At the beginning of December, RIPESS LAC organized an international seminar on the relationship between SSE and social protection within the framework of the continent’s public policies. In this article, we summarize the highlights of the meeting.

Written by Patricio Bravo, RIPESS LAC Communications

On December 3rd and 4th, the International Seminar “Convergence to Develop Public Policies Favorable to the Social Solidarity Economy and Social Protection Systems in Latin America and the Caribbean” was held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The event was attended by representatives of the SSE and labor organizations of the country, ECLAC and RIPESS LAC’s members: MESCJB (Bolivia), RELACJ (Peru), MESSE (Ecuador), Red ESS (Chile), CS Mexico, and REDESOL (Dominican Republic).

The participants reviewed SSE policies from the point of view of the LAC social movements. The respective panels, led by RIPESS LAC and the Organizing Commission, heard the SSE actors’ voices and defined strategies and actions for a collective construction and adaptation of social protection policies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Social protection policies and Social Solidarity Economy

In recent years the majority of Latin American countries have directed their actions towards the reduction of poverty and inequality. However, with macro-economic variables and weak fiscal and monetary management, there has been a GDP reduction, high rates of the consumer price index, and more consequences in sectors with scarce resources. The crisis has deepened poverty, the loss of employment in the formal sector and a sharp drop in income due to the recession.

The low coverage of government’s social programs is due, in part, to a lack of resources. Countries from the South are facing the challenges of economic stabilization, and have to restructure their financial systems without incurring major social costs and, especially, without a deepening the deterioration of their human development.

To this end, they have taken urgent measures to implement social protection measures in the areas of greatest vulnerability like health and education, in order to reduce the negative effects of the current economic crisis, in which the IMF has had a marked influence.

The role of the state in social protection

The constitution of some countries in the region establishes specific legislation for the promotion of Solidarity Economy, recognizing the human being as the subject and end of all development processes in harmonious relationship with nature, as is the case of Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay.

During the event, the SSE was confirmed as a form of organization in which the members, individually or collectively, organize and develop processes of production, exchange, commercialization, financing and consumption of goods and services, to satisfy needs and generate income, based on relationships of solidarity, cooperation and reciprocity. SSE is guided by the principles of the promotion of the Commons, improvement of the quality of life, the priority of work over capital, equity and social and economic inclusion; respect for interculturality and ancestral practices, food security and sovereignty, social, environmental and economic responsibility; reciprocity and solidarity, among others.

Government social protection programs accompany and assist human groups in vulnerable situations, either through targeted cash transfers for mothers, heads of household with children and adolescents under the age of 18, older people and persons with disabilities, with whom training and credit delivery activities are carried out. This takes the classic form of assistance.

The main beneficiaries of the protection are the organized community sectors, both rural and urban, whose purpose is the production, marketing, distribution and consumption of goods and services in a supportive and self-managed way. The associative sectors, the legal organizations that are duly recognized, constituted by people with productive economic activities. Cooperative sectors guided by economic and social interest and popular economic units, dedicated to the economy of care, uni-person enterprises, family, domestic services, retail merchants, craft workshops and others.

In general, social protection projects seek to improve the equity, integration and sustainability of social security for the population’s benefit, although with limited impact capacity, in order to mitigate the important repercussions of this process on human development in the medium and long term. They are therefore urgent measures to the population, who feel the impacts of the market system, inequalities and deepening of marginality.

A particular gap refers to job creation and the ability to respond to unemployment, which gives rise to notable dissatisfaction in society.

Social protection within the framework of Solidarity Economy

The SSE movements and networks, articulated in the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy, RIPESS LAC, have proposed the implementation and/or reforms of the legislative instruments, inherent to the social and economic territorial management, that allow the promotion and the construction of a true social solidarity system to their respective authorities.

Related to State and civil society’s role, it was proposed to rethink and recreate economic and social relations to transform society from the practices and principles of solidarity, as these are currently totally absent from the prevailing model. Through initiatives and productive alternatives, services and autonomous provision of employment that is respectful and in solidarity with nature and organizations, we have rescued the value of our own, our wisdom and knowledge, our resources and products.

The reforms mentioned to politicians consider that the law should not be framed within the free market parameters, where conditions do not allow the Solidarity Economy to develop or compete. It was stated that Solidarity Economy should seek mechanisms and forms for the construction of free and solidarity markets, fair trade, solidarity consumption and solidarity intermediation.

The law and its regulations must consider the specificities of each one of the organizational forms of Solidarity Economy, as well as the public institutions that must guarantee the promotion of the enterprises of Solidarity Economy, supporting connection of producers to markets, to public procurement, to the provision of agri-food services, social housing, education and community health, among others.

The establishment of policies to promote healthy, sustainable and equitable agri-food systems, such as agroecology, was considered essential in order to tackle poverty, growing malnutrition and climate change.

Tax systems should simplify and exonerate tax costs for peasant families and the artisanal sector, which generate products, goods and knowledge existing within the Solidarity Economy.

The care economy is recognized, beyond domestic and unpaid work in the family environment, incorporating activities such as child development, care for people in distress and the elderly, special protection for vulnerable groups.

In the face of forced migration and the search for international protection, important challenges have arisen in terms of guaranteeing Human Rights of migrants without papers, protection needs and solidarity practices to support people at risk.

The meeting on the need to promote economic solidarity circuits as spaces of articulation of the different SSE actors, to produce, commercialize, consume and provide services, based on agreements that include the active participation as organized civil society, to build a transformative economy or what we call “an alternative economy”.

The meeting agreed to generate processes of training, technical assistance, innovation, research and development aimed at the SSE actors and support in their territory, the generation of systems, networks and solidarity economic circuits.

The enriching experiences of solidarity economy pp LAC organizations and communities, present new challenges in the process of social and political transformation in the areas of agroecological production and marketing, solidarity finance, fair trade, responsible consumption, housing, community tourism, ancestral health, textiles and clothing, various services, catering and gastronomy, waste collection, cultural services and others. So, it has become imperative to deepen actions for the promotion of association, marketing’s alternative circuits, production chains, inclusive business and fair trade, prioritizing the People’s Economy and Solidarity.

All this is aimed at building an economic system that is fair, democratic, productive, supportive and sustainable, based on the equal distribution of development benefits, means of production in the development of decent and stable work.