I speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania* and the EFTA country Norway, members of the European Economic Area as well as the Republic of Moldova Georgia and Armenia align themselves with this statement.
Chair, I would like to congratulate you on your election as Chairperson of this Committee. Our congratulations also go to the representatives of the social partners who have been elected as vice-chairs and with whom we look forward to working closely over the next two and a half weeks.
The EU and its Member States welcome this opportunity to contribute to an informed and balanced discussion on the issues surrounding the future of social protection and thank the Office for its well-documented report.
The pandemic has dramatically highlighted the need for adequate, robust and sustainable social protection systems for all. Social protection acts as an income cushion and a stabilizer in times of economic downturn, as well as a vehicle for bringing economies out of crises. Nevertheless, four billion people are still living without any social protection and the current COVID-19 pandemic has only exposed and deepened the inequalities that exist.
At the recent Social Summit in Porto, the EU and its Member states, the social partners and civil society reaffirmed, and formalised for the first time, their pledge to work towards a strong social Europe. In doing so, they underscored the importance of the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights to enable us to work towards a fair, inclusive and resilient socio-economic recovery.
We share the objective set out in the Centenary Declaration, which calls for universal access to comprehensive and sustainable social protection, predicated on a rights-based approach as well as the achievement of the SDGs, specifically goal 1.3, by 2030. Reaching these goals will rely on strengthened international cooperation led by a strong political will, coordinated multilateral action with all stakeholders especially IFIs, adequate funding, technical knowledge and ongoing social dialogue. We support the further development of the Global Flagship programme on Building Social Protection Floors for all.
As regards Discussion Point 1 on realising Universal Social Protection - This is both a right that belongs to all human beings and an investment with high social and economic returns. It strongly contributes to reducing poverty, vulnerability, social exclusion and inequalities, tackling gender gaps while enhancing political stability, fairness, solidarity and social cohesion. It contributes to economic dynamism and to inclusive economic growth and provides for a fairer and more secure society. Universal Social protection extends beyond basic income protection and contributes to the enhancement of one’s quality of life through a broader suite of supports. Social Protection is crucial to protect people’s livelihoods especially during critical transitions throughout their lifetime.
However, all countries, even those with more developed social protection systems, are facing new challenges such as globalisation, digital, and climate transitions, and demographic shifts. Self-employment, non-standard forms of work, including work organised through the platform economy, as well as domestic workers, also require tailored responses that guarantee adequate and effective social protection for all.
The need to address gaps in social protection globally predates the current crisis and is essential to facilitate and meet the aforementioned challenges, particularly in order to enable transitions from the informal to the formal economy, which is key for reducing decent work deficits and extending protective measures.
Building and reinforcing social protection systems while also allowing them to be responsive and adaptive to new and emerging circumstances, calls for effective and quality social dialogue, a key element for the design and reform of social protection policies. The solidarity principle is an effective way to work towards universal coverage, adequacy of benefits and financial sustainability of the social protection system.
We strongly support the ILO’s normative framework to strengthen social protection systems. We support increased collaboration between the ILO and other international institutions to ensure that the concept of universal social protection extends beyond access for the most vulnerable.
During this committee, we aim to contribute to a set of action-oriented conclusions that should guide and encourage the ILO in its efforts to achieve universal access to adequate and sustainable social protection, based on internationally agreed principles and values, particularly the fundamental recognition of social protection as a human right and a social need and the principle of solidarity, ensuring every human being enjoys a life in health and dignity.
We look forward to working with you all and hope to engage in fruitful discussions over the coming days.
The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.