World Day of Social Justice

Decent work for social justice

On World Day of Social Justice (20 February), ILO Director-General Guy Ryder underscores the challenge of bridging the social and economic gaps which have arisen as a result of growing inequality.

Statement | 20 February 2017
© Stefan Magdalinski
We observe this World Day of Social Justice at a time of great global uncertainty. Poverty and conflict continue to blight too many people’s lives while more prosperous societies have seen inequalities widen.

Globalization held out the promise of an era of prosperity but the benefits have been unevenly shared. Paradoxically, while the world has become far better connected than ever before, seemingly unbridgeable social and economic gaps are opening up. Millions of people feel left behind and left out. They feel the absence of social justice in their daily lives: children without secure futures, parents without decent jobs and a general feeling of abandonment. A sense of injustice prevails in many quarters. The consequences for communities, societies and economies are grave.

The lack of decent jobs and the fear that aspirations for a better life will remain unfulfilled is a powerful force driving people’s worries and feeding uncertainty. It leaves young people without a stake in society. These sentiments are all the more acute in situations of conflict, fragility and dislocation where three basic desires are often expressed: to go home, to have the dignity of work and for children to be safe and in school.

Our shared challenge is to come up with the policy alternatives that can deliver the decent work opportunities on which the stability and success of our societies depend. We need solutions that lead away from conflict and towards recovery, to economic growth with social progress, solutions that build institutions girded by labour standards that guarantee rights at work. In an interconnected world this is a global agenda and a global responsibility.

The ILO’s founding mandate originates from the principle: Si vis pacem, cole justatium: “If you seek peace, cultivate justice”. These words are as compelling today as they were when written nearly one hundred years ago when the world was emerging from the ravages of war. Through our action in the world of work we join the UN family in re-committing to action in support of fair and inclusive societies that build a strong foundation of peace.