Almost 200 people came together on 23 February to listen and discuss the future challenges for the different actors of the Social and Solidarity Economy. Civil society, trade unions, small producers and entrepreneurs, cooperatives, ILO and other UN agencies, states, regional bodies and local authorities, following the General Conclusions of the International Labour Conference 2022 and the ILO action plan are all stakeholders and sensitive to adopt changes following the incipient UN Declaration.

For about two hours, renowned speakers with experience in the fields of action of the above-mentioned actors discussed the positive impacts and possible challenges for social and solidarity economy field organisations. In addition, many people were able to clarify their doubts in a chat where questions were constantly being asked and answered, including a very good one that our intercontinental coordinator Judith Hitchman answered on the interconnections between food sovereignty and SSE: Short supply chains, such as community supported agriculture (CSAs), contribute greatly to SSE and the achievement of food sovereignty. Agroecology includes SSE among its indicators (FAO 2018). On the question of access to land, there are several answers: first, community land trusts protect land from speculation. Second, the global farming population is ageing, so collective training schemes to support young farmers in accessing land are essential. There is also a global movement of “new farmers” whose projects are often closely linked to SSE and short supply chains. The support of local authorities is also essential to achieve food sovereignty and access to land. Judith also opened the webinar with an introduction summarising Ripess’ activity and the current situation of SSE.

Thanks to the teamwork that Ripess Intercontinental carried out together with WIEGO, WSM and JOVI, this webinar took place in which very relevant voices in the international ecosystem of the SSE such as Simel Esim, head of the cooperatives department of the International Labour Organization, underlined the importance of the UN process for the ILO and its openness to work together to achieve the shared goals of decent work and social protection for all workers; Toni Moore, General Secretary of the Barbados Union of Trade Unions and international trade union representative at the last ILC, emphasised the importance of trade unions in the collective struggle against the current major crises, which can be tackled by transforming the SSE through the circular economy, collectivism, working together and in which trade unions see themselves as a part.

In addition, representatives from the field, SSE practitioners and international grassroots movements from India, Mali and Chile were invited to express their concerns, needs and strengths of this transformative system that is the SSE, as well as to contribute some good practices.

From Mali, our African coordinator, Madani Cumare, who also works with RENAPESS, the national support network for the SSE in Mali and a member of Ripess, stated that ‘when we talk about SSE we talk about small producers in the agricultural value chain, small fishermen, small artisans, migrants, workers in the informal economy who are in transition… In short, we talk about social categories that are most in need of social protection, and this should be a constant in all public policies and strategies. When we talk about social protection we talk about security, wages, access to health care’.

In addition to Madani as field expert and Judith in the introduction, Yvon Poirier, historical collaborator and representative of Ripess Intercontinental in various arenas, introduced the chronology of the UN Task Force on SSE and highlighted the importance of advocacy networking, for which UNTFSSE is central. After this introduction, it was the turn of Chantal Line Carpentier, the chair of this TaskForce, who explained the current and future prospects for the negotiations on the UN Resolution on SSE.

Afterwards, the interventions of the colleague in the field: from SEWA Kerala, Sonia George, representative of an organisation of women in informal work who focused on care from the SSE; Federico Parra speaking from WIEGO, the organisation of women in informal employment, introduced the figure of more than 61% of the active workforce in the world is in informal employment conditions, we are talking about 2 billion people. Many of these people have joined together autonomously in SSE legal forms (associations, cooperatives, mutuals, self-help groups, trade unions and others) because the values of the SSE are centred on the welfare of these workers. After the practical example of Chile, it was the turn of the conclusions with Victor Van Vuuren, former Director at the ILO, who pointed out that there is a huge gap in the grassroots movements when it comes to understanding the SSE.

The webinar was zoomed in with simultaneous translation in Russian, English, French and Spanish and you can watch it again here in the original languages.