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International Labour Conference 2021: What are the lessons learned from the Social Security Committee?

The first part of the 109th session of the International Labour Conference ends on the 19th of June 2021. Magnús M. Norðdahl, Workers’ Spokesperson of the Recurrent Discussion Committee: Social security (CDR), shares the workers’ perspective about the lessons learned from this session.

28 June 2021

ACTRAV INFO: For the first time in its history, the International Labour Conference is taking place online. What were the challenges of this virtual format and how did that impact the work of the Group?

The challenges were considerable and many colleagues had doubts, including myself, that this format would produce acceptable conclusions. However, it did, and we overcame the obstacles. We should not forget that all the delegations had to make significant efforts to make this happen, including working from the early hours in some regions and into the night in others. With regard to the CDR and the COVID Response Committee, I think it mattered that the spokespersons came to Geneva. That made our work easier, because even if working in a virtual format can be efficient, nothing replaces direct human contact. Regarding my Group, I really missed the direct consultations and debates, which is the usual dynamic of the ILC and I sincerely hope, therefore, that this ILC format was exceptional.

ACTRAV INFO: After the adoption of your report, what are the final results on these issues being discussed in your Committee?

In general, the conclusions reaffirm the importance of universal social protection and underline the critical role that social protection must play in supporting an economic recovery for everyone and building resilience against future crises. The conclusions underline that many measures implemented during the pandemic have thrown a lifeline to many vulnerable workers and families throughout the world and have allowed many enterprises to survive. However, the development of effective social protection systems cannot be achieved through one-off crisis response measures; it requires sustained action and political commitment. Our conclusions address this issue, and we managed to agree to solid conclusions that set out a framework for action at the Member State level and help define the ILO’s work on social protection for the coming years.

I believe that two conclusions are perhaps of the upmost importance. The first one reaffirms the need for publicly organized social protection systems, consisting of both social protection floors and higher levels of contributory social security schemes in line with ILO Convention No. 102 and Recommendation No. 202. While additional pillars of the social security system can exist, the conclusions make it clear that these must be a complement, and not a replacement, to Member States’ social security systems. In this respect, the conclusions reject the privatization of social security and reaffirm the importance of publicly organized, collectively financed systems as the only means to deliver on the human right to protection. The second conclusion refers to the Global Social Protection Fund (USPF), the coordination among international institutions and the ILO’s leadership role. A proposal on the USPF is currently being discussed within the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Financing for Development Process, and other international fora. Such a fund would serve to kick start financing for countries that do not have sufficient fiscal space to set up social protection systems by themselves in the short term. It would support the set-up of statutory social protection systems, grounded in law and in line with international labour standards. Additionally, it would help stimulate domestic resource mobilization, in order to support countries to build up their capacity to finance social protection over the medium to long term. It could also be a great opportunity to strengthen coordination among international institutions on social protection and would contribute to greater multilateral coherence. The conclusions clearly underline that the ILO therefore needs to be the central player in the establishment of such a fund, and they give the ILO a clear mandate to take part in international discussions on the fund, in order to make concrete proposals.

ACTRAV INFO: Looking forward, what are your expectations vis-à-vis the ILO and the constituents to ensure a human-centred recovery and the respect for workers’ rights in the post-COVID-19 world?

On the basis of these important conclusions, it is of the utmost importance that the ILO, going forward, work to address the lack of recognition of the ILO’s mandate and its social security standards by some international actors. This discussion has given the ILO a clear mandate to work proactively in order to foster the consensus among international organizations on social protection concepts, and to promote alignment among multilateral institutions regarding the need to respect ILO standards. Those conclusions are well aligned with the COVID Response Committee Committee conclusions, and together they help to ensure a human-centred recovery and the respect for workers' rights in the post-COVID-19 world.

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Reports of the Recurrent Discussion Committee: Social protection (social security): Proposed resolution and conclusions submitted to the Conference for adoption
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ILC.109/Record No. 7A

Reports of the Recurrent Discussion Committee: Social protection (social security): Proposed resolution and conclusions submitted to the Conference for adoption