the crisis noting that “well established social dialogue can be used as a valuable control mechanism to ensure that social security schemes are functioning properly [and so that] social partners know the particular needs of the beneficiaries and the challenges encountered by businesses.” Despite this, supply chain governance initiatives tend to ignore or under-invest
in social dialogue mechanisms. This report’s analysis is important for stakeholders to understand this bias and to develop clearer understandings of the dynamics of productive social dialogue and the obstacles to it.

Read the Project's reports below:

A video of a session discussing findings from the Project at the 2021 OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector is available below:

For more information about New Conversations, please contact J. Lowell Jackson, Project Associate, New Conversations Project at jlj68@cornell.edu.