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.

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Re-Defining the Social Justice Agenda

The new book by Francine Mestrum and Meena Menon

You can find it here:


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Income Security: Options and Choices

Asia Europe Peoples Forum – Social Justice Working Group – Income Security: Options and choices

Francine Mestrum

  1. Introduction

It is crystal clear during the COVID-19 crisis: people need protection, health care, clean water, decent housing and … income. These services are not available for huge numbers of people all over the world. What happened with the COVID-19 crisis was that all of a sudden their numbers were growing. Too many public services have been privatised in past decades and made unavailable or unaffordable for too many people, no doctors or hospitals, no clean water and soap, no decent housing. In these circumstances, how to protect yourself? How to protect others? Moreover, due to the lockdowns, people lost their jobs, informal and platform workers were unable to earn anything, street vendors went idle … how then to survive? Where, without the crisis, some poor people were always able to earn something with minor jobs and activities, their needs were largely invisible to those who prefer to not know and not see. Or they were blamed for being poor, for not taking all the ‘opportunities’ offered to them.

This is the silver lining of this crisis: no one can pretend anymore to not know and not see. The needs are enormous. People are suffering and all too often, dying, if not from COVID, from hunger.

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Changes for a post-COVID world?

There is something profoundly disturbing about this crisis. The results are frightening: ten thousands of deaths, hundred thousands of sick people, major cities in lockdown, an economic collapse…

Slowly, from China and South-East Asia, the crisis is now hitting Europe, the United States and will inevitably spread from there to the South. And as we know, the majority of poor countries does not have the capacities to care for their people. Almost half of the world population does not even have water and soap to wash their hands.

Speculations are going on on how our world will have to change after the crisis. But will it change?

One might smile when seeing how many healthy people come with their solutions, closely following their own yearlong concerns. Eurosceptics condemn the European Union for the lack of solidarity and promote more national approaches; advocates of basic income think to solve all problems with a monetary allowance; futurologists see a total collapse coming; ecologists point to the destruction of biodiversity and promote vegetarianism. And of course, those who believe in conspiracies see the virus travelling from the U.S. to China or vice versa.

Naomi Klein is careful and states this crisis might lead to catastrophic changes by leaders who just take this opportunity to do what they might not be able to do in normal circumstances. But her followers are not and already see capitalist takeovers and more austerity measures coming. Continue reading

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Universalism … really?

How the World Bank turns meanings to its advantage.

With all the paradigmatic changes the World Bank has been promoting in the field of social policies, one element never changed in the past thirty years. Social policies were meant for the poor, governments had to find the best ways to target those who really needed their help.

The reasoning is simple: poor people, as was spelled out in its first World Development Report on Poverty of 1990[1], were those left behind by growth and by governments. The wrong policies were applied so that poor people did not get access to labour markets and, moreover, these labour markets were made more difficult to enter because of minimum wages and other ‘protective’ rules the poor did not really care about. If one really wanted to help the poor, one had to abolish all these well-meant but adverse policies. Open, deregulated markets, at the local and the global level, were the best programmes for the poor. In its ‘Doing Business’ Report of 2013[2], the World Bank still considered fixed term contracts and 50-hour workweeks as positive achievements, whereas premiums for night-work and paid annual leave were on the negative side[3].

As for the not-so-poor or middle classes, these people are said to have enough resources to buy the insurances they want on the market. Insurances are an economic sector and there is no reason why States or governments should get involved in it[4]. Solidarity is one of the words that has always been shunned by the international financial organisations. Continue reading

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Video on Social Protection

We are happy to present to you a video we made on social protection and our Global Charter for Social Protection Rights. It was made with the help of the NGO Forum on ADB. So many thanks for this!

Please watch the video and distribute it as widely as you can:

In the meantime we are preparing the Asie Europe People’s Forum’s Social Justice Cluster’s conference in Nepal on social protection and labour rights. In Une there will be a new World Social Forum on Health and Social Security in Bogota.

All the best for 2019!

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Explanation on origin and objectives of the Global Charter for Social Protection

The final Declaration of the nAsia Europe People’s Forum, adopted in Ulaan Baatar in 2016, included an action point for the social justice cluster, saying:

“Work with social movements and workers’ organisations to develop a people-centred Global Social Protection Charter that will guarantee decent work, sustainable livelihoods, and universal and comprehensive social protection systems that include food, essential services and social security”. Continue reading

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Arguments in favour of the Global Charter for Social Protection Rights

–        According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, social protection is a human right.


–        Social protection is a major element of social justice – if you have no pensions, no health care, no labour rights etc., it is difficult to lead a decent life in dignity

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Social protection, the World Bank, the IMF and Lewis Carroll

Excellent fable on how poor countries, with excellent social protection schemes, are losing … ‘through the looking glass’ …

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Diez puntos a favor de la protección social y los comunes sociales

  1. Luchar contra la pobreza infantil, promover la salud y la educación de calidad, garantizar los derechos laborales y el resto de los derechos económicos y sociales, resultan tareas imposibles sin un sistema completo e integral de protección social. Parece obvio que la pobreza y el desempleo tienen consecuencias negativas sobre la salud física y mental de las personas, así como sobre el bienestar de los niños y niñas. Dicho de otro modo, todos los derechos económicos y sociales están vinculados entre sí.
  2. Resulta igualmente obvio que la promoción de la atención en salud y la protección social no tienen sentido si no se garantizan otros derechos, en particular los derechos ambientales: El derecho al agua, el derecho a la tierra para los campesinos, a comida sin sustancias tóxicas, etc.
  3. Estos derechos, en su conjunto, deben permitir pensar en un cambio sistémico, puesto que la comida sana o un medio ambiente que no dañe la salud son imposibles bajo el sistema económico dominante.
  4. Recientemente se han propuesto numerosas iniciativas a nivel global, como la recomendación de pisos de protección social de la OIT, o los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible de la ONU. Si bien estas iniciativas son limitadas en alcance, significarían un avance importante para la población si pudiesen realmente realizarse. Por tanto, merecen ser plenamente apoyadas.
  5. Sin embargo, es importante saber que, a nivel global, los grandes principios de la protección social y de la lucha contra la pobreza y la desigualdad se definen por las instituciones financieras, como el Banco Mundial o el Fondo Monetario Internacional. Un análisis de sus proyecciones muestra que intentan colocar un nuevo paradigma social. Este paradigma es diferente al del pasado en tanto que la protección social se encuentra ahora completamente al servicio de la economía y del mercado. Continúa basándose en la desregulación de los mercados laborales y la privatización de los servicios públicos. En cuanto al universalismo, se acepta formalmente pero aún no se adopta en la práctica. El Banco Mundial continúa promoviendo un enfoque de políticas focalizadas para “combatir la pobreza.”
  6. Es por ello que es importante ir más allá de la defensa de las iniciativas existentes y proponer nuevas alternativas progresistas que tomen en consideración las nuevas necesidades del siglo XXI (como las surgidas por la precarización, la robotización, etc.), así como el cambio climático.
  7. Tomar en cuenta la necesidad de transversalidad – los vínculos entre los derechos económicos y sociales, los derechos ambientales, la necesidad de emancipación, etc. – nos lleva a re-conceptualizar la protección social en términos de los comunes. Estos “comunes sociales” implican en primer lugar una democratización de la protección social a fin de definir los derechos según las necesidades de las personas. En segundo lugar, implican la necesidad de que los movimientos sociales, junto con el Estado, se involucren en la implementación de las políticas sociales, así como tomar en cuenta a otros sectores, como la economía o el medio ambiente, en la definición de los derechos.
  8. Con todo lo anterior en mente, hemos redactado una Carta Global por los Derechos de Protección Social Universal. Ésta va más allá de las iniciativas antes mencionadas y debe contribuir a la transformación social en la búsqueda de una justicia social en el sentido más amplio posible.
  9. El objetivo de esta Carta, según su propia redacción, es: “promover una filosofía diferente de la protección social, que vaya más allá de los derechos tradicionales, que abarque las necesidades ambientales y reduzca la inaceptable brecha entre la producción y la reproducción. Para nosotras y nosotros, la protección social es parte de los comunes, pues emerge de las acciones democráticas y participativas de los ciudadanos con sus reivindicaciones ante las autoridades públicas. La protección social no es un mecanismo correctivo del sistema económico, sino que debe ser transformadora, es decir, contribuir a un mejor sistema de producción y a la sostenibilidad de la vida. Vemos a la protección social como un esfuerzo colectivo y democrático por conseguir una vida digna para todos. Éste no es un texto de demandas, sino un texto de principios.”
  10. Es en este contexto que, con humildad, pedimos su apoyo para esta iniciativa que, hasta el momento, continúa siendo un borrador, y que esperamos adoptar formalmente en el Foro de los Pueblos de Asia y Europa, a finales de 2018.


Habiendo leído el borrador de la Carta Global por los Derechos de Protección Social Universal, deseo apoyar esta iniciativa. Este apoyo no concierne a todos los distintos puntos detallados de los veinte principios – que deben ser adoptados en el contexto nacional o local dependiendo de las necesidades de las personas – sino al proceso de trabajar por los comunes sociales de forma democrática y participativa, con el objetivo de contribuir a la justicia social, a la transformación social y a la sostenibilidad de la vida.


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