Manifesto for economic and social rights against inequality

The crisis of the coronavirus was a terrible reminder of how vulnerable people and societies have become in times of neoliberal policies and austerity. In the slipstream of this crisis we see a rapid digitalization of economies with serious consequences as well for all working people, in North and South.

If ever the need for protection was made clear, the current situation leaves no alternatives: people, all people, need protection, in a very broad sense. Neoliberal policies and austerity have to be stopped! We need more than nice slogans and kind recommendations; the time has come for structural changes.

That is why the Asia Europe People’s Forum and its Social Justice Cluster have been promoting a new and innovative concept of social protection, based on old principles and new ways for implementation.

Our aim is to fight the growing inequality, with wealth taxes, the abolition of illegitimate debt and the drastic reduction of military budgets. More particularly, we strive for free quality health care for all, free quality education for all students up to the tertiary level, affordable housing for every family with access to power and running water, work guarantee programs, living wages, guaranteed income for the sick and disabled, living pensions for senior citizens, subsidized public transport and free access to internet. Care should be a centre piece of all policies for environmental, economic and social justice.

All these refer to old and relevant principles such as  human rightsuniversalismsolidarity and public responsibility. Our innovative approach implies:

  • Enlarge the concept of social protection to social security, labour rights, social assistance and public services. It has to be taken as a whole and to be introduced as a system, not as separate programmes.
  • Make ‘social justice’ the explicit objective of social protection, away from social investment requiring a ‘return’ and subordinating the social to the economic
  • Make explicit links to other societal topics of great importance: the environmentdemocracy and ultimately peace. We have proposals for making social protection a policy contributing to sustainability.
  • Make social protection a participatory policy, with pressure from below, make it a ‘social common’ with shared responsibilities for the State and for citizens

In this way we say goodbye to the neoliberal ‘safety nets’ and austerity as proposed by IMF and World Bank. We go beyond redistribution to look at wealth creation in general.

Our social protection is not a corrective mechanism for a failed economic system, but it is emancipatory and transformative, in other words, it contributes to political, economic and social transformation.

Our Charter is not a binding text. It is meant as an inspiration for all movements working on social justice. It contributes to the sustainability of life, of people, of societies and of nature.

Summary of the Global Charter

(For the full text of the charter see

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 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 at reducing inequalities. It consists of social security, social assistance, labour rights and social services. It is a primary responsibility of States and has to come about in a participatory and democratic way. Therefore, work begins at the local level where direct solidarity between people is the basis for structural measures at national and global levels.

The Charter deplores the current economic and social crisis as well as the negative consequences for existing social protection systems of neoliberal and conservative policies.


Social protection should be rights- and solidarity-based, embedded in legislation.

Social protection should be organised on a non-profit basis.

Social protection should be sustainably funded through contributions, taxes and/or international solidarity.

Social protection systems should be universal, for all residents, not based on national citizenship.

Social protection mechanisms should minimally respect ILO Convention 102 of 1952.

Social protection mechanisms should also consist of a series of social services, defined by local needs.

States should adopt the decent work programme of the ILO and the core labour standards.

States should adopt living minimum wages.

States should adopt adequate social assistance measures with minimum income guarantees. 

States should eliminate the gender gap.

States should ensure non-contributory pensions for people who are not or have not been on the labour market.

States should eliminate all forms of discrimination.

States should take the necessary measures to avoid social dumping, reduce informality and precariousness.

States should take the necessary measures as to guarantee everyone’s livelihood.

States should provide social protection during humanitarian crises and assist refugees and migrants.

States have to involve representative social partners in the development of their social protection mechanisms.

In order to promote citizen’s participation, political education and training are needed.

States should organize the financing of social protection in such a way that all income categories contribute in an equitable way.

In their international trade, investment and other agreements, States should include binding social and tax rules.

Social protection should lead to social and economic transformation, fair and sustainable societies, preserving human and natural life.

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