Social protection, social security, social commons, poverty reduction, basic income … many proposals have been put on the agenda in recent decades, throughout the world, for inclusion and to improve people’s living conditions. Whichever solution we choose, for progressive social movements, the goal must be the universal application, for all, of social rights: health, food, education, housing, decent work, social protection throughout the lifetime. In other words, a society and a policy that puts social justice as one of its central axes, as a constituent element of the pact between citizens and between citizens and the state. As a moral, ethical, political and legal basis to regulate the production and distribution of wealth, in a manner consistent with the universal principles and values of social and environmental justice.
If this is the goal, we all know how much social injustice the dominant neo-liberal economic model and thought are producing: hyper-concentration of wealth, inequalities, poverty, new forms of slavery, forced migrations, wars …
In today’s society we have seen the ideology of the regulatory market and speculative financial capital prevail over the human being and the environment. A destructive, exclusionary, selfish, patriarchal policy that destroys nature and the balance between the rights / duties to the welfare of the human being, which weakens popular and democratic powers in favour of economic, financial and technological powers.
A first point that we must not forget: in a neoliberal framework, international organizations, from the World Bank to the European Union, have introduced a paradigmatic change in their discourse on social protection: to protect people from the vagaries of the market and from preserving their standard of living in the event of accidents or setbacks, social protection has now become a factor of production designed to incentivize people to participate in the (labour) market. This change is related to the shift from the right to development (a sovereign development with social and environmental justice within a new and just world economic order) to poverty policies as poor and minimal responses with aid packages for the most vulnerable people.
There is no doubt that this economic model and the new forms of production weaken labour rights and unions, and demand new strategies of struggle, of alliances between unions and social movements so that human-labour rights are extended and accessible to all in order to build a new model of society centered on the universal principle of social justice.
We must be aware that “social protection” or “basic income” do not have the same meaning for different organizations and movements. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully analyse what is meant before making assessments and / or conclusions. In many regions, social protections or social security policies are not considered transformative. Understanding definitions in the light of conceptual and historical contexts is essential to avoid false conflicts and superficial agreements.
Today we have to learn the lessons of the corona crisis.
First, the urgent need for universal social protection, with health care, labour rights, public services and aid for impoverished peoples has become clearer than ever. But at the same time, we learned that this is not enough, people also need clean air, drinking water, decent housing… and the power to define and decide on economic, social and environmental policies and systems.
This brings us to the second lesson: social justice is closely related to economic justice, environmental justice, democracy, and peace, to name just a few other dimensions of human life in societies. Social justice is incompatible with all patronage, neo-colonialist policies, economic sanctions and the lack of democratic rules within the framework of international law.
The availability of a vaccine is tied to existing business rules, wealth has to not only be redistributed, it must also be produced in a different way, social protections must be based on people’s needs, so people must make their voices heard.
To finance social protection, resources from fair taxes are needed, with the clear intention of redistributing wealth in society and radically reducing the inequities in societies. A century ago, the ILO already declared in the preamble to its constitution that “lasting peace is not possible without social justice.”
Therefore, in the end, social justice is closely related to development and universal human rights, with the right to development, as stated in the UN 1986 Declaration, connecting all rights in a systemic, interdependent and fully justiciable rights perspective in national and international scenarios.
We invite all social movements from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa to come and discuss these different points, especially the participants in the health and social security forum, the Pan-Amazon forum, the migration forum, the transformative economies forum. The objective is to organize an introductory panel where global problems and existing / future systemic alternatives will be presented, explored and explained in the perspective of a common global alternative agenda. Then different self-organized workshops can be held. In the end, we will try to see what we have in common and where we can relate to the environment, peace, economic justice and democracy.
The challenge of a new concept of development, the ways to block austerity policies and achieve social protection systems (which can combine the security of civil and political rights with economic, social and environmental security) to contain pandemics and launch an ambitious and radical process of social transformation is at the top of our contributions to a new, urgent, necessary and possible post-capitalist world.
During the next year, we can continue working on all these points to try to find convergences that will be developed in the face-to-face World Social Forum in January 2022. Hopefully we can speak with a strong collective voice.
Social justice can become a tool for change! Come and discuss with us how to make it happen!
The links for our WSF – events for the 28th can be found here: