Sustaining peace through employment and decent work

Violent conflict, climate change and disasters have staggering economic costs, and there is evidence that they are linked to unemployment and decent work deficits through a “vicious cycle”.

On the one hand, crises – including the COVID-19 pandemic – can severely halt and reverse sustainable economic development, with large implications for the world of work, in terms of availability and quality of jobs. Regarding the quality of work, for instance, conflict and widespread violence may increase informality and non-contractual and unregistered work, particularly for youth and women, and prop up illicit economies, built around – and making workers dependent on – continued violence. Furthermore, conflict severely limits the degree to which workers enjoy basic social protection and fundamental rights and principles at work – often pushing many children into worst forms of child labour.

On the other hand, unemployment and decent work deficits can themselves be key contributing factors to conflict. For example, the lack of respect of fundamental rights at work (such as child labour and discrimination), the scarcity of equal economic opportunities or the absence of social dialogue at work can trigger grievances and lead to conflict.

The vicious cycle of crisis, conflict, climate change, unemployment and decent work deficits (ILO, 2021)

Employment and Decent Work in the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus

Various UN agendas, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG16 in particular) and the Sustaining Peace resolutions, and discussions around the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus recognize that achieving development outcomes and reducing humanitarian needs is dependent upon preventing and transforming violent conflict. The UN Secretary-General has called on all UN entities to integrate the approach to sustaining peace in their strategic planning, and to regard sustaining peace as an important goal to which their work contributes.

The Decent Work Agenda is an essential element of the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus where employment, decent working conditions and social dialogue can contribute to peace and resilience. In collaboration with Member States, tripartite constituents, international and national partners, and with the direct involvement of local populations and stakeholders, a two-fold approach to crisis response can allow for an immediate response centred on employment, which simultaneously stimulates and assists long-term socio-economic development in an inclusive and rights-based manner. By doing so, decent work and social justice are promoted as key drivers of resilience and peace, addressing the underlying factors of fragility that made the society and economy particularly vulnerable to external shocks in the first place.

In conflict settings, employment and decent work initiatives have to be always designed and implemented in a conflict-sensitive way, to ensure they do no harm to already volatile environments. Moreover, these programmes and projects need to go further, identifying how they can contribute purposefully to peace, which means that: 
  1. they provide concrete decent work opportunities;
  2. they enhance contact among the crisis-affected population to increase social cohesion; and
  3. they aim at reducing (real or perceived) grievances and sense of injustice.