Social protection is the coverage of a range of human rights such as health, education, care, housing or the possibility to prosper. According to the ILO, it is a right of all human beings that guarantees health care and a minimum income for all. It also provides the means of subsistence in the event of illness, unemployment, injury, pregnancy or inability to work because of old age. Social protection offers security and hope for a better future. In many countries around the world these are not considered fundamental rights, but other forms of deprivation enrichment, reducing people’s individual well-being and common quality of life and increasing social unrest.

The alliance with other organisations to facilitate advocacy in public policies, socialisation and implementation of communal and collective methodologies that help reaching them; and the dissemination of the concept throughout the world are the main tasks for which the INSP!R network exists. This network was created in 2007* by WSM (a Belgian NGO that defends the right to decent work and social protection and works to prevent and eradicate poverty and exclusion); it is mainly (for the moment) in African, Asian and South American countries. However, it is as applicable to the Global South as it is to the Global North, as it addresses a range of intersectional issues that affect millions of people around the world. According to INSP!R, 7 out of 10 people in the world have little or no access to social protection.  

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control”.Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25 (1)

For three consecutive days and just before participating in the SSE 2023 World Forum last May in Dakar, the entire Ripess delegation, in which for the first time in many years there was representation from Ripess LAC, RAESS, Ripess Europe and the intercontinental secretariat together, were invited by the INSP!R network, with whom Ripess LAC has been collaborating closely in LAC since 2013, to an exchange conference under the same title as this piece. These days took place at the headquarters of the Senegalese trade union CNTS in Dakar, followed by a field visit in Pout, Thiès, that we covered here already.

The organisations participating in this Dakar workshop were networks that promote solidarity production channels, SSE actors on the ground, who work on a daily basis at the local level alongside organisations that accompany associative dynamics, especially around the production of goods and services, their structuring (especially financial) and their institutionalisation. In addition to the above-mentioned RIPESS continental networks, MDB (Benin), Green (Senegal), INSP!R-Zamuka (Rwanda), CNTS (Senegal) and IPROFOTH (Peru) also attended. On the return from these days, we published this interview in Spanish with Ernestina Ochoa, the representative of the last.

During the working sessions, which also gave rise to interesting informal exchanges, interesting common ground was found for continued work over time and unified processes. The other participants learned from Ripess’ interventions where the SSE can be a tool to solve some of the common problems. This is how SSE was presented before the workshop:

  • The social and solidarity economy (SSE) is a credible alternative to the current capitalist economic system. It is built around sustainable economic activities that redistribute profits in a fair and limited way. The relocalisation of economic activities is at the heart of the concept of the social and solidarity economy. The SSE is multifaceted and therefore not always easy to document due to the lack of available statistics.
  • The SSE focuses on the needs of the participants. These activities also aim to combat climate change and gender inequalities. In short, SSE is a real tool for social progress that allows us to resist the shocks imposed by a changing world!
  • The SSE is also an opportunity to achieve social protection. Productive units of the social and solidarity economy can support the achievement of social protection. This can be done in several ways:
    • Facilitating access to national social protection systems for their members, including informal economy workers, through awareness raising, advocacy and collective registration;
    • Acting as service providers of the national social protection system in the areas of health, social assistance and housing;
    • Perform delegated administrative functions for the national social protection system.

After sharing, discussing and learning from each other, and as a conclusion, the main challenges facing the development of the Social Solidarity Economy were agreed upon in order to make the context fully favourable:

  1. Financing, access to financial resources and self-sufficiency: traditional financing has shown its limitations; participatory financing can solve the problem of financing. We need non-financial services that take into account the issue of organisational structuring, training, financial education and technical support to target groups. The lack of laws that favour the emergence of SSE entities is a problem for access to finance.
  2. The legal framework at national, regional and international level: In territories and countries where there is a law, the challenges and obstacles are the implementation and dissemination of the content of the law and existing texts. Where there is no law, there are more obstacles: how to make an SSE policy a reality and lack of political will. And insufficient funding for civil society organisations that raise awareness in order to obtain legislation.
  3. Decent work and access to social protection: sustainability of activities is a challenge. Many actors work seasonally. For example, with fruit and vegetable processing it is not possible to operate all year round. Impact on turnover and sustainability.
  4. Gender equality and environmental protection: Gender-sensitive legislation is needed. SSE legislation is gender neutral, not gender specific. And international laws and legal frameworks that protect women’s rights, such as the Maputo Protocol, the Beijing Declaration, etc., do not mention the link between women and the SSE. We need legislation on the link between the SSE and gender. The representation of women in the decision-making bodies of SSE entities is another challenge.
  5. Identification of strategic allies: collaboration with state authorities and other actors (institutionalisation of the SSE): which actors should we identify? How do we get them to sit together? Education about the SSE is important, because in this diversity of actors, some do not understand what the SSE is. Raising awareness in schools, among producers, etc.

Universal social protection is key to achieving several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Without it, it is not possible to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and achieve gender equality. Strategic partnerships such as the one we have at RIPESS with INSP!R are key to finding solutions to the challenges described above.

The work continues. WE CONTINUE in solidarity.