Social Protection Floors – Regional and International Experiences

dec 15 2015

Workshop Introductory Words, Tbilisi, Georgia, October 30th 2015
Miloslav Hettes - President, ICSW Europe

International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) represents a wide range of national and international organizations that seek to advance social welfare, social development and social justice (founded in Paris in 1928 as the International Conference of Social Work). International Council on Social Welfare Europe (ICSW Europe) is legally independent but closely and historically interconnected with Global ICSW. ICSW Europe belongs among nine regional organizations of the Global ICSW family.

ICSW Europe is active in the field of social welfare and social development. Member organizations are legal bodies under the law of their countries established in Europe, Israel and, or countries that are part of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation. Strength of the ICSW Europe is that all members are involved in promoting social welfare and civil society and community work in their own countries. Within Europe there are a number of important forums and players that need to be followed closely, such as the European Union and the Council of Europe. ICSW Europe has involvement in activities of both European organizations.

Beside that the ICSW has consultative status within the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in New York, accredited is to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.

ICSW in cooperation with historically interconnected INGOs - the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) organizes regularly joint global conferences. Next event will be held in 2016 in Seoul under the title “Joint World Conference Social Work, Education and Social Development”. ICSW Europe submitted also its own proposal to organize a special symposium focused on migration issues.

ICSW Europe, for the purpose of European activities, obtained its independent status in 2007. ICSW Europe is a full member of the Social Platform (European Platform of Social NGOs) in Brussels. Social Platform is the largest platform of European rights and value-based NGOs working in the social sector. Its aim is to promote social justice, equality and participatory democracy. Social Platform includes organizations of women, older people, people with disabilities, people affected by poverty, young people, children and families, gays and lesbians and transgenders. Member organizations include those campaigning on issues such as social justice, homelessness, life-long learning, health and reproductive rights or racism. ICSW Europe is also a member of the Conference of International NGOs (INGO) at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. ICSW Europe is a founding member of the European Network for Social Action (ENSACT). The main activity of ENSACT nowadays is preparation of joint European Observatory based on Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development implementation.

ICSW Europe has many socially and caring oriented objectives. ICSW Europe members promote forms of social and economic development, (reduce poverty, hardship and vulnerability, especially amongst disadvantaged people). ICSW Europe with the help of its member organizations strives for recognition and realization of fundamental rights (employment, income, food, shelter, education, health care and security). Another goal is promoting equality of opportunity, freedom of expression, freedom of association, participation and access to human services and oppose discrimination. Further, ICSW Europe promoting policies and programs, that strike an appropriate balance between social and economic goals and which respect cultural diversity. ICSW Europe makes efforts to strengthen civil society throughout the world to achieve these objects. ICSW Europe seeks implementation of these objects by governments, international organizations and non-governmental agencies in cooperation with its network of member organizations.

International Council on Social Welfare Europe main current priority is social protection supporting. ICSW actively deals in the NGO Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors based on the ILO Recommendation 202 from the year 2012. Universal demographic changes strengthens sustainability of future generation decent life. This has unpredictable influence on elderly care, and solidarity between generations. ICSW Europe cares about poverty reduction, working poor, support of the poorest, minorities, refugees and homeless people, poverty in extreme rural areas and migration. ICSW would like to give better attention to social investments and to social entrepreneurship.

Social protection floors as a new approach for social protection in Europe have been already discussed within ICSW Europe in Rennes, March 25, 2014. Current social situation in Europe requests implementation of the ILO Recommendation 202. The difference between access to guaranteed services for all and the actual situation mainly affects certain social groups. Their rights are often neglected due to their unstable situation and exclusion practices. Social benefit fraud, misuse of the system by service providers, and loss of revenue through non-declared work should be fought by tightly managing the system. All this is reality despite the fact that according to the Recommendation 202, all residents should have basic social security cover.

Adoption of the ILO Recommendation 202 from the year 2012 concerning National Floors of Social Protection by all EU member countries, was fully justified by the social situation in Europe. Nevertheless, not all of the European citizens benefited from the social protection floor. EU bodies must be also asked, to remind member states that they too have a commitment to keep the social protection floor (social minimum). For each Member State, the European Union should be set a guaranteed minimum income level that is 60% of the median income observed in each country. Europe remains an area with relatively high social rights. However, the rise of a worrying phenomenon should be noted. The rights are not being claimed, due to the introduction of too many “targeting” conditions and requirements. Overestimating of “addressing” represents jeopardizing of solidarity, human rights principle and social cohesion fundament of Europe. Universal social cover is an essential element of Social Protection Floors. The current situation is that not all EU citizens have an access to this yet and some of them no longer have an access to it.

Care must be taken to ensure that Europeans do not become victims of social dumping, as is the case too often. Social Protection Floors must also apply to all residents, no matter of country of origin. However, they often encounter a large number of barriers before they can really benefit from the social schemes to which they are entitled. Humanity and solidarity cannot be punished as it happens frequently in many cases. There is stronger voice also from the European Commission calling for “common, minimum social rights applied in all member states”.

This was the reason why, after meeting in Rennes (2014), ICSW Europe welcomed initiative from its Slovak, Lithuanian and Georgian member organizations and decided to help with organization and to participate actively in the expert workshop focused on “Social Protection Floors – Regional and International Experiences” in Tbilisi in 30 October 2015. ICSW Europe was very satisfied and found it useful to negotiate and to exchange views with national and international NGOs from the region and other European countries. ICSW Europe used this opportunity to submit special purpose memorandum on social protection minimum based on Social Platform outcomes, for workshop participantsˈ consideration.

Author: Miloslav Hettes - President, ICSW Europe