40 years … A sufficient period of time to be able to evaluate the great promises made when structural pensions reforms were introduced replacing public pay-as-you-go (PAYG) systems, many times in crisis. Evidence is not optimistic, at least not from the perspective of most of the private system “clients”. Clearly, the introduction of private systems has defined winners and losers.
Discontent is growing; therefore, several countries conducted re-reforms or
are discussing them, aimed at cushioning the effects of the logic of their operation in an environment of social segregation based on the labor market and on the concentration of income that translates directly into insufficient old-age pensions for the great majority of people.
In this monograph, Mesa Lago gathers evidence on the performance of private pension systems and—based on the promises of their defenders in the
nine Latin American countries that adopted these systems—he evaluates the
results of the re-reforms in four countries and the current reform proposals in
another two, as well as the situation of the largest PAYG system on the continent. Based on the conclusions of this analysis, he presents a series of recommendations with a flexible approach, and not from a single model approach,
for a reform that meets the criteria of social security and justice.
Read the report
The use of TRIPS flexibilities by WTO members involves interpretation of the obligations under TRIPS which can be challenged under the WTO dispute settlement system. Mutually agreed solutions, panel or Appellate Body decisions adopted in such disputes can thus impact the scope of TRIPS flexibilities to address, among others, public health objectives. This paper explores how the WTO dispute settlement system applies to disputes under TRIPS, and reviews the outcomes of the disputes relating to the implementation of TRIPS obligations in the context of pharmaceutical products. The paper points to both systemic and substantive concerns arising from the application of the dispute settlement system to disputes under TRIPS. It finds that the dispute settlement system is not aligned to the unique nature of the TRIPS Agreement in the WTO as an agreement that creates positive obligations, and consequently how jurisprudence arising under disputes concerning other covered agreements having negative obligations, have led panels and Appellate Bodies to adopt narrow interpretations of the scope of TRIPS flexibilities in some of the few disputes arising under the TRIPS Agreement. Moreover, mutually agreed settlements adopted in the context of some of the disputes arising under TRIPS have also led to the adoption of TRIPS plus standards, limiting the scope of TRIPS flexibilities. However, in a recent decision, the WTO panel has also relied on the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health as a subsequent agreement to guide the interpretation of its provisions. In this context, the paper advances some suggestions to address the systemic and substantive issues arising from the application of the dispute settlement system to the TRIPS Agreement.
Read the paper from the South Center
by Francine Mestrum
Social Justice – Note for discussion
Social justice is a very broad concept. It includes many divergent phenomena, from inequality to health care and pensions, over gender, migration and racism. Many of these elements can also be examined on their own right, such as gender and structural racism, while others are consequences or causes of still more problematics. Just imagine the lack of health care because of an income deficit called poverty or the importance of social justice for matters of environmental sustainability. The interlinkages are many. Continue reading
The Universal Basic Income is only one way to guarantee income security, and it is certainly not the best way. In this document Francine Mestrum gives an overview of other and better mechanisms for helping all people and procure welfare and wellbeing. Income security, money, is very important but we should also look beyond it.
This document will be discussed at the 13th edition of the Asia Europe People’s Forum, Friday 21 May 2021, 10 am CET.
You find the document here: AEPF13-Francine-Income-Security-Report.pdf
You can register for the webinar here: www.aepf.info
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: Continue reading
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. Continue reading