WSM and its partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America launched the international network for the right to social protection

The international community and its institutions recognise the importance of the role played by social protection in achieving sustainable and inclusive development. One need only look at the 2030 Agenda, in which social protection features in no less than five sustainable development goals, to understand this international commitment. The Belgian NGO We Social Movements (WSM) and its partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America have decided to unite within an intercontinental network on the right to social protection with a view to working together and in solidarity on this issue

By Joris de Boer, WSM

WSM and its partners are fighting on a daily basis to extend access to social protection to everyone in the world. Social protection constitutes a powerful instrument to reduce inequalities and support the most vulnerable, especially those working in the informal sector or in precarious employment. It is, moreover, essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

To help achieve this mission, WSM partners offer specific services, such as solidarity-based health insurance, access to microcredit or training on health and safety at work.

Joining forces at global level to achieve the right to social protection

WSM started building such networks for the right to social protection in 2008, at national level, initially, bringing together various social movements and convincing them of the importance of working together on this matter. National networks on the right to social protection are now operating in 18 different countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. And the results are visible.

The national network in the Dominican Republic has managed to secure the adoption of legislation establishing minimum social security standards.

In Nepal, the national network was involved in drafting new social security legislation. The law now provides informal economy workers with the right to social security cover.

In Mali, the national network’s advocacy for the right to universal health coverage led the Malian government to pass legislation on a universal health insurance scheme. Our partner organisation, the UTM will be tasked with fostering the deployment of health insurance in rural areas and for informal economy workers.

In 2014, the national networks were grouped within three continental networks: Asia, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. Their advocacy work is focused on regional institutions such as the African Union, the Organization of American States or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Thanks to the continental network, the organisations exchange and meet with each other, contributing to the formulation of more coherent joint proposals that benefit from the support of a broader movement, making it easier for them to reach governments, international organisations and companies and to have their proposals translated into concrete policies.

The continental networks also involve a number of strategic organisations with experience at policy level, such as the regional sections of the International Trade Union Confederation, the World March of Women and the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy. Advocacy for national policy helps strengthen advocacy at continental level, and vice versa.

Having built the intermediate floors at the national and continental levels, WSM and representatives from its 84 partner organisations met in Geneva, on 30 November and 1 December 2019, on the fringes of the Global Social Protection Week held by the International Labour Organisation, to officially launch the activities of the thematic network at intercontinental level. The aim is to foster greater interaction among members, enabling them to continue to learn from each other and to increase their influence on global decision-making on the right to social protection.

Adopting good practices

Many participants at the founding meeting were keen to express their enthusiasm for the approach of internationalising their work, rather than limiting it to their local context.

For Aïsha Belem from RAMS (Burkina Faso), operating as a network is extremely important: “Not all countries develop at the same pace. By being part of this network, we can adopt good practices tried and tested elsewhere and implement them at home.”

Idesbald Nsabimana, from MUNASA in Burundi, insisted that the issue of social protection is a global one and therefore needs to be addressed at the global level too. “Problems in the area of social protection do not only arise in Burundi or DR Congo but also in Europe and America,” she pointed out. “That is why it is better to look for solutions together.”

These exchanges between the participants contributed to creating a strong sense of community and cohesion. But being connected does not in itself make the world a better place. Discussions were therefore also held to decide on a common advocacy strategy. “The time has now come to follow a shared path,” said Bolivian Jhefferson Yugar of CRISOL. “But all together, not all alone!”

Photo: WSM