Goodwill Ambassador

José Antonio Ocampo joins the ILO in the fight for universal social protection

The former Colombian finance minister and current Columbia University professor has been appointed by the ILO as Goodwill Ambassador with a focus on universal social protection.

Press release | 06 November 2015
José Antonio Ocampo
© Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS 2015
NEW YORK (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has appointed former Colombian finance minister José Antonio Ocampo as Goodwill Ambassador for social protection. The appointment is part of the ILO’s efforts to make social protection coverage a reality for everyone around the world and follows the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by UN Member States in September.

The 2030 Agenda consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including SDG 1 on ending poverty. Target 1.3 calls upon Member States to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all.” Social protection also features in SDG 5 on gender and SDG 10 on reducing inequalities.

Extending social protection systems is among the world’s top development priorities today."

José Antonio Ocampo
"The world’s nations have spoken loudly and clearly,” Ocampo said. “Extending social protection systems is among the world’s top development priorities today, and I stand ready with the ILO to meet this challenge head on.”

“Around 73 per cent of the world’s population today lack access to adequate social protection, despite recognition of the human right to social security, ” said Isabel Ortiz, Director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department. “We are delighted that José Antonio Ocampo has joined us in this fight.”

Social protection floors are nationally-defined sets of basic social security guarantees that ensure all individuals have access to at least essential healthcare and basic income security. The definition of national social protection floors was agreed in 2012 by ILO member States * and endorsed by the UN, the G20 and other international forums.

Universal social protection includes pensions for all older persons, benefits and support for people of working age in case of maternity, disability, work injury or for those without jobs, as well as cash transfers for children. This protection can be provided through social insurance, tax-funded social benefits, social assistance services, public works programs and other schemes guaranteeing basic income security.

The reality is that social protection is an investment with tangible and lasting benefits."

José Antonio Ocampo
“As a former finance minister, I know that one of the key obstacles to overcome is the misperception that social protection is a cost to governments,” said Ocampo. “Far from it, the reality is that social protection is an investment with tangible and lasting benefits that include increased productivity of the labour force, an exit from the poverty trap for many households, as well as a critical instrument to promote consumption and national demand, all of which serve to boost economic development in a big way.”

In his new role as Goodwill Ambassador for universal social protection, Ocampo is one of the key speakers at the conference on “The Welfare State and the Fight Against Inequality” alongside Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and the ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy Sandra Polaski. The conference takes place on the 8th and 9th of November at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Ocampo served as Colombia’s finance minister from 1996 to 1997 and as UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs from 2003 to 2007. He is also the former Executive Secretary for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and currently teaches as a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He also served as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Minister of Planning of Colombia prior to becoming the Minister of Finance.

*Adopted by ILO member States in 2012, ILO Recommendation concerning National Floors of Social Protection (No. 202) provides guidance to member States in building comprehensive social security systems and extending social security coverage by prioritizing the establishment of at least basic health and income security guarantees to all in need.