ICMC Stands Ready To Contribute to the ILO’s Newly Adopted Global Coalition for Social Justice

ICMC welcomes the International Labour Organization’s adoption of the Global Coalition for Social Justice and is ready to contribute to increase multilateral cooperation and partnerships in pursuit of advancing social justice and decent work for all.

349th session of the International Labour Organisation
First proposed in May 2023, the Global Coalition for Social Justice was formally adopted at the 349th session of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in October 2023. Photo: Director-General of the ILO Gilbert F. Houngbo addresses the 349th session on 30 October 2023 in Geneva © Violaine Martin/ILO 2023

ICMC welcomes the formal establishment of the Global Coalition for Social Justice, the proposal for which was adopted by the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) at its 349th session on 2 November 2023.

Established in late 1919, the ILO is one of the oldest UN agencies. It is also the UN’s only tripartite agency, uniquely bringing together governments, employers, and workers from 187 Member States to set labor standards and develop policy programs to promote decent work around the world.

ICMC works closely with the ILO to promote social justice and decent and dignified work with fair wages. Over the past five years, this work has been undertaken in close association with the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, and through a network of Catholic-inspired organizations around the world known as “The Future of Work – Labour after Laudato si’ Project, which was closely associated with the 2019 ILO centenary celebration.

ICMC welcomes the opportunity to expand this collaboration with the ILO, especially in terms of ensuring rights, respect, and the implementation of international labor standards for migrant workers and their families, and stands ready to contribute to the future work of the Global Social Justice Coalition.

What is social justice?

The ILO defines a socially just society as one in which all human beings “have the right to pursue both their material well-being and spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.”  

For the ILO, social justice has four key dimensions:

  • Fairness, equality, and having a voice and the agency to shape one’s own life, based on universal human rights.
  • Access to opportunities for employment and an adequate standard of living so that each person can live a productive and dignified life.
  • Shared prosperity, fair distribution, and just transitions, the latter comprising basic security when income is interrupted, insufficient or intermittent, and transitions from the informal to formal economy.
  • Rule of law and access to justice within a society.

In addition to being a moral imperative, social justice enables societies and economies to function more cohesively and effectively and paves the way for sustained reductions in poverty and inequality.

These values are also closely associated with the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church and the practices of Catholic-inspired organizations, including ICMC, which respect and promote the unique dignity and equality of all persons and recognize the need for access to decent work with just salaries for all. In this regard, the Catholic Church also pays special attention to the key contributions of migrants and refugees to the world of work, and their contributions to host societies, to their countries of origin, as well as to countries they transit during their journeys.

What is the Global Coalition for Social Justice?

The Global Coalition for Social Justice aims to increase multilateral cooperation and partnerships in pursuit of advancing social justice and decent work for all, thereby accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Coalition serves as a platform to generate increased political commitments and investments, foster concrete actions towards social justice and decent work, and complement and enhance existing processes designed to achieve the SDGs.

The Coalition was first proposed in March 2023 by ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo, a former Prime Minister of Togo who has led the ILO since October 2022. The proposal was further developed by the World of Work Summit, held during the 111th session of the International Labour Conference in June 2023 and convened around the central theme of ‘Social Justice for All.’ The ILO also held informal, tripartite stakeholder consultations on the proposal in April, July, and September 2023.

The Coalition will operate within existing ILO structures and frameworks, with a Secretariat located in the International Labour Office (the permanent secretariat of the ILO). Participation is voluntary and open to governments, employers and workers organizations, international organizations, UN agencies, international funds, regional and subregional intergovernmental organizations, private enterprises, international NGOs, and research and academic organizations.

The Coalition’s work program will be defined as more partners join the initiative. For now, discussions and consultations have guided the development of four initial priorities:

  • Employment creation and universal social protection, including through the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions launched in September 2021 by the UN Secretary-General. This initiative aims to direct investment to create at least 400 million decent jobs, primarily in the green, digital and care economies, and extend social protection coverage to over 4 billion currently excluded people.
  • Reduction of inequalities across a broad range of areas, including strengthening development cooperation, addressing youth unemployment, advancing non-discrimination and gender equality, and promoting fair labor migration.
  • Elevation of social justice and decent work in the priorities of other multilateral organizations, including through cooperation with the ILO.
  • Promoting social dialogue, including by promoting the ILO’s tripartite approach in UN and other multilateral policy development and coordination processes.

Social justice in action

Since its foundation in 1951, ICMC and its members and partners have worked to achieve social justice around the world. Since 2019, through its leadership of “The Future of Work – Labour after Laudato si‘” Project, ICMC has continued to bring together a diverse range of partners and stakeholders in pursuit of this shared and crucial aim. ICMC, together with our members and partners, stands ready to contribute this valuable experience to the Global Coalition on Social Justice.

Sustainable support to lift people out of poverty

Kolping small loan recipient in Benin
Kolping small loan recipient at his small business in Benin © Georg-Wahl / Kopling International, 2018

Founded in 1850, Kolping International (KI) is a Catholic social organization operating via a community of 400,000 members in Kolping families, or democratic communities organized at national, regional, and diocesan levels. Kolping families support their members in the discovery and development of their talents and improve their living conditions. KI is active in 60 countries around the world, and acts as a development cooperation partner in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe.

KI’s small loans programme provides Kolping family members with finance to start small businesses. Finance is sourced via collective savings groups run by almost all Kolping families, supplemented by grants provided by KI once minimum savings amounts have been received. Loans are provided on favorable terms, and the savings group monitors the activities for which loans are provided and how they will be repaid. Alongside enabling members to establish small, sustainable economic activities to sustain themselves and their families, often with loans of less than $100, the KI small loans model encourages mutual support and collaboration amongst communities.

At the invitation of ICMC and the FOWLS project, KI participated in Social justice in the world of work and beyond: from common values to common engagement and action, a side event of the 111th International Labour Conference held in Geneva on 5-16 June 2023. Co-organized by ICMC, the event sought to highlight the necessity of cooperation and joint advocacy for addressing the complex economic, social, and environment-related challenges for making social justice a worldwide political priority and reality. KI’s intervention focused on the importance of inclusive social dialogue, and how workers, producers, and consumers should be considered an integral part of civil society rather than solely economic actors.

Ensuring rights, protections and access to citizenship for migrant workers

Unite Here supports striking hotel workers in California
UNITE HERE! supports striking hotel workers outside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel Bungalows in Santa Monica, California, on July 13, 2023 © Ringo Chiu / Flickr, 2023

UNITE HERE is a labor union representing more than 300,000 workers across Canada and the U.S, predominantly employed in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, transport, and airport industries. It was founded more than 100 years ago by immigrants, and continues to assist and advocate for the rights of workers with temporary immigration status and those who are undocumented.

The organization advises undocumented workers on union and labor rights and workplace protections, and provides information and assistance for eligible workers to apply for U.S. residency and citizenship. Its Workers to the Front! campaign engages migrant workers without the right to vote in election campaigning, and the UNITE Here Immigration Campaign advocates for pathways to citizenship for those with temporary immigration status.

UNITE Here was one of a wide-ranging coalition of organizations participating in The Future of Work in Chicago’s Hospitality Industry, an event co-organized and co-sponsored by ICMC and held in Chicago on 13 June 2023. Key leaders of the event included Fr. Clete Kiley, of Chicago, who serves on the staff of UNITE Here, and Mr. Peter Warrian, of Toronto, Canada, of the Lupina Foundation, both of whom serve on the Coordinating Committee of the ICMC-coordinated “The Future of Work – Labour after Laudato si‘” Project. The event brought together local and international leaders from the faith community, labor, the hospitality and tourism industry, community-based organizations, academia, the hospitality workforce, and government, to discuss the challenges facing Chicago’s hospitality industry and to develop a shared vision for the future.

International action on rights for domestic workers

IDWFED delegation at the 107th International Labour Conference
IDWFED delegation at the 107th International Labour Conference © Jennifer Natalie Fish/Flickr, 2018

The ILO Domestic Workers Convention, adopted in 2011 following many years of international advocacy and campaigning, sets out rights for domestic workers in relation to decent work, minimum wage, rest periods, and freedom of movement and association. Following this success, in May 2012 the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN) was launched by leaders of 14 key domestic workers’ organizations from around the world. In October 2013, the IDWN became the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWFED).

Today, the IDWFED represents domestic workers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, and the Middle East. It unites domestic workers’ organizations, provides training and capacity-building to promote women’s leadership, and supports its affiliates in developing effective collective bargaining mechanisms to improve the working conditions of domestic and household workers. The IDWFED also campaigns to challenge economic and social policies that create wealth inequalities, erode worker, and human rights and create forced migration.

IDWFED is a partner and collaborating organization of “The Future of Work – Labour after Laudato si‘” Project co-coordinated by ICMC. Alongside other partners around the world, IWDFED’s participation enables it to benefit from opportunities to develop a more in-depth understanding of social justice and the world of work, access tools and methodologies, and join advocacy efforts for social justice and decent work at the local and global levels.

Rachel Westerby

Independent writer and researcher on migration, refugees and integration.


You can help refugees and migrants rebuild their lives with dignity and hope.


Get ICMC’s Monthly Newsletter
See What You Will Get (Past Issues)


ICMC provides assistance and protection to vulnerable people on the move and advocates for sustainable solutions for refugees and migrants.