On December 3rd and 4th, RIPESS LAC organized the international seminar “Convergence to develop Public Policies Favorable to the Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) and Social Protection Systems in Latin America and the Caribbean”. This event allowed our member to present the study “Study on the SSE Regulatory Frameworks and their Relationship with Social Protection Policies in Latin America” that we have summarized in this article.

Written by Alfonso Cotera, RIPESS LAC Technical Secretary and study coordinator

This event was organized by the Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy in Latin America and the Caribbean Region (RIPESS- LAC). The objective of this event was to contribute to the reflection and proposals to develop public policies favorable to social protection systems and the solidarity economy. SSE projects and public agencies attended to ensure that they are truly serve the collective welfare of workers.

The study of Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) regulatory frameworks in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), presented during the international seminar was carried out in a context of uncertainty about the viability of the advances in public policies for the SSE recognition and promotion. This affects the results achieved since the beginning of the new millennium in several countries of the region because of the current political changes with a conservative perspective and greater neoliberal orthodoxy in several of the countries.

However, in parallel, a complex and contradictory process of assimilation and social resistance is taking place, expressed in a diversity of actions by men and women who survive by generating their own jobs and economic income, who protest and fight against the economic and political powers responsible for the generalized crisis, and who also develop initiatives that are alternative in the social, economic and cultural spheres. Among this vast social movement, we find the SSE actors, in its various forms, who carry out economic and social practices in cooperation and mutual aid, who prioritize collective benefit over personal gain, who incorporate justice and solidarity in commercial and financial transactions, and who respect and protect nature.

The study explores the state of the question in the development and implementation of the norms to drive the Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) in 5 Latin American countries (Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and the Dominican Republic). But it also looks at the social movement and SSE organizations’ implication in this process, and the impact that these norms and policies have generated in the improvement of the people’s living conditions in the strengthening of the institutionality created.

In the first part, the document presents some basic concepts on SSE and social protection. It recognizes that solidary economic experiences have existed since ancestral times and that theoretical approaches or proposals are relatively recent. It also understands that SSE is a sector and/or socio-political system that counts on people and social collectives’ development, in harmony with nature. The second part develops the five cases (countries) and evaluates progress and limitations when implementing explicit or implicit regulations that are favorable to the development of SSE. In the third part, some general reflections of what was found are presented. I have presented some of them in a summary below:

1) The Latin American political context of “progressive” governments (two decades ago) favored the recognition of SSE by the approval of certain norms and laws. In Brazil, the proposal and SSE actors achieved social and political recognition, advancing in their institutionalization: creation of the National Secretariat of Solidarity Economy (SENAES) within the Ministry of Labor; currently both have been dissolved. In Ecuador, the Constitution recognizes that the “economic system is social and solidary” and the Law of the Popular and Solidarity Economy allowed the implementation of diverse programs and projects: popular finance, inclusive businesses and institutionality (STPS, SEPS, CNFPS, etc.). In Bolivia, the New State Political Constitution (2006) and the National Development Plan “Para el Vivir Bien” (For Good Living) proposes the new “plural economy model” that recognizes the social cooperative and community economy as national economic actors.

2) The SSE organizations strength and articulation capacity to have political influence has been the catalyst for policy approval and implementation that favor them. In Brazil, the movement and popular economic experiences gave birth to the Brazilian Forum of Solidarity Economy (FBES). In Ecuador, indigenous and agroecological organizations, Fair-Trade and diverse popular economic experiences gave birth to the Social Solidarity Economy Movement of Ecuador (MESSE). In Bolivia, popular economic organizations, cooperatives, Fair-Trade and indigenous communities gave birth to the Bolivian Solidarity Economy and Fair-Trade Movement (MESyCJB) and the SSE National Platform.

3) The normative recognition achieved by SSE has not necessarily been matched with the provision of budgets and concrete policies to make them effective. This lack of coherence between the discourse, the normativity and the implementation of public policies  expresses the interests and the capacity of power in conflict during the process. In some cases, they used the regulation to obstruct or limit the laws that were approved (in some cases there was excessive regulation and, in other cases, lack of regulation of the laws and norms achieved).

4) Relations between local governments (municipalities, mayors, state and regional governments) and SSE experiences were more direct and fruitful, even with lack of regulations and public policies, which made training programs and support for the commercialization of SSE experiences possible.

5) Thanks to regulations and public policies in favor of local economic and social actors, there has been a quantitative growth of popular economic organizations and a significant decrease in poverty, as well as a growth of the middle class. However, despite the transformative discourse (good living, plural economy, popular economy and solidarity) the model of primary accumulation of exports and favoring private foreign investment over local investment has remained.

We can conclude with a reflection. The process of effective recognition of the transformative role of SSE in democratizing economic relations is still slow. It runs parallel to the development of the capacity and power of SSE actors in their links with the social movement. The challenge is to endow the movement and people with a perspective of power and in this process to include the proposals of regulations and policies that need to be co-created and co-managed among the social, economic and political actors.

Note: the “Study on the SSE Regulatory Frameworks and their Relationship with Social Protection Policies in Latin America” will be published at the end of December. We will then publish the document both on this website and on our social networks.