In June 2022 the tripartite constituents of the ILO held a General Discussion on ‘Decent Work and the social and solidarity economy’ during the 110th session of the International Labour Conference.
The International Labour Conference is the ILO’s highest decision-making body gathering 187 tripartite delegations of governments, workers and employers organizations in June every year to discuss priority issues in the world of work.
For the first time in its history, this year the conference was held in a hybrid manner. Some say this is the first time in its 103 year history that the ILC discussed an item on the social and solidarity economy.
Others say, no this is a return of the topic to the ILO. As the social economy was mentioned in ILO texts since 1922. And cooperatives, a key organizational form that fall under the social and solidarity economy have had a long and illustrious history at the ILO.
The cooperative movement has been a critical partner for the ILO since its inception. The first ILO Director was a co-operator. The ILO established a Cooperative Service in 1920. Co-operators are also explicitly mentioned in the constitution of the ILO.
To this day the ILO remains the only United Nations agency with an explicit mandate on cooperatives. As the representative of cooperatives worldwide, the International Cooperative Alliance also holds a general consultative status at the ILO.
It is accurate to say this is the first high-level comprehensive debate in the United Nations system on the social and solidarity economy. There is also momentum growing for a UN resolution on the social and solidarity economy as well. The European Union has just adopted a social economy action plan. And the OECD has adopted recommendations on the topic.
The Committee adopted a Resolution and Conclusions on decent work and the social and solidarity economy affirming the role that the social and solidarity economy can play in tackling the challenges of the post-pandemic era and fostering a planet- and people- centered future of work.
The conclusions consist of five parts.
The first part of the conclusions sets the scene highlighting the close alignment of the ILO constitutional mandate on advancing social justice and decent work and the social and solidarity economy. It references the ILO Constitution, including the Declaration of Philadelphia, relevant international labour standards and declarations which acknowledge the contribution of the SSE in promoting decent work and sustainable development.
Part II provides a clear and comprehensive “Definition of the SSE” based on a set of values and principles. This is the first tripartite definition of the social and solidarity economy agreed upon at the international level. And I would like to share that definition with you here.
The social and solidarity economy encompasses enterprises, organizations and other entities that are engaged in economic, social, and environmental activities to serve the collective and/or general interest, which are based on the principles of voluntary cooperation and mutual aid, democratic and/or participatory governance, autonomy and independence, and the primacy of people and social purpose over capital in the distribution and use of surpluses and/or profits as well as assets. Social and solidarity economy entities aspire to long-term viability and sustainability, and to the transition from the informal to the formal economy and operate in all sectors of the economy. They put into practice a set of values which are intrinsic to their functioning and consistent with care for people and planet, equality and fairness, interdependence, self-governance, transparency and accountability, and the attainment of decent work and livelihoods. According to national circumstances, the social and solidarity economy includes cooperatives, associations, mutual societies, foundations, social enterprises, self-help groups and other entities operating in accordance with the values and principles of the SSE.Part III spells out the “Guiding principles to address challenges and opportunities” in promoting decent work and the social and solidarity economy. One element that prominently emerged from the discussion included the role and potential of the social and solidarity economy in addressing the needs in the care economy and facilitating the transition from the informal to the formal economy. Other areas highlighted on the contributions of the social and solidarity economy include: just transition and environmental sustainability and creation and preservation of jobs. The conclusions make specific mention of the potential of the social and solidarity economy in building social inclusion, in particular as regards women, youth and disadvantaged groups, such as the unemployed, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, and indigenous peoples.
Part IV tackles how the ILO Constituents can play a major role in fostering the SSE’s economic, social and environmental contributions, through an inclusive and equitable social dialogue. It underlines that the constituents have the obligation to respect, promote and realize the fundamental principles and rights at work, including across social and solidarity economy entities. It also notes that governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations are encouraged to establish a conducive environment consistent with the nature and diversity of the SSE to promote decent work and harness the fullest potential of SSE entities.
Lastly, Part V provides recommendations and key principles for the ILO Office action. The Office should, with relevant partners, focus on: the provision of legal and policy advice; advocacy; knowledge generation; exchange and dissemination of good practices; training and education; capacity building; and development cooperation. The ILO office has now the mandate to promote greater coherence across the multilateral system, including through the UNTFSSE, in the promotion of decent work and the social and solidarity economy.
An Annex to these Conclusions provides a “Non-exhaustive list of relevant instruments of the International Labour Organization and the United Nations”.
The Conclusions provide sufficient guidance to the ILO Constituents and the Office on the promotion of decent work in and through the social and solidarity economy for years to come. We are now in the process of turning these Conclusions to an Office-wide strategy and action plan. This strategy and action plan will be presented to the next Governing Body of the ILO that will meet in October/November this year for their consideration.
In shaping and implementing this Office wide strategy and action plan for the next five years, we will keep engaging with ILO constituents, our historical partners the cooperative movement and the wider social and solidarity economy organizations. We look forward to advancing the social and solidarity economy in the service of decent work and sustainable development with you.