10 April, 2020

Universal social protection overcomes every crisis

The trend towards globalisation started decades ago. Globalisation of financial markets, of companies, and at times even of solidarity. That international solidarity is more than needed today and tomorrow to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 virus, because this virus has global effects and affects everyone on our planet.

WSM, ACV-CSC, CM-MC and their partner organisations in Asia, Latin America and Africa have been fighting for universal social protection for years in various ways. Trade unions make agreements with employers about sick leave arrangements, maternity protection and pensions. Mutual health organisations provide accessible health care, medication and prevention. Cooperatives offer families an alternative way to work and earn an income. Women's organisations offer microcredit that provides women with a buffer for times of hardship.

System change is necessary

At the same time these organisations, often in partnership with others, are active in the political field and work to achieve structural changes to ensure that everyone has access to the various branches of social protection. Because they are strongly integrated in their local communities, and because of their experience with innovative strategies and initiatives to achieve social protection, these organisations contribute in a meaningful way to the decision-making processes.  Both at national and international level, they join forces within the thematic network on the right to social protection. With some 100 member-organisations spread over 24 countries, this network has a clear message: we need to work towards national, comprehensive and largely supported social protection policies with the full involvement of the network. They are aware that many existing social protection systems leave too many people unprotected, and that system changes are needed. Existing mechanisms need to be reformed to include those who work in the informal economy and in precarious working conditions and those who are unable to do paid work.

Limited access to healthcare

The Corona crisis painfully exposes the weaknesses of the lack of social protection in many countries.  40% of the world's population has no health insurance or access to national health services. Approximately 800 million people spend at least 10% of their household budget on health care every year and 100 million people end up in poverty every year as a result of medical spending. This means that many people simply do not have the means to get treatment when they are ill. Not even if that disease is COVID-19.

Our partner organisations and the network on the right to social protection in which we are all active continue to play their role in the field today. On our COVID-19 page you can read all about what our partners are doing in concrete terms to inform the population about the virus, to provide them with protection material and to assist specific groups of people. They are also the ones who started a dialogue with the authorities to help find the most optimal way to deal with this crisis.

What happens after COVID-19? Business as usual?

Once the damage has been assessed, the sick recovered, and the dead buried, there is still much work to be done to get societies back on their feet. International solidarity will be needed. Not only emergency aid, but also structural aid.

Let's hope that COVID-19 becomes a "game changer", an event that fundamentally changes our way of thinking about several things. Such as the way we deal with nature, but also about social protection. Isn't it high time that the realisation of the human right to social protection actually materialises? Can we ensure that the financial resources are provided to effectively build universal social protection so that, when the next crisis hits, be it a new virus, a tsunami or a banking crisis, it will cause far less hardship and suffering.

Facilitated by WSM, the network for the right to social protection will continue to support social protection for all and in all circumstances, in all countries  where we have partners and on the continental and intercontinental level. Hopefully, the international financial institutions (World Bank and IMF), governments around the world and the Belgian and European international cooperation will follow suit.

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