Michael Cichon (1953-2022)
Compilation of tributes
Before I Go
I wish to place on record
Leaving the people
It is with great sadness that I learn about the death of a formidable man, Michael Cichon. The world has lost a social justice knight and a great human being.
Michael Cichon was a mathematician committed to social justice. This unusual combination made him compelling. In a world alienated by neoliberal economists obsessed with fiscal cuts, he was a knight: standing up to them, defying orthodoxy with its own quantitative weapons and showing with hard numbers that paying benefits to those in need, to those sick and without jobs, those disabled or elderly, to children and mothers, was not only right, but also affordable and feasible.
He worked very hard, and was unstintingly generous with his time. Michael Cichon believed in education and trained an army of knights to fight with his weapons, teaching in Turin, Geneva and Maastricht; always caring about his staff and students.
He wrote more than 50 publications, of which many have become battle manuals for social justice, known to everybody in the world of social protection.
There were tough times and hard battles, with many losses, such as the pension war, when enemies at the World Bank, IMF and OECD started privatizing pensions, no matter Michael and his team at the ILO Social Security Department showed they impoverish pensioners, particularly women. But Michael had the rare and inspirational ability to turn defeat into a call for yet greater effort and inspire others to do the same.
He navigated the difficult environment of ILO and despite petty bureaucrats, vested interests, and administrative obstacles, he managed to get a new international standard, the famous Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors, approved by governments, federated employers and trade unions from the whole world. That cost him his health.
In 2012 he had to prematurely leave ILO. Despite his failing health, he accepted to become President of the International Council on Social Welfare, the oldest global NGO, with the idea to further mobilize civil society to push for social protection floors. He spent the following years supporting the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) with more excellent work.
He was a honorable knight in his personal life too, faithful to his wife, Irmgard, and a proud father. His home was a joyous and welcoming sanctuary. So much so that he even remodeled his house in Germany, splitting it into two to accommodate a Syrian refugee family during the Syrian civil war.
I have no words for the sadness I feel. So many wonderful memories of this great man will be with me forever. From heartfelt reflections on history and development, to heated no-nonsense discussions in times of crisis… In the last email I exchanged with him, just one week before his passing away, he was at the hospital talking about our dangerous times and the need for a binding convention on social protection floors at the UN.
Michael left us this poem: “I wish to place on record / That I will go / Deservedly or not / A happy, blessed and thankful man / Leaving the people / I love / And their world / In hands I trust / Their own.”
Let this be a call to arms to all you knights around the world: raise your weapons to salute Michael Cichon, and continue his legacy fighting for social justice.
Isabel Ortiz, Director Global Social Justice/IPD, former Director of the ILO Social Protection Department
What a shock to read of Michael's passing! May he rest in peace! I first met him in New York in late 2010 or maybe 2011 when he was at the UN DESA in New York to talk about social protection. This was prior to the passing of Resolution 202. When I heard his presentation it was powerful and 'seeded' the imagination that indeed a world without poverty was possible and the tool was Social Protection by right for all. Michael was indeed a man of vision and dedication - an academic and yet having a simplicity and sense of wonder and fun that was infectious and drew all to him and enabled many to cross boundaries and to engage for the common good. The Coalition is one such endeavour and we will certainly miss him. I am in disbelief and what I am reading but your many e-mail indicate that it is reality. Rest in peace Michael. It was a privilege and a blessing to know you!
Winifred Doherty, The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
Michael is so special, has been so special, he has changed the world in so many ways, his was a gift of selfless giving and struggle to make things better. He was very influential and such a great comrade. I hope you are comforted by knowing how loved he was. And what amazing words to leave. I mourn and at the same time am so glad I had the opportunity to work, have done memorable meals, and laugh with him, I and many others will always carry his spirit. Thinking of you and the children and grandchildren as you get through these difficult times.
Sylvia Beales, Gray Panthers, Africa Platform for Social Protection - APSP
This is an extremely sad news. Michael was a special person, full of kindness, love and a huge advocate for social justice. For me, he was a real monument and a true inspiration. He will be so much missed. Condolences to his family and friends.
Barbara Cacciolo, Solidar
Dear members of the Global Coalition, Michael passed away last December 30th. His great achievement was the adoption of ILO Recommendation No.202, for the application of which he has lobbied in the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors. He was a member of the Core Team of the Global Coalition. Our thoughts are with his family and colleagues.
Ana Zeballos, Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF)
The death of Michael is indeed a great loss to humanity and its movement for social protection. My heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones he left behind. May his spirit and works inspire the struggles of generations for a better world.
Baba Aye, Health and Social Services Officer Head Office, PSI, France
Dear Irmgard and family, I am so very, very sorry for your loss. What a terrible loss for us all. He has left an indelible imprint on all who have had the joy to know him, and has left the world a better place for his wisdom, perseverance and extraordinary creativity. His contribution to social progress is historical. I am so very sad. It is a challenge to enter the new year and imagine the future without him. The only comfort is in knowing that he has left such remarkable achievements for us all to carry forward. He did not leave us alone. We all have work to do. Our most significant tribute starts now, fom the time of the Recommendation + 10 onward.
I am very saddened to hear of the loss of Michael Cichon and have been overwhelmed by all the touching messages shared over last days. Michael was one of the world’s most predominant advocates for the extension to social protection, and a fierce defender for social justice. His loss is deeply felt by the labour movement globally. He leaves behind him an important legacy of strengthening international commitments and frameworks for social protection, especially Recommendation 202 for Social Protection Floors – a key internationally agreed framework for guaranteeing an adequate floor of social protection for everyone.
Many of those who have worked with Michael know that he was a man of deep conviction. When he had a strong idea about something, he made sure that everyone knew it. And as some of you may know, at times we butted heads. Our debates were lively and passionate, but always respectful. And at the end for the day, we agreed far more than we disagreed, and were fully united in our commitment for rights-based, universal social protection systems for all – a goal that as a coalition, must continue to advance.
Evelyn Astor, Economic and Social Policy Advisor, ITUC International Trade Union Confederation
I am very sad to hear about the passing of Michael Cichon.
I met Michael in Maastricht in 2001 at the MSc Social Protection Financing where he taught; and was privileged to work with and learn from him over past 2 decades. I have, witnessed with great admiration, his strong and pragmatic leadership, promoting and nurturing inclusive social protection systems everywhere.
I share my deepest condolences to his family and friends in the SP world.
Michael leaves us a great and noble challenge: to complete the social protection revolution he started. Well played, Michael. Rest in peace.
David Lambert Tumwesigye | Global Advocacy Manager, Child Poverty | Save the Children International
Michael always seemed to be juggling the heaviest issues in the room with the lightest air of humility. He once quipped in passing at a night out with some of us masters students (in the early years of the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance) that ‘life is a budget’. On the face of it, seemingly technocratic and chilled, but underneath a sobering reminder that for most of the world, life is about how the common budget is set, and also (more romantically) how important it is to balance our lives. Michael was always there to help if he could, and advise when he could not. He is missed. Humans like him do not come around so often, and I’m happy to know he left a legacy to lead the future Michael Cichons of the world. Thank you for everything Michael.”
Daniel Horn, Senior Research Officer, Understanding Society, Institute for Social and Economic Research
Dear Irmgard, I have joined forces with Michael since 1994 when I became part of the ILO Social Security Department. Michael has always been a very dependable and straightforward colleague and friend. In his work he had all the qualities that made him so useful for the ILO: good at this subject, a good manager, a good colleague and good political acumen. His great achievement was the adoption of ILO Recommendation No.202, for the application of which we have since lobbied together within the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors. We shall miss his insightful comments, his enthusiasm and commitment. I shall also miss his warmth, love and straightforwardness. Unfortunately I cannot come to Bocholt to say goodbye to him, but I wish you and your family all the strength to overcome his absence. Sending you lots of sympathy and best wishes for 2023 and beyond.
Wouter van Ginneken, International Movement ATD Fourth World, Geneva
Such sad, sad news.
As many of you said, Michael was unique, unique in many ways; full of enthusiasm, a visioner, and a smart, strategic-thinking person with a warming sense of humour.
Without him, there would be no Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors. It was back in the early days of 2012 when my then director, Matthes Buhbe, and I came to his office at the ILO to chat about possible joint activities during that year when Michael suggested to bring together a group of NGOs to build support for a strong Recommendation on social protection floors. And he knew exactly what he was doing.
He knew that the battle for the envisaged Recommendation could not be won by like-minded countries and (some) trade unionists alone. And he knew that such a workshop could not be organized by the ILO, but a strategic “neutral” partner could do that. So, Michael was not only a vital and crucial element of the Global Coalition. He was the person who kicked the ball first. Luckily, the ball was kicked to some of you back in 2012 who played it further into the right direction. The Global Coalition was born after the ILC in 2012 - more than 10 years ago - and has become an inevitable part of the call for human rights based social protection worldwide.
Michael has left us. It is an indescribable loss.
Yvonne Bartmann, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung - FES Geneva
I have no words for the sadness I feel. Michael was my mentor and at the heart of the coalition. Without him all this wouldn’t have been possible.
In loving memory and with sad greetings to you all,
Cäcilie Schildberg, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Good and bad live together. While we celebrate the new year 2023 and received the shocking news that the demise of Michael. This is the way of an unbelievable world.
Tilak, Ftudc Free Trade Union Development Center, Sri Lanka
How is this possible? I was only just getting to know Michael over the last several years. Only in 2019 at a conference in Hawaii we said how unfortunate our paths did not cross during our UN days. How vital! How sharp! How much fun! Like those of you who knew him for decades, I will miss him tremendously.
Barry Herman, Social Justice in Global Development
The sudden passing of Michael Cichon, who left a lasting legacy in the field of social protection, has left the Social Protection Civil Society Network (SPCSN), Nepal and its members inconsolably heartbroken. Although he will be sorely missed, his legacy will endure.
He will be always in our thoughts and memory for his contribution with rigorous advocacy to adopt ILO Recommendation No. 202 in Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors.
Saroj Acharya, Social Protection Civil Society Network (SPCSN), Nepal
This is tragic news for many people who knew Michael. Very difficult to believe that he is no longer with us. A wonderful person, a man of principle and wit, so widely respected. He will be sorely missed.
I had a privilege of knowing him for almost a quarter century, both at the UN and ILO, and beyond. Several years we worked together at ICSW. I always admired his intellectual foresights, and his human qualities. At Bocholt, in New York or elsewhere his company was so engaging and always a pleasure. Michael was full of life and creative plans. It is a huge loss not only for his family but also for all of us, his colleagues and friends. Deepest condolences to Irmgard and his family.
Sergei Zelenev, International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW)
I express my deepest tribute to the late Michael.
Daya Sagar, NACASUD-Nepal
Extremely sorry to hear about it. May his soul rest in peace.
Sanju, Ageing Nepal
What a sad news for 2023. My thoughts go to Michael’s family and friends. Michael will be remembered for his wonderful work for the adoption of the ILO 202 recommendation and his great contribution to the GCSPF.
Johanna Wagman, Action Contre La Faim France | ACF-France
It is sad to hearing this news. Our deepest condolences to the bereaved family. His contribution to the GCSPF is always remember to us.
Om Shanti. Tilottam Paudel, Chairperson, Social Protection Civil Society Network, Nepal
Michael was an icon in the area of Social Protection. He was a colleague, a friend and a comrade in arms. His contribution to our focus area is without measure. On behalf of the African Platform for Social Protection - APSP family, we pass our deepest condolences. May his soul rest in peace.
Tavengwa (Nhongo), Africa Platform for Social Protection - APSP
So sorry to hear that news. What a great legacy he left us in the adoption of the ILO Recommendation no 202. May he rest in peace.
Jean (Quinn) - UNANIMA International
It is very unfortunate that Michael is gone. He brought about boundless contributions to the GCSPF.
Frederick Ouma Bwire, Uganda Reach the Aged Humble - URAA
My deepest condolences to his family and friends
Ahmad M. Awad, Director, Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, Amman Jordan
Very sad news!! May his soul rest in eternal peace!
Hur Hassnain, Evaluator Treasurer at the International Evaluation Academy
My condolences to the family. He was such a
great guy and a giant in the field of social protection. May his soul rest
Ebenezer Durojaye, Dullah Omar Institute (DOI), University of the Western Cape, South Africa
In memoriam, Michael Cichon, 1953-2022
International Labour Organization, Social Protection Department - 04 January 2023
Remembering Our Colleague, Teacher, and Friend, Michael Cichon
Chris De Neubourg
I am so saddened to receive this sad news about the death of the Global Champion of Social Protection and Social Justice - Michael Cichon. I have read and used the works of Michael Cichon in most of my work on social protection. My deep condolences to his family. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Despite his physical departure, he has left a good legacy behind and will always be remembered for the good works that he has done for humanity. With deep condolences.
Isaac Kabelenga, PhD, Founder of the Zambian Think Tank for Social Protection Foundation Limited (Za Think Social Protection), Lecturer of Social Protection and Social Policy, University of Zambia - School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Social Development Studies
Over 200 civil society organizations and trade unions unite to call for a Global Fund for Social Protection to protect the most vulnerable during COVID-19 and beyond.
The programme Improving Synergies Between Social Protection and Public Finance Management provides medium-term support to multiple countries aiming to strengthen their social protection systems at a national level and ensure sustainable financing. The programme aims to support countries in their efforts towards achieving universal social protection coverage.
This initiative is implemented jointly by the ILO, Unicef, and the GCSPF.