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Peace and resilience through decent work

Peace and resilience through decent work

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the vulnerability of states that were already suffering from disaster and conflict.

Even before this global health crisis, many were experiencing high rates of unemployment and poverty, leading to increased risk of social unrest. Factors like these make countries affected by fragility, conflict and disaster less able to prepare for future crises.

Decent work has proven to be the foundation of resilient and peaceful societies. Against the backdrop of COVID-19, it is needed now more than ever.

Explore this InfoStory to learn more.

Construction workers in Mauritania © ILO

A more fragile world

As it stands, 1.6 billion people are in immediate danger of losing their livelihoods due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But prior to the outbreak, nearly 2 billion people across the world were already living with the ongoing fallout of disaster and conflict.

When people live permanently on the edge of crisis – when even one small disaster might push them over the edge – we say they are living in a fragile situation, or under conditions of fragility.

For those already trapped in fragile situations, COVID-19 poses yet another threat to their survival – and in turn makes them less able to address future shocks.

Water collectors in the sand of the dry Fiherenana River in Tulear, Madagascar. © ILO / Marcel Crozet

The vicious cycle of fragility

Historically, the term “fragile” has been used to describe countries or regions affected by war and armed conflict, but today it is most widely used to describe a situation where societal, political, economic, security and environmental factors come together to create ongoing or recurring vulnerability.

Fragile situations are rarely caused by a single event. There are usually pre-existing or emerging instabilities in a fragile society, which are then exacerbated by a major shock or catastrophe, triggering an ongoing series of crises. Crucially, from the perspective of the world of work fragility means that workers and employers can no longer access or provide decent work, which further compounds existing vulnerabilities. Fragility is best understood as a vicious cycle.

The path to resilience

Resilience is the opposite of fragility.

A resilient society can adapt and recover in the face of catastrophes such as disasters, pandemics, economic shocks and conflict. A resilient society is prepared and can mitigate the worst impacts of a crisis and rebuild in ways that support economic and social development. A resilient society will find its way back to peace and stability sooner rather than later.

When disaster or conflict strikes, the international community offers humanitarian aid to minimise loss of human life, in addition to mitigating material, economic and environmental losses. But after a society has been weakened by such events, it is more vulnerable than ever to further shocks and threats. This is why development work cannot be treated as separate from or incidental to humanitarian efforts.

The ILO has 100 years of experience coordinating with governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations and other UN entities to help societies transition from crisis mode into a development phase, supported by a long-term vision and a will to “build back better” in the wake of crisis.

A new path for a community in Myanmar © ILO / Marcel Crozet

The ILO Mandate

Since its origins, the ILO has always understood that social justice and decent work are key to long-lasting peace and stability. In 2017, the ILO equipped itself with an up-to-date international labour standard to guide its constituents in addressing world-of-work issues in crisis contexts.

In a world of multiple crises, where conflict and violence interact with drivers of fragility, accelerating climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters, Recommendation No. 205 on Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience represents a landmark instrument for dealing with situations that are at the crossroads of humanitarian, peacebuilding, disaster response and development initiatives.


The ILO is founded with the main goal of addressing the social and economic problems that led to the First World War.


In the aftermath of the Second World War, at the 26th Session of the International Labour Conference, the ILO adopts the first international normative instrument on rebuilding livelihoods in the wake of conflict (Recommendation No. 71).




The ILO receives the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its crucial wartime role and its ongoing work towards the goal of lasting worldwide peace.


The 106th International Labour Conference adopts Recommendation No. 205, Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience, the only international normative framework focusing on the role of employment and decent work for promoting peace, preventing crisis, enabling recovery and building resilience. 


To mark 100 years since its founding, the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work sets out a roadmap for a human-centred future of work, recognizing that decent work is key to sustainable development, addressing income inequality and ending poverty particularly in areas affected by conflict, disaster and other humanitarian emergencies.

An operational approach: Jobs for Peace and Resilience

Guided by Recommendation No. 205, the Jobs for Peace and Resilience flagship programme creates jobs, reinforces skills and promotes private sector and local economic development in the wake of crisis as paths to more peaceful and resilient societies. Its modular, local-based approach focuses on four objectives

Triggers and multipliers

One hundred years since the founding of the ILO, our world is a very different place. As Recommendation No. 205 acknowledges, the new millennium brings unique circumstances and new challenges, many of which contribute to or catalyse fragile situations.

Access more information as well as case studies below:

Workman in Potosí, Bolivia © ILO / Marcel Crozet

The hardest hit

Disaster and conflict do not impact all groups equally. People who are already marginalized – such as women, young people and indigenous and tribal peoples – are hit hardest.

Access more information as well as case studies below:

Ouely José, 18, former member of the Foroches gang, is now self-employed and repairs boats after receiving training at the CFTPS Center in Diego Suarez, Madagascar. © ILO / Marcel Crozet

The newly vulnerable

In addition to their impact on already vulnerable people, disasters and conflict create newly marginalized groups, such as ex-combatants and forcibly displaced people, who often face major barriers when attempting to reintegrate into society.

Access more information as well as case studies below:

Portrait of a refugee living in harsh conditions in the Summit refugee camp in Kenya. © ILO / Marcel Crozet

A future for decent work, a future for peace

Even the most devastating conflict or disaster can yield hope for the future. Societies in a post-crisis environment are often more receptive to change. We see this in discussions that have risen out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ILO believes that with a continued focus on decent work for all, we can aspire to a better tomorrow for everyone. The core of the issue is as clear as it was in 1919: in times of crisis, social justice is the only way to build resilience and lasting peace.

Learn more by clicking on the two links below.

Construction workers in a Jordanian refugee camp. © ILO / Nadia Bseiso

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