COVID-19 reveals the undeniable fact of our interdependence and some hard truths about our economic system. While this is nothing new, it will now be difficult for all those who preferred to ignore some basic facts to go on with business as usual. Our economy collapsed because people cannot buy more than what they actually need. But as the economy grows the more people get sick and need help. And our universal welfare systems never excluded so many people as they do now. The many flaws in the dominant thinking and policymaking do not only refer to our health systems, but are almost all linked to the way the neoliberal globalization is organized. Turn the thinking around, forget the unfettered profit-seeking, start with the real basic needs of people and all the so badly needed approaches logically fall in the basket: the link with social protection, with water, housing and income security, the link with participation and democracy. In this article, I want to sketch the journey from needs to commons, since that is where the road should be leading us to. It goes in the opposite direction of more austerity, more privatization, more fragmentation of our social policies. It also leads to paradigmatic changes, based on old concepts such as solidarity and a new way to define sustainability.
Read the article by Francine Mestrum in ‘Development’
Building a New Welfare State
All of a sudden, the coronacrisis made it crystal clear: all people, all countries need a good system of health care! What has been obvious for some all the time, now becomes the new truth for all those who thought social protection was something of the past, or something only rich countries could afford thanks to their profits from colonisation …
The real truth is that all people, everywhere and in all times have exactly the same basic needs: health care, water, clean air, shelter, food and clothing, education… In what way this will be provided will differ from people to people and from country to country. But in all cases the systems that are put into place should be able to answer the real needs and demands of the people concerned. It also means that for psychological or spiritual needs, the local chaman, marabou, herbalist or other witch doctor can certainly help, but professional health care is needed to cure people from viruses and other illnesses.
It is therefore important to know just what is on offer. What different possibilities exist? What ideology to follow? These are not easy choices because much will depend on the government in place, on the available resources and on the strength of the social movements fighting for social justice.
I would like to briefly distinguish three possible options: Lees verder
Increasing economic inequality is a defining challenge of our time. Economic growth can often be disproportionate and unequal, adversely affecting marginalized and disadvantaged groups in society. Economic inequality has had adverse economic, social and political impacts for social stability and cohesion, political participation, poverty reduction, as well as the enjoyment of human rights. The realization of human rights cannot be separated from broader questions of economic and social justice.
Read the new report of the South Center
This report unpacks States’ human rights obligations in the context of the increasing private sector involvement in healthcare, particularly health financing and provision. It presents a preliminary human rights impact assessment framework for evaluating the consequences of private actor activity on the right to health.
The report defines and explains the different forms of private involvement in the provision of health goods and services and financing. It analyses the different State obligations under the right to health, setting out general standards and applying them to situations of private involvement. The report also establishes the aspects of accountability that States need to put in place for the enjoyment of the right to health, including regulation, transparency, participation, monitoring, review and remedies.
The report was co-published by the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR), the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER) and the University of Essex Human Rights Centre Clinic. It forms part of the critical scrutiny of the increasing privatisation of services, including education, health and water. Various organisations, including GI-ESCR and ISER, have been part of this work over the last years, which led the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to issue a resolution on privatisation in education and health in May 2019.
What social model are we heading for?
Analysis of the World Bank’s ‘new social contract’
It has been said and it has been repeated: social policies have been the major victims of neoliberal globalisation. During the past forty years, attention for social protection and social development, everywhere, shifted towards ‘poverty reduction’, the IMF’s (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank’s prescriptions continuously implied cuts in social spending and targeted policies in the South, while ‘austerity’ was introduced in the North with negative consequences on welfare states and labour law.
The changing world of work and the fundamental societal changes – migration, ageing, women on the labour market – recently gave rise to some timid discussions on social protection. The only real debate that took place in the North concerned the possible introduction of a ‘Universal Basic Income’, a basically liberal idea that almost inevitably would make an end to welfare states.
In today’s world of planetary destruction and debasing of humankind, we have to re-think the meaning of our fundamental values and concepts. In this contribution, I want to look at production and its links to re-production and what this means for social and political transformation geared towards social justice. First, I will develop the idea of value attached to re-productive activities. Secondly, related to gender, I will show that one can de-commodify reproductive work without de-monetising it. In order to do so, one has to get rid of the ‘immaterial values’ too often attributed to women. It is the context in which we can start to think of commons and social commons in a way that re-values women’s work and fully integrates them into the world of economic and social rights. Moreover, the commons of rights contribute to the shaping and building of society. Lees verder
Strategies for social justice and beyond
If social protection is now back on the international agenda and more or less actively promoted by most international organisations, it is not necessarily also on the agenda of social movements. There is, or has been, more particularly within the radical left, quite some resistance to the promotion of this ‘reformist’ policy. Initiatives like those of Global Social Justice and the Asia Europe People’s Forum to broaden the agenda in order to include public services and labour right and to directly link it to a social justice agenda geared towards systemic change, might hopefully change this state of affairs.
However, it is not enough to demonstrate the need to broaden the agenda and to show how very connected different policy areas are. It is most useful if there can also be some indications on how to make this social justice into reality, even if we know it necessarily will be a long term agenda.
In this article, I want to emphasize two possible ways of shaping a strategy: a commons approach and what I would call an obstinate coherence approach. There is no need to choose between one or the other. Moreover, these strategies concern the improvements of social policies within the system and within the existing institutional frame as well as those that are ‘out of the box’ and look into the future in order to build a better world. Lees verder
Social protection and its allies
Social protection is high on the international agenda today. Even the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have admitted it should be promoted. Global initiatives such as the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and most of all the Social Protection Floors from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have to be welcomed and supported. Their achievement would mean a tremendous progress for people all over the world.
However, a more ambitious and long term horizon is also necessary, as the ILO itself is indicating. Not only because social protection can and should be more than a correction mechanism to the current austerity policies that continue to follow the neoliberal philosophy of structural adjustment, but also because protective policies imply so much more than cash transfers and basic social policies (see previous article).
In this article, I want to point to some of the necessary connections to make if we want social protection to be a major element of social justice and to contribute to systemic change and the shaping of a better world for all. Lees verder
Social Protection Floors: The Case for going Beyond
End of April 2018 The Economist published a special report on universal health care and put the topic on its cover. We should welcome this ‘social turn’ but we should also reflect very seriously on what is happening and why.
Also in spring 2018, José Antonio Ocampo and Joseph Stiglitz, two famous economists, published a book on ‘Re-visiting the Welfare State’ with a purely economic perspective on social policies.
What this means and confirms is that for almost forty years now, right-wing and neoliberal forces have been dominating and shaping the discourse – and consequently the practice – on social policies. They do not talk about social justice, obviously, since justice is far away from their objectives, but they have been dominating and shaping the new thinking on poverty, social protection, health and education.The tragedy in all this is that the left has grossly abandoned its social ambition. For the radical left, social protection is counter-revolutionary and something for dummies and sissies. After the revolution, social justice will fall out of the sky. The moderate left is happy with the existing international initiatives. It means that this once high priority topic for all progressive forces is being neglected. We are now paying the price for this. Social protection has been taken out of our hands. Lees verder