Work is a basic human right. The responsibility of finding work for all who need it is the business of everyone not just the unemployed. It is incongruous for our society to view long work hours as desirable when many Australians do not have access to work and one worker’s overtime could well mean another worker’s job.

We believe one of the most vital social challenges is employment, an issue crying out for Conflict Resolution. We call our program “Work for all who need it”. This is a dialogue, it’s not a debate. This is apolitical; there is no political party in Australia who does not support the principle of work for all. Let’s approach it, inclusively inviting all points of view.

Discrimination and divisiveness thrive on our unemployment and underemployment, so CRN continues to campaign for training and education strategies, job-sharing and hours’ reduction, tax deductibility for the private employer.

Every section of our society shares this responsibility, including government.

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” Nobody disputes; they just ignore this cornerstone of the truly civil society. “Work for all who need it” is sound economic sense, admirable and achievable.

To get where we have to go, we must dispel some myths, and one – only one – of these myths is that “there’s no work around”.

We need to show that there is plenty of work, good work, decent work, needed – sometimes desperately needed – work waiting to be done.

How can you be involved?

Go into your community, be that where you live or where you share interests, with pencil and paper and jot down work that needs to be done whenever you learn of it.

Ask questions and you’ll unearth more. You may find some of this work is tangible, like an extra playground to keep the children off the streets. You may find some of this work is in services, like a supervisor for that playground. You may be surprised, like finding that older folk want someone to teach them computer skills. You may be amused: having little interest yourself in bicycle tracks, finding that you are outnumbered by the many who do.

At this stage, don’t worry about who is going to pay for all this. However, you may find your creativity is being engaged; just gently encourage it.

Perhaps together we can:

  1. Make it possible for anyone, everyone, to be helpful and supportive to those out of work; to watch over one another in loving concern.
  2. Speak out about the fact that this is everyone’s business and you are not powerless.

The characteristics of the program are common sense, care and compassion.Gandhi admonished us: “It is possible that you can do but very little. It is important that you do that little.”


Re-establishing community after social crisis requires work for all who need it. Employment projects can be an important focus for humanitarian aid.


There are many ways of constructing peace:

  • “peacekeeping” is the military/ police activity to restrict the armed violence
  • “peacemaking” is conducted by diplomats and others as they seek a negotiated peace
  • “peacebuilding” refers to the economic and social work that is required after a peace has been negotiated – and is often a good way of avoiding an armed conflict in the first place, if it is used well before a conflict takes place

The CRN Working for Peace Campaign has four aims:

  • to emphasize the importance of work for all who need it while peacebuilding is underway.
  • to encourage support for an expansion of the work and funding of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to enhance its role in reconstruction after a conflict.
  • to encourage governments and non-governmental organizations to give greater emphasis to work for all who need it as part of their standard reconstruction programs in their relief work.
  • to encourage the mass media to give greater coverage of this type of reconstruction.


Work for all who need it is a vital part of keeping the peace.


The International Labour Organization (ILO) is one of the United Nations’ oldest specialized agencies. It is, in fact, older than the UN, being created immediately after World War I as part of the treaty system that also created the League of Nations. Its creation was in itself a sign of the importance which western governments attached to full employment.

The USSR had been created in 1917 and there was talk of further communist revolutions to come. The creators of the League of Nations feared similar communist revolutions throughout the rest of Europe. The ILO was created as proof that workers could rely on western governments to look after their interests. Workers did not need to turn to a communist revolution to do so. (Of course, not all communist counties achieved full employment and not all capitalist countries rejected it).

In due course, the USSR joined the League of Nations and the early motivation for the ILO’s creation was overlooked while the ILO proceeded to set precedents for what could be achieved via international co-operation. Its continuation after 1945 was proof that governments still recognized the importance of full employment.

The Right to Full Employment

The UN grew directly out of World War II. The people who created the UN were aware that the Depression had contributed to the rise of Hitler and the slide to war. Before the Depression, Hitler had simply been one of several marginal German politicians on the fringe of politics. The Depression provided the opportunity for Hitler’s rise. Therefore, they decided that the UN should have the promotion of “full employment” as one of its tasks (Article 55 of the UN Charter) in the hope of reducing the risk of further unrest and the prospect of war.

The right to work was then taken up in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Articles 6 and 7). These documents are part of the International Bill of Rights.

Unemployment and Civil Unrest

It is important to learn from the lessons of history. The architects of the UN learned the hard way. Many of the disputes underway today have economics as one of the basic causes. People may perhaps use, religious or ethnic labels, but often the underlying cause is unemployment.

It is important to learn from the lessons of history. The architects of the UN learned the hard way. Many of the disputes underway today have economics as one of the basic causes. People may perhaps use, religious or ethnic labels, but often the underlying cause is unemployment.

There is more to employment than just acquiring an income. Employment is form of inclusion in society; unemployment is social exclusion. Employment is an entree into society. Social exclusion leads to despair and alienation. If people are excluded from society, then it is no wonder that they turn to violence.

There is no civil war in any country which has full employment.

Reconstruction after a Conflict

If work for all who need it is a basic feature of maintaining stability in a society at peace, then it must also be an objective for reconstructing a society after a conflict.

The challenge for all organizations involved in reconstruction (such as in Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, Kosovo, and Angola,) is that work for all who need it should be included as a major part of the reconstruction process.

After all, ex-fighters need to be given an incentive to help rebuild society. They have just had (for better or worse) a major status in their local community. Peace brings the risk of losing that status – and the prospect of unemployment. Work will enable them to achieve social inclusion.

Additionally, combat is an energetic activity. These ex-fighters will have a lot of energy to redirect. Work will absorb all that energy.

Local reconstruction programs will also help ensure that money will be spent in the local community by the local former combatants. The money will not be siphoned off overseas by transnational corporations.


The International Labour Organization grew out of a war and it is time to put it back into war, or at least into rebuilding after one.

The ILO was created in 1919 and it is the only surviving major creation of the Treaty of Versailles, which the diplomats wrote as part of the formal ending of World War I. The League of Nations was also created by that treaty but it was wound up at the end of the World War II, to be replaced by the United Nations. The ILO was the UN’s first specialized agency in 1946.

The ILO formulates international labour standards thereby setting standards of basic labour rights, such as freedom of association, abolition of forced labour, and equality of opportunity. It also provides technical assistance primarily in the fields of vocational training, employment policy, labour law, industrial relations, social security, and occupational health and safety. The ILO is unique within the UN system because of its tripartite structure, with workers and employers participating as equal partners with governments in the work of its governing bodies.

The ILO’s work has evolved over the decades. From 1919 to 1948, the focus was on standard setting, industrial relations and social security. From 1948 to 1968, the focus was more on operational activities, with 1968-89 being seen as the peak of technical co-operation. But with the reduced funding for the UN system generally, the ILO from 1989 has shifted from projects towards policy advice and institution-building.

It’s time for a campaign to broaden the ILO work program and funding to include direct ILO involvement in peacebuilding.

The ILO Director-General, in his June 1999 Report (Decent Work), alluded to need for this type of work to be carried out. In the section on the InFocus program on Reconstruction and Employment- Intensive Investment, the Director-General recalled, among other things, the importance of direct intervention in human-made crises, such as war. The Director-General noted the need for such projects as infrastructure development and building up production capabilities (such as skills, credit systems and markets).

Therefore, CRN recommends:

  • All three parts of the ILO governing system (governments, employers and unions) support direct UN Involvement in peacebuilding.
  • All three parts of the ILO governing system, noting the reconstruction required for such areas as in Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, Kosovo, and Angola, agree that more resources be put into this type of work.
  • All three parts of the ILO governing system use their good offices in their respective countries to obtain greater support for this work bilaterally through their respective organizations.

This article may be reproduced provided this copyright notice appears on each page:
© Copyright: Conflict Resolution Network PO Box 1016 Chatswood NSW 2057 Australia 
www.crnhq.org Email: crn@crnhq.orgStella Cornelius, visionary co-director of Conflict Resolution Network, 1986-2010 
Work for all who want it – the elimination of involuntary unemployment 
(YouTube video produced by Annabel McGoldrick, recorded 2008, 1:18 minutes):