Sustainable development and the future of work

Caritas Internationalis, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Labour Organization strengthened ties to promote decent work at a conference held in Rome from 2-6th May.

The three bodies convened participants dedicated to work issues at the local, national and international levels to discuss ‘Sustainable Development and the Future of Work in the Context of the Jubilee of Mercy’. These included representatives of grassroots, Catholic-inspired and other religious organisations;  and trade unions; associations of employers;  and other groups involved in the promotion of decent work. Read the Statement of Commitment and Action.

“At the heart of the conference and our work together was the conviction that people, including workers, their families, and communities, should be placed at the centre of sustainable development policies as we plan for the future of the global community,” said Msgr. Robert Vitillo, head of Caritas Internationalis’ Geneva office.

Migrant workers from Bangladesh in Egypt.

Migrant workers from Bangladesh in Egypt. Photo by Jason Belanger/Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Egypt

In his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si’, Pope Francis wrote, ‘Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment’.”

The challenges facing workers in many countries are wide spread and deeply-rooted. These include child labour; forced labour, trafficking and other forms of modern slavery, discrimination, unemployment, lack of recognition of rights or the provision of social protection mechanisms children, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed or the elderly.

In his opening address at the conference, President of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, reminded the participants of the Catholic Church’s commitment to social justice in  the world of work, telling them that Blessed Pope Paul VI set up the pontifical council 50 years ago ‘to stimulate the Catholic community to foster development in needy regions and social justice among nations’.

Cardinal Turkson echoed Pope Francis’ call for an integrated and multi-faced approach towards the global challenges that lead to poverty and injustice. The approach calls for governments, organisations, the business world, and many other global actors to work together in seeking solutions.

Citing Laudato Si’, Cardinal Turkson said that,  “decent and sustainable work is fundamental to how we care for our common home. Work acquires its true character when it is decent and sustainable for workers, employers, governments, communities, and the environment. Such work is the means for developing and expressing every individual’s human dignity, and it participates in the ongoing creative work of God.”

Commenting on the declaration, ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, said, “With our current circumstances, with the opportunity offered by the adoption of the 2030 development agenda, with the strong issue of decent work that runs through this agenda, we have an extraordinary opportunity to move forward with the values and objectives that we share. The ILO can be counted on to play its role in this effort.”

Those present at the conference committed themselves and their  organisations to ongoing promotion of  exchange and dialogue among organisations involved in the world of work, to boost engagement with other religious structures and communities and to engage in social dialogue between and among those living in countries of the South and the North.

Pope Francis showed his support of the conference in his address to those gathered  in St Peter’s Square on 1st May, “I hope that this event can create awareness among authorities, political and economic institutions and civil society, so that a model of development will be promoted that takes into account human dignity in full respect of standards on work and the environment.”

For more information, please contact Michelle Hough on +39 06 69879712 / +39 334 2344136 or


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