AEPF12, Ghent, 29-30 September and 1 October:
The social justice cluster of the Asia Europe People’s Forum is concerned with the growing social distress of people all over the world, faced with multiple problems of war, environmental degradation and climate change, rising inequalities and persistent poverty, economic crises, austerity policies and growing authoritarianism, erosion of human rights, discrimination and intolerance.
At this moment, we are not only faced with a severe social crisis caused by neoliberal policies, but also with the emergence, in Asia and even more in Europe, of illiberal right-wing populist forces, promoting a kind of social policy without any emancipatory or progressive transformative potential.We consider comprehensive and universal social protection rights to be a primary element to promote social justice, within a coherent and just political and economic context.
While giving our full support to the existing global initiatives, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the ILO Social Protection Floors, our main objective is therefore to promote a stronger philosophy on social protection, one that goes beyond the traditional rights, that encompasses environmental needs and bridges the unacceptable gap between production and reproduction.
In our perspective, social protection is a common, emerging from the democratic and participatory actions of citizens with demands for public authorities. Social protection is not a correction mechanism for the economic system, but should be transformative, that is, contribute to a better productive system and to the sustainability of life. We see social protection as a collective and democratic endeavour for achieving a life in dignity for all. Democracy and social dialogue are indeed at the heart of it.
We pursue on the action plan adopted at AEPF11 in Ulaan Baatar (Mongolia) in 2016. We submit a Global Charter for Universal Social Protection Rights, mentioned therein, pointing to the interlinkages of the different sectors civil society organisations are working on, such as trade, the environment, gender equality, democracy and peace. Our Charter pleads for rights-based solidarity mechanisms, embedded in national laws and fully respecting all universal human rights, as well as for the specific demands of the Ulaan Baatar action plan.
The social justice cluster of the Asia Europe People’s Forum puts people at the forefront of its concerns for building a better world, caring for the planet and for a sustainable use of all its resources. We believe social justice should be the overarching objective of all efforts to achieve a just and sustainable economy with fair trade, just finances and binding rules for governments and corporations.
The Charter recalls the international instruments for promoting human rights, several UN Declarations and the ILO Constitution stating that peace is not possible without social justice.
The Charter considers social protection as a condition for social citizenship, intrinsically linked to a social process of structural solidarity.
The Charter considers that social protection goes beyond poverty reduction and is aimed at eradicating and preventing poverty as well as at reducing inequalities. It consists of social security, social assistance, labour rights and extensive social services. It is a primary responsibility of States and has to come about in a participatory and democratic way.
In order to broaden support for the Charter, it is conceived as an aspirational text, not as a binding charter with all of its detailed points to be adopted or agreed with. It is not a text with demands but with principles. It is meant as a source of inspiration for movements, parliaments and governments working towards social justice.
As for Asia and Europe, we more particularly want to focus on the strategic needs for a life of dignity for all:
1) Nation-wide and regional social protection principles and standards.
2) Decent work and sustainable livelihoods in terms of living wages, employment guarantee programs, an end to contractualisation, access to land and subsidies to small farmers. With half of the world’s population engaged in agriculture, land should be a common resource and accessible to all tillers.
3) Decent social services in terms of universal and quality health care, free education up to the tertiary level, public housing, living requirements for water and energy.
4) Decent social security in terms of living pensions for the elderly and PWD’s, income guarantees during unemployment and natural disasters.
As for the detailed principles of our global Charter, based on the Ulaan Baatar action plan, we refer to our website www.globalsocialprotectionrights.eu in English, French and Spanish.
1) We make a plea for the promotion of political education and training sessions, so as to make people aware of their rights. Public authorities should make resources available for this.
2) We make a plea for the coherence of all policies, since social justice is not a single issue but the result of coherent just policies at the economic, environmental and social level. When focusing on one or other point, be it pensions or social services or anything else, demands should not be seen as context-free single demands. On the contrary, the Charter helps to translate principles into detailed demands and gives meaning to them within an emancipatory and transformative context.
3) We make a call on civil society to refer to these principles when campaigning for universal social protection systems, by all and for all.
4) We call on parliamentarians globally to advocate for and legislate universal, comprehensive and effective social protection systems. We also call on them to monitor States’ implementation of their social protection programs and systems in particular, effective oversight on resources and budgets.
5) We call on governments to take this Charter as a guideline for social policies and to support all initiatives, politically and financially, aimed at achieving the principles of this Charter. We plead for road maps with timelines and budgetary allocations for the immediate realisation of universal and comprehensive social protection systems. These should not lead to more borrowings or to burdensome taxes for the poor and low income groups.