This year’s theme focuses on the recommendations of Our Common Agenda to strengthen global solidarity and to re-build trust in government by “Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice”. Therefore, the 2023 World Day of Social Justice provides an opportunity to foster dialogue with Member States, youth, social partners, civil society, UN organisations and other stakeholders on actions needed to strengthen the social contract that has been fractured by rising inequalities, conflicts and weakened institutions that are meant to protect the rights of workers. Despite these multiple crises, there are many opportunities to build a coalition for social justice and to unleash greater investments in decent jobs, with a particular focus on the green, digital and care economy, and on young people. [Concept note]
The International Labour Organization (ILO) unanimously adopted the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization on 10 June 2008. This is the third major statement of principles and policies adopted by the International Labour Conference since the ILO’s Constitution of 1919. It builds on the Philadelphia Declaration of 1944 and the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of 1998. The 2008 Declaration expresses the contemporary vision of the ILO’s mandate in the era of globalization.
This landmark Declaration is a powerful reaffirmation of ILO values. It is the outcome of tripartite consultations that started in the wake of the Report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization. By adopting this text, the representatives of governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations from 182 member States emphasize the key role of our tripartite Organization in helping to achieve progress and social justice in the context of globalization. Together, they commit to enhance the ILO’s capacity to advance these goals, through the Decent Work Agenda. The Declaration institutionalizes the Decent Work concept developed by the ILO since 1999, placing it at the core of the Organization’s policies to reach its constitutional objectives.
The Declaration comes at a crucial political moment, reflecting the wide consensus on the need for a strong social dimension to globalization in achieving improved and fair outcomes for all. It constitutes a compass for the promotion of a fair globalization based on decent work, as well as a practical tool to accelerate progress in the implementation of the Decent Work Agenda at the country level. It also reflects a productive outlook by highlighting the importance of sustainable enterprises in creating greater employment and income opportunities for all.
The General Assembly recognizes that social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations and that, in turn, social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security, or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It further recognizes that globalization and interdependence are opening new opportunities through trade, investment and capital flows and advances in technology, including information technology, for the growth of the world economy and the development and improvement of living standards around the world, while at the same time there remain serious challenges, including serious financial crises, insecurity, poverty, exclusion and inequality within and among societies, and considerable obstacles to further integration and full participation in the global economy for developing countries, as well as some countries with economies in transition.
Poverty and inequalities within and among countries are on the rise in many parts of the world. The economic and social crises of recent years have been exacerbated by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters due to accelerating climate change, geopolitical tensions and armed conflicts. Beyond the human tragedies associated with them and their impact on the world of work, these crises have highlighted the interlinkages and dependencies of economies and societies around the world and shown the crucial need for concerted action to respond to them, at global, regional and national levels.
This has happened against the background of important changes such as, inter alia, growing disruptions in economies linked to globalization and technology, significant demographic transformations, increasing migration flows and protracted situations of fragility. The world of work has not been spared by these upheavals. The perceived lack of satisfactory responses to these multiple challenges and changes has led in many countries to growing discontent and mistrust vis-à-vis established institutions and actors of public life.
Confronted with this complex situation, the multilateral system has also struggled to adapt to a changing environment and to provide concrete and coordinated responses to many of the world’s most pressing challenges. The growing gap between international commitments and concrete achievements has fragilized multilateral action and its credibility, resulting in open criticism and disengagement. More than ever, it is urgent for the multilateral system to deliver and to contribute to bringing solutions to people’s daily problems, and to do so in a more efficient and coherent manner.
This sense of urgency has been shared by many, including the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General who, in his report “Our Common Agenda“, has warned against today’s growing divide and called for a more inclusive and networked multilateralism, re-embracing global solidarity and renewing the social contract between governments and their people and within societies, anchored in a comprehensive approach to human rights.
Social justice makes societies and economies function better and reduces poverty, inequalities and social tensions. It plays an important role in attaining more inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development paths and is key for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda), especially at a time when the achievement of those goals remains faraway.
It is more important than ever that the multilateral system coalesce around a set of shared values and goals and identify the means to respond to peoples’ aspirations and needs. Social justice has therefore to become one of the cornerstones of the renewed multilateralism that is required; a rallying objective but also a significant instrument for a more efficient multilateral system, ensuring coherence across a range of policy areas.