The United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE) held a webinar on 18 April 2024 to highlight progress and discuss challenges at the international level on implementation of a landmark UN resolution on social and solidarity economy (SSE) one year after its adoption. Key government representatives from Spain, Chile and the newly elected Senegalese governments were present, as well as from international and UN institutions (The African Union, the European Commission, ILO, UNCTAD and the OECD). Civil society was represented by ASEC (Asian Solidarity Economy Council), the RIPESS Intercontinental member network for Asia, and the speaker was its former president, Denison Jayasooria.

Resolution A/RES/77/281 on “Promoting the social and solidarity economy for sustainable development” was unanimously approved on 18 April 2023 by the United Nations General Assembly thanks to the leadership of the Chilean, Senegalese, French and Spanish governments with Yolanda Díaz (Minister of Labour and Social Economy and Second Vice-President of Spain) leading the process. It has been a turning point for the regional, local and national networks of Alternative, Solidarity, Popular and Transformative Economies, as it elevates this alternative paradigm to the current capitalist system to spheres of international influence. This increase in political profile and awareness has supported the creation of legal frameworks to perpetuate and establish a transformative paradigm shift that has repercussions in the economic, social, environmental and governance spheres moving them towards a more sustainable, inclusive and just development in the international community from the local and regional level, as Denison Jayasooria stated in his speech.

RIPESS, the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy, is present in more than 70 countries. It was created more than 25 years ago, and has played a key role in the entire process. Thanks to the work on the ground and jointly with grassroots SSE entities,  and the support of the UNTFSSE where we have observer status, we have been able to bring these realities to the negotiations through our intercontinental work towards this resolution for over 10 years. It has also played a key role as an observer since the creation in 2013 of the UNTFSSE.

The Co-chairs of this working group, Simel Esim (ILO) and Chantal Line Carpentier (UNCTAD), opened the webinar by explaining the importance of this resolution, of the Task Force itself to give voice to and support those States and regions that, like Senegal, for example, have recently created framework legislation on the SSE in their countries. A representative of the Senegalese Ministry of SSE intervened at the end of the presentations.

Simel Esim also appreciated the importance of a webinar like this where, in her words, each region brings their unique knowledge, varied experiences and specific expertise that help us to promote the SSE and thus support sustainable development. 

Chantal Line Carpentier presented the work of the UNTFSSE, including its Strategic Plan notably establishing two technical working groups, one on data collection to facilitate the UN’s understanding of the true scope of the SSE in the world, and one on financial and other support mechanisms for SSE development. She also presented the podcast series ‘Essentials’ as well as the UNTFSSE Encyclopaedia.

Then it was the turn of the government representatives, first with Amparo Merino, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Social Economy of Spain, and then with Claudia Fuentes, Permanent Ambassador of Chile in Geneva. Both highlighted the support of their governments for the Social Solidarity Economy, especially, in the words of Claudia Fuentes: There is a clear understanding reached in the Americas on the SSE, (…) we are making efforts to implement the resolution (…) from an integral and interdisciplinary approach. She also gave an example: In the agricultural sector, where there is over 60% of Chilean child labour, SSE plays a vital role to reduce child labour and to reclaim decent work.

Speaking jointly, the representatives of the European Commission, Patrick Klein and Margit Perkot, presented the Social Economy Action Plan approved in 2021, which they described as a policy framework for the social economy to flourish in EuropeMr. Klein emphasised the idea of the Social Solidarity Economy as a key avenue to support green and digital transition, while Ms. Perkot hoped  that on the tenth anniversary of the Resolution we would be able  to present  progress achieved against the objectives that have been set, and concluded with the recommendation to go to other events on other topics to promote our own and to gather more ideas and alliances.

Mr Sabelo Mbokazi, on behalf of the African Union Commission, spoke of the resolution as a significant milestone and of the important contribution of SSE to the African Agenda on decent work, employment and social protection, as well as to poverty alleviation and community development. He welcomed the joint work between the African Union and the ILO on the SSE Strategy for Africa (2023-2032) to be soon approved at the ministerial level. He concluded by calling on us to reaffirm our commitment as a catalyst for sustainable development in Africa. “Let us seize the opportunity to transform our economies in the world of work so that no one is left behind and use that transformative potential to advance social and economic progress.”

Finally, Denison Jayasooria, former president and co-founder of ASEC, the Asian RIPESS member, highlighted the need to keep our eyes and feet on the ground, where SSE takes place and where it is based. He provided enriching examples of such projects in various Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Thailand, China, Malaysia…). He also differentiated this from the level of governance and policy-making, where various countries in Asia are also promoting specific legislation such as in South Korea. States such as Indonesia and the Philippines also promote the popular or community economy. He gave other examples that can be found in his speech, in addition to the appeal he made to the UNTFSSE and other international organisations as well as national governments on issues related to the SSE in Asia.

The webinar was full of motivating examples that give hope to those of us in the Social Solidarity Economy that change is afoot. As Denison says, it is necessary to develop a strong SSE at community and territorial levels as an element of systemic change and a means to fight the climate crisis.

At RIPESS we continue to strive and work towards this.

Watch the full webinar here: Webinar – 1 Year Anniversary on the UNGA Resolution on SSE – YouTube