Asia Europe People's Forum in Ghent

When civil society speak, will leaders from Asia and Europe listen?

CC Bruno Deceukelier

 

Mid October 2018 leaders of states from Asia and Europe will meet in Brussels, as part of the Asia Europe summit which happens every two years. In its wake, civil society meet at the Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF), as do business representatives and other lobbying groups.

For the very first time, the three networks working on social protection in Asia organised a joint session during this forum as part of the social justice cluster. Hence, a twelve people delegation was supported to attend the 12th AEPF which took place in Ghent, composed out of six Steering Committee Members and a representative from the Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP) and the Asian Round Table on Social Protection (AROSP) network.

Topics which discussed were, among others, trade agreements, climate action, migrants in Ghent, human rights, Palm oil plantations. The Social Justice cluster came forward with a charter which includes many of the topics our networks have been lobbying for and will be presented to European and Asian leaders, and will also be used to advocate at a global level. 

Poverty, inequality and social exclusion

The three networks also organized an open session on The right to Social Protection for All: Strengthening the right to social protection for vulnerable people in Asia & Europe. According to the ILO World Social Protection Report 2017-2019, only 45 per cent of the global population (38,9 per cent in the Asia–Pacific region) is covered by at least one social protection benefit.

The right to health is not yet a reality in many countries, especially in rural areas. The lack of social protection leaves people vulnerable to poverty, inequality and social exclusion across the life cycle. Coverage gaps are associated with significant underinvestment in social protection.

‘Extending social protection and improving the working conditions will be major challenges in the future in Asia and in Europe’

At the same time, the world of work is rapidly changing following demographic evolutions, globalization of production, international trade, digital economy and automation, urbanization, workers mobility and increase of non-standard employment (precarious contracts, on call work, etc). These are added to persistently high levels of informal economy in many countries.

Extending social protection and its benefits, and increasing the availability as well as improving the working conditions are already manifesting themselves as major challenges in the future in Asia and in Europe. In a world with widening inequalities and enormous uncertainties, social protection is needed more than ever. It is a must.

Improved and upgraded

Both in Asia and Europe social movements are mobilising and campaigning for the right to social protection for all to be respected and realized. They are also paving the way by establishing their own initiatives and mechanisms for social protection. Both in Asia and Europe there are some good practices of social movements convincing governments to strongly expand social protection coverage by introducing various schemes ranging from universal health care, work and livelihood guarantees, unemployment and disability income-support, work injury insurance, old-age pensions, maternity protection, calamity assistance and others.

CC Bruno Deceukelier

 

However, given the many challenges and gaps remaining to fully implement and guarantee the right to comprehensive social protection for everyone, current policies will need to be improved and upgraded. Social protection policies should be rights and solidarity based, strongly involve the representative social movements and integrate their initiatives in universal social protection mechanisms so they can cover social protection rights throughout the whole life cycle for the entire population.

We should maintain and fully implement the principles of Social Protection that are globally agreed by the world’s leading organization on social protection standards, the ILO, and its Convention 102 and Recommendations 202 and 204. These and other human rights treaties and declarations clearly state Social Protection is a universal Human Right. It is also well integrated in the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this open space workshop we focus on how social movements assert the right to social protection, and make the way by establishing own mechanisms of social protection and influencing their governments to largely improve their social protection policies in line with the above mentioned principles and international standards.

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Over de auteur

  • Verantwoordelijke WereldSolidariteit Indië, Nepal en Bangladesh

    Bruno Deceukelier volgt projecten op rond sociale bescherming met de partners van WereldSolidariteit (WSM) in Indië, Nepal en Bangladesh.