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null Progress of Social and Solidarity Economy

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The last months have been rich in events and progress for what is known as Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) – an alternative mode of production, an alternative development, with solidarity and ecological values.

Earlier this year, in May 2013, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) organised a conference ‘Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy' to better understand the conditions and contexts in which SSE can develop and assess implications and interaction giving the potential to SSE to be a distinctive developmental approach (local development, food security, gender equality, environmental protection and health care provisioning).

The work of this conference was successful as the Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy was created on 30 September 2013. Their work will be to raise awareness and visibility of SSE within the United Nations but also to mainstream SSE in international and national policy frameworks through mobilising political will.

UNRISD defines social and solidarity economy as follow:

‘Social and solidarity economy', or SSE, refers to organizations that have explicit economic, social and often environmental objectives, and involve various forms of cooperation and solidarity. These include cooperatives, women's self-help groups, social or community enterprises, fair trade networks and associations of informal economy workers. Globally, such alternative forms of production, finance and consumption are growing in response to social, economic and environmental crises and contexts of vulnerability.

The main activities of the Task Force aim to:
•    enhance the recognition of social and solidarity economy enterprises and organisations;
•    promote knowledge on social and solidarity economy and consolidate SSE networks;
•    support the establishment of an enabling, institutional and policy environment for SSE; and
•    ensure coordination of international efforts, and strengthen and establish partnerships.

Social and solidarity economy is not only being promoted in the UN context, but especially outsite with initiatives such as the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy (RIPESS - Réseau intercontinental de promotion de l'économie sociale et solidaire).

The 5th International Meeting of RIPESS took place in Manila, from 15-18 October 2013, and gathered more than 600 participants from 30 different countries. It was an opportunity to assess and point out the progress made in the past years in the practices of SSE and the establishment of the RIPESS networks. With such involvement and their experience in the field we can only imagine the diversity of perspectives on SSE. Peter Utting, the Deputy Director of UNRISD suggested that just as there are varieties of capitalism, so too are there varieties of SSE, each with its own strengths, weaknesses and challenges. Participants drew attention to the necessity of finding common elements defining a global vision of what social and solidarity economy represents, with specific priorities by continent and with more participation from students and youth. It seems clear that for this a transversal effort is needed. It is in fact the message of Pierre Calame, Chair of the Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation. Participating by video, he insisted on the importance of forging alliances with multiple social actors and movements.

A specific vision of the development of SSE was presented by Ben Quinones (Philippines) Executive Coordinator of RIPESS and Chair of the Asian Solidarity Economy Council. He is also the representative of the Solidarity Economy Network with in the Forum of Ethics and Responsibilities, of which is part. Quinones proposed that as there are "free trade areas" there would also be what he called "SSE ecosystem zones". "If transnational corporations and foreign investors can enjoy the benefits of export processing zones that simplify their regulatory environment and provide various incentives", he argued, "why shouldn't SSE enjoy similar advantages of privileged zones for compatible activities?" He presented a parliamentary bill that included the proposal that seven million hectares of idle public land would be allocated to 750 such zones.

Peter Utting also confirmed that SSE is taken seriously with the United Nations as a possible way to face the crisis but adding that "the potential of SSE also relates to the imperative of distributive and environmental justice." Utting therefore suggested a "re-reading of the acronym RIPESS might indicate six core elements of such a transformative agenda: Resilience, Integrative development, Political Empowerment, Economic empowerment, Surplus redistribution and Solidarity."

The RIPESS is happy and welcomes the Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy and calls on carrying on the work begun earlier this year and that the process to be open to civil society.

This context is even more interesting and important as we prepare the post-2015 development agenda. Indeed, this was the theme of the Mont Blanc Meetings that gathered 350 international participants at the beginning of November 2013: « Changing the course of globalization with the social and solidarity economy: Towards post-2015 Millennium Development Goals ».  Principles and practices of SSE are seen as a concrete solution along with a tight collaboration between the civil society and the United Nations to increase the weight of SSE in the world.  At this meeting were present our colleagues from the Forum Ethics and Responsibilities, Ben Quinones, Sudha Reddy representative of the Rights and Responsibilities Network, Thierry Weishaupt representative of the  Solidarity Education and Nicolas Krausz, Programme Manager at the Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation. is fully supporting these efforts through its involvement in the Forum Ethics and Responsibilities as well as through the Global Ethics Forum 2014 Conference, the theme of which is « Equal in an Unequal World: The Value of Values in Responsible Business » and for which Sudha Reddy will give a workshop on social and solidarity economy.

UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy Established:
RIPESS Calls on UN to Promote Social and Solidarity Economy:
Final declaration of the Mont Blanc Meetings 2013: