ILO participated in the High-Level Meeting on the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) in the European Union

The ILO DG participated in the event titled “The Social Economy for an inclusive, sustainable and fair recovery” organized by the Spanish Government in Toledo on December 4, 2020.

News | 10 December 2020
The high-level event was held partially in presence in Toledo, as European capital of Social Economy, and partially via videoconference. The opening remarks of Ms. Yolanda Díaz, Minister of Labour and the Social Economy, Ms. Milagros Tolón, Mayor of Toledo and Mr. Emiliano García-Page, President of Castilla-La Mancha set the scene. The Director General of Self-Employment, Social Economy and Corporate Social Responsibility, Maravillas Espín, led the day's proceedings.

Minister Díaz said that 16 European states supported and signed the “Toledo Declaration: The Social and Solidarity Economy as a key agent for an inclusive and sustainable future” (available in English and Spanish), which "means a new drive to position the social economy as a key factor in overcoming the crisis and transforming Europe". Ms. Díaz, referring to the Toledo Declaration, added that "it responds to an internal logic and a purpose: to generate the reflection, alliances and synergies that will lay the foundations for a dialogue in Europe and for the next Social Economy Strategy 2021-2027 in Spain”.

With the Social Economy as a political priority at national, European and international level, the text approved in Toledo is the result of a process in which more member states – compared to the ones who signed the first Luxemburg Declaration in 2015, have participated. Ms. Diaz mentioned that the text presents SSE as an economy that puts people at the centre, with strong territorial roots and showing resilience in times of crisis. The seven actions of the Declaration underline the commitment of EU member states to place the SSE as a priority on political agendas, for an inclusive and sustainable future that includes: raising the visibility and recognition of the SSE through public policies, plans and specific actions in collaboration with the people and entities that comprise it; promoting the economic, social and environmental development model of the SSE; supporting the generation of ecosystems favourable to the SSE; seeking to ensure the necessary financial support is in place for the consolidation of a viable and sustainable SSE; recognizing the critical role of the SSE as a crucial driver in shaping a sustainable, inclusive and just post-COVID 19 recovery throughout Europe; contribute to the international expansion of the SSE; generating and maintaining high-level cooperation and dialogue mechanisms to coordinate actions supporting the SSE, promoting social innovation and innovative public policy.

The event continued with three sessions, moderated, in turn, by the European Commission (EC), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) and was enriched by the interventions from member states’ representatives, European and international institutions.

In the first session on “the role of the SSE in the recovery and in the future of the Social Europe “, the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Mr. Nicolas Schmit recalled the EC’s commitment to promoting the SSE and towards a digital and green transition that is fair to mitigate the dramatic consequences of the COVID-19 on the economy. He noted that “This commitment forms part of the request made by the President of the EC, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, to draw up an Action plan to promote the Social Economy in order to achieve a sustainable future”. Mr. Schmit urged all countries to recognise the SSE's role in their recovery and resilience plans and to member states to tap into the new European instruments for the recovery and the economy. He mentioned that “We need an economy that works for people, value stakeholders, put people at the centre. SSE represents this economy.”

In the second session on “Sustainability in the new economic and social context: the SSE as an example of a sustainable business model”, the Secretary General of the (OECD), Ángel Gurría, stressed the organisation's commitment to social economy organisations. Mr. Gurría noted he would like "the Social Economy to become the general rule and not the exception, the norm by which we are governed when doing business" and he added that "we want to stimulate companies so that social and environmental performance is at the same level as economic performance". Mr. Gurría advocated a change of model where stakeholder becomes the key word rather than shareholder.

Guy Ryder, Director-General, ILO
In the third and last session “Emerging from the crisis with decent jobs: the SSE, quality jobs, and job market inclusion for vulnerable groups “, the Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, has expressed his concern about the economic effects of the pandemic on the world of work, and deepening inequalities. Sharing data from the ILO he highlighted the negative effects have been especially felt among women, young people, migrant workers and the informal economy workers. “The Social Economy will help us to create not only a new normality but a better, fairer and more sustainable normality" said Mr. Ryder. The SSE suffered some of the economic effects of the pandemic but has shown itself to be strong and resilient, he noted. Mr. Ryder reaffirmed the ILO's commitment to promote SSE as creator of decent work and encouraged that what emerges from the High Level Meeting reaffirms the public recognition and promotes the social and environmental development that it represents.

This intervention was complemented by the remarks by Mr. Joaquín Nieto, director of the ILO Office for Spain. Mr Nieto stressed that SSE and inclusive economic sector are key for recovery and development. Moreover, SSE shows its important role to create decent work and transition to a more environmentally-oriented society, in addition to social cohesion through its role in integrating those who are vulnerable and living with disabilities. Mr. Nieto reaffirmed the commitment and expertise of ILO through the different programs promoting SSE and its current role as chair of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task force on the SSE (UNTSSE). Ms. Luz Vega of the ILO Research Department, contributed to the session by saying that the ILO was founded in 1919 with a clear mandate and, since the beginning, the spirit of cooperation and solidarity was present. The ILO declaration of the Future of Work adopted in 2019 clearly mentioned SSE as a type of sustainable enterprise, along with cooperatives, toward generating decent work. Moreover, she mentioned that in the next Governing Body of ILO the recovery post pandemic will be discussed and it would be of value to explore the contributions of SSE to the recovery phase.

Two officials from the Cooperatives Unit at ILO, Mr. Roberto Di Meglio and Ms. Valentina Verze, were also present and participated in the debate.

The event was concluded with the closing remarks of Minister Diaz, Mr. Nicolas Schmit and Mr. Gabriel Bastos, Secretary of State on Social Security in Portugal. Mr. Bastos, who also emphasized the resilient and locally-driven nature of the SSE, linked this production model to the objectives of the European Social Pillar. In this regard, Bastos announced that this dialogue for a social Europe will be the backbone of the Portuguese Presidency of the monitoring Committee of the Luxembourg Declaration, and announced that international meetings will be held in March, in a city yet to be designated, and in May, in the city of Porto, on the subject of the Social Economy and its role in the transformation towards an inclusive and fair Europe.

The event is available in original languages here, in English here and in Spanish here.