On 22 July the United Nations hosted a side event at its headquarters in New York to discuss the role of the social economy in meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs). During the session representatives from various member states who attended the meeting expressed support for advancing a proposal for a UN General Assembly Resolution on SSE for sustainable development.
The meeting was organised by the Spanish Government in collaboration with the ILO and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and had the participation of the International Cooperative Alliance.
Yolanda Díaz Pérez, Second Vice-President of the Government and Minister of Labour and the Social Economy of Spain talked about her country’s experience, which was the first in Europe to adopt social economy legislation that recognises the values and principles of SSE and its transformational potential.
"We want to bet on the internationalisation of the Social Economy as the engine of a more humane, fair and sustainable economic model to consolidate social alliances around the world and make the transformations to come a reality", she said.
She talked about reducing inequalities and protecting the environment and mentioned the SSE as a means to promote resilience during times of crisis, bring communities together, and tackle climate change.
Collen Vixen Kelapile, the Permanent Representative of Botswana to the UN and President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said the 2030 agenda provided a framework for rebuilding back better.
“SSE organisations and enterprises, such as cooperatives, social enterprises mutual societies, foundations and self-help groups, are active in most of the economic sectors, and contribute significantly to all the 17 SDGs in different contexts,” he said, adding that he would welcome a UN General Assembly Resolution to enable states to share experiences and knowledge on SSE.
“I firmly believe that the advancement of the social and solidarity economy would lead to increasing opportunities for building, maintaining and enhancing productivity capacities, especially in developing countries,” he concluded.
The contributions were followed by a round table on partnerships to promote the SSE in the 2030 Agenda.
Beate Andrees, Special Representative to the UN and Director of International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for the United Nations talked about the ILO’s recent resolution on the SSE, which provides a definition of the social and solidarity economy based on a set of shared values and principles - the first ever agreed definition at the international level.
“We hope it will build a bridge that extends into the UN system and beyond. A broader UN Resolution with decent work at its heart would present a major step forward, and you can count on the ILO for support,” she added.
Raymond Landveld, Economic Affairs Officer, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), mentioned some of the advantages a United Nations General Assembly Resolution could bring, such as the opportunity for a focused exchange and learning by member states, guiding United Nations agencies on priority areas of work on the social and solidarity economy and documenting of its contributions to sustainable development and contributing to improving policy making and implementation.
“As vice chair of the United Nations Inter-agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE), I think I can speak for all that we are ready to support you on all your substantive matters on your way forward,” he said.
Joseph Njuguna, Policy Coordinator of the International Cooperative Alliance and member of the International Coalition of the Social and Solidarity Economy (ICSSE), also emphasised the need for a UN GA resolution on SSE. He said that the resolution would contribute to improved policymaking and implementation, leading to acceleration on the implementation of the agenda 2030 and realising the SDGs.
He cautioned that efforts needed to be stepped up to accelerate the pace towards implementation in order to achieve the targets of the SDGs by 2030.
“A UN resolution on SSE will strengthen and promote the work done by SSE enterprises and organisations and will enhance the recognition of their contribution towards achieving the SDGs,” he said.
The session also heard from Pierre Hurmic, President of the Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF) and Mayor of Bordeaux, France, who described the impact of global warming on his region recently affected by wildfires.
“Our economy showed its vulnerability in the face of crises,” he said, adding that the SSE should be at the heart of rebuilding the economy and building a better world. “We need to think globally and act locally,” he said.
The session continued with interventions by several ministers. Marlène Schiappa, Minister Delegate for Social and Solidarity Economy (via video message) talked about the size of the SSE in France. A major force in the French economy, it accounts for more than 10% of total employment.
A UN GA resolution would help to promote a common definition of the sector and drive a more environmentally friendly and fairer model, she added.
Luis Miguel de Camps, Labour Minister, the Dominican Republic, mentioned some of his country's initiatives to promote SSE.
“The development cannot be sustainable unless it is inclusive,” he said, warning that high inflation had the potential to setback many countries. He added that the ILO recent Resolution on the SSE could help build consensus among states to ensure no one is left behind.
Zahra Iyane Thiam Diop, Minister of Microfinance and Social and Solidarity Economy, Senegal, described SSE as a major priority for her country. Senegal remains committed to promoting the sector and would welcome a UNGA resolution that reflects economic and social realities and regulatory norms in different states, she said.
Luka Mesec, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Slovenia, emphasised the role of SSE as an alternative economic model.
“To provide hope, we need alternatives,” he said, explaining that countries like Spain had a lot to share. Only 0.2% of companies in Slovenia are social enterprises. “Spain has 10%, so we can learn a lot from them,” he said, pointing out that political clout and networking could help to grow the sector.
The panels were followed by interventions of UN member states that support the tabling of a UN General Assembly Resolution on SSE for sustainable development, namely, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malaysia, Bulgaria.
The side event concluded with a closing ceremony featuring Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UNCTAD; Guy Ryder, Director-General, ILO; and Yolanda Díaz Pérez.
“Our goal today cannot be to simply rebuild the same system or to revert to the same business as usual policing and economic models of before,” said Ms Grynspan, adding that the UNTFSSE would be publishing a report on the contribution of SSE to the 17 SDGs.
“The conclusions adopted at our [International Labour] Conference this year are important. They include the first agreed definition of the social and solidarity economy that is based on his principles and values. And the conclusions also call upon the ILO to continue its leadership on the social and solidarity economy for advancing decent work and sustainable development,” said Mr Ryder.
The ILO global office is developing an office wide strategy and action plan based on the resolution for discussion at its governing body in November of this year.
“I applaud the efforts of Spain and other member states in tabling a resolution on the SSE and sustainable development at the UN General Assembly. You can count on the ILO in continuing its efforts and advancing the SSE in the service of decent work, and a planet and people centred future of work,” he said.
In her concluding remarks Ms Díaz emphasised that “no economy should cease to be social”.
"I think we have the will, the alliances and the individual and collective intelligence for the process to have a successful result," she said.
A group of member states will work together to present the proposed resolution at the 77th General Assembly of the UN in September 2022.
The full recording of the session is available here.