Joint Statement “Towards Universal Social Protection”

The Joint Statement was developed by the co-organizers and participants of the workshop series “Toward Universal Social Protection: Health, Social Protection and Equality“ that was held in Kathmandu on 17 February 2024 during the World Social Forum 2024 (WSF2024). The GCSPF as well as many members support the Statement.

The statement is here. Download pdf version.

Joint Statement WSF2024

Workshop Series on Towards Universal Social Protection

As the world economy produces more goods, grows at a rapid pace, and generates more and more wealth and profits, the disparity between those at the top of the pyramid and those at the bottom is increasing exponentially. Despite producing more, working longer hours, and sacrificing more, vulnerable people around the world now have less access to healthcare, quality education, civic services, and housing. In a world where work and income are far from secure, the lack of guaranteed access to necessities for workers and their families is a serious and often tragic issue. At least 8 million people die every year simply due to a lack of quality health care. In 2020, almost 800 women died every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. On top of this, women undertake three times as much unpaid care work as men in Asia and two times more than men globally. The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has left a multitude of public service workers in dire straits, especially in health and sanitation (where service provision has increasingly been contracted out to private firms), since such workers were all hired under sub-contractual outsourcing systems and therefore have no guarantee of future employment. Inequality is omnipresent and takes a number of different forms. Within the household, there exist inequalities between boys and girls and between men and women. Nor is equality maintained in education, in the distribution of skill, or in employment opportunities. Women are facing discriminatory behaviors first in accessing employment and then, for women who are employed, in accessing financial resources. This gender inequality fuels patriarchy, empowering men and forcing women to take losses, which then creates a situation in which men grow more powerful and women weaker. The absence of gender- responsive budgeting mechanisms, that focus financing on social protection presents systemic barriers for the implementation of social protection in a holistic manner.

Discussing universal social protection becomes challenging in the midst of war and conflicts that resulted in the loss of lives, injuries, and the displacement of millions of people from their homes, depriving them of essential rights such as access to health, food, clean water and education, with the most substantial of these casualties being women and children.

In these circumstances, all people must be assured access to comprehensive social protection, encompassing housing and civic services, healthcare, education, unemployment allowances, maternity cash assistance, and pensions for the elderly, whether they are employed or not. Within the broad framework of social protection for all, there must also be a particular focus on addressing the needs of people with disabilities and workers within the informal economy, and concerted efforts should be made to organize spaces and systems that facilitate their ability to lead secure and productive lives. Additionally, everyone should be guaranteed a decent life from the womb to the tomb.

We, including 200 people from different organizations participating in the World Social Forum 2024 in Kathmandu, gathered for Universal Social Protection, jointly state the following:

1. Universal Social Protection. We are committed to collective action, advocating for the rights and dignity of all, recognizing that universal social protection is not merely a cost or charity but an inherent right and a crucial investment. Our pledge involves rejecting poverty targeting in favor of universality, ensuring that disability benefits, child benefits, pension and maternity rights reach every individual. We emphasize the importance of day care services for working mothers, the elimination of child labor and abuse, and the provision of free and quality education for a better tomorrow. We acknowledge the significance of #CareWorkMakesAllOtherWorksPossible and strive to achieve decent work for all. Our unwavering commitment extends to quality public services and healthcare, opposing privatization and advocating for increased investment in public healthcare. We pledge to prioritize people over profit, advocating for living wages and ensuring financial benefits are easily accessible to all. In our comprehensive approach, we recognize that building a society that values the well-being, rights, and dignity of all is a collective responsibility. Keeping in view the exclusion of workers within the Informal Economy from the social protection floors, we demand the establishment of Maternity protection boards for informal workers across the region. Maternity benefits must be extended to all women irrespective of age, marital status and income category and must be applicable to all pregnancies. Adequate universal social protection coverage should also include the possibility to adapt and use schemes in case of large-scale shocks, especially in a context of increasing catastrophes exacerbated because of the climate crisis, but also including phenomena like Covid-19 which especially affected informal workers.

2. Gender Equality and Justice. Advocating for Gender-Responsive Budgeting and gender-friendly markets, we emphasize the imperative need to remove the obstacles hindering women's career advancement, and push for the proportionate representation of women in all walks of life, including employment, administration, and parliament. Recognizing that promoting Gender Equality requires active championing by men, we assert the necessity to halt gender-based violence. Additionally, fostering a society that embraces dignified menstruation is the collective responsibility of all. Social protection is also a powerful tool to ensure inclusivity of LGBTIQA+ workers and their families.

3. Economic Justice and Decent Work. In our comprehensive approach, we advocate for a Solidarity Economy, ensuring Equal Access to Financial Resources, and ending Workplace Harassment to create safe working conditions. Recognizing the importance of Women's Engagement in the Labor Market, we value and recognize Care Work, strive for a Living Wage for Social Protection, and emphasize Decent Work for All, promoting fair labor practices and safe working conditions.

4. Social Justice and Human Rights. Given our commitment to Youth Health as fundamental for a healthy nation, we acknowledge the significance of unpaid care work. Consequently, we are actively working towards its integration into national accounts. Moreover, we advocate for the availability of easily accessible centers facilitating digital benefit applications for all, ensuring streamlined access to essential services and support.

5. Gender Transformative Quality Public Services. Our advocacy revolves around championing Quality Public Services. Opposing privatisation, we instead promote the public ownership and management of public services. Our fight is for equal access to quality public services and for the rights of the workers delivering them. We emphasize the essential need for public services to be in the public's hands.

6. Social Responsibility. Our commitment lies in prioritizing People Over Profit, working towards Poverty Alleviation, and advocating for Social Profitability within the framework of a Social Solidarity Economy. We emphasize the importance of placing human well-being ahead of financial gains and fostering economic models that prioritize broader societal benefits over narrow interests.

March 2024

Civil Society Call for a Global Fund for Social Protection

Civil society organizations and trade unions unite to call for a Global Fund for Social Protection to protect the most vulnerable.

Social Security for All

Civil society organizations and trade unions call governments and international financial institutions to make a commitment to create social security systems that enable everyone to realize their rights. Governments and financial institutions should end policies that have been failing millions of people.

SP&PFM Programme

The programme Improving Synergies Between Social Protection and Public Finance Management provided medium-term support to multiple countries aiming to strengthen their social protection systems at a national level and ensure sustainable financing. The programme aimed to support countries in their efforts towards achieving universal social protection coverage.
This initiative was implemented jointly by the ILO, Unicef, and the GCSPF.

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