Social, solidarity economy critical to achieving the sustainable development goals in Asia Pacific

Social, solidarity economy critical to achieving the sustainable development goals in Asia Pacific

Social and solidarity economy (SSE) entities, create quality jobs and contribute to the inclusion of disadvantaged groups, driving inclusive and sustainable development across Asia and the Pacific, participants heard at a workshop, organised by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Policymakers, workers’ and employers’ organisations and practitioners across the region took part in a workshop entitled “Social and Solidarity Economy for Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia”, held in Bangkok on 18-19 June 2024. This workshop is the first high-level discussion on the social and solidarity economy in Asia and the Pacific region, since the historic adoption of the Resolutions on the SSE adopted by the International Labour Conference, and the UN in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

Funded by the Government of the Republic of Korea, the workshop shed light on the social and solidarity economy landscape, and the contributions it makes to decent work and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific. 

Challenges, opportunities, and policy recommendations were discussed with a focus on findings from country studies from Cambodia, Mongolia, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

“While the term ‘social and solidarity economy’ is relatively new in Asia and the Pacific region, its principles of solidarity, reciprocity and mutuality are deeply rooted in the region’s diverse cultures and traditions,” said Ms Panudda Boonpala, Deputy Regional Director, ILO.

“This workshop is timely, as countries in the region are looking for support to adopt, and implement policies, legislation, and programmes on the social and solidarity economy to achieve sustainable development,” Ms Boonpala added.  

The SSE encompasses enterprises, organisations and other entities that are engaged in economic, social, and environmental activities based on the principles of voluntary cooperation and mutual aid, democratic and/or participatory governance, autonomy, and independence and the primacy of people and social purpose over profits. According to national circumstances, the SSE can include cooperatives, associations, foundations, social enterprises amongst others. 

“The social and solidarity economy is a framework for conducting business that prioritises stakeholders over shareholders, benefits over profits and collaborating over compromising,” said Akkanut Wantanasombut, Researcher, Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.

Despite the benefits the SSE can provide to the community and the society, there is lack of awareness around the SSE, Ms Boonpala explained.

“The social and solidarity economy as an umbrella term is not widely known or recognised, which makes it difficult for public authorities to adequately support the organisations and enterprises that belong to the social and solidarity economy in a coordinated and holistic manner. This event and the research that has been carried out is a step toward bringing more clarity and visibility to the SSE in the region and its contributions to decent work and sustainable development.”

The workshop featured practitioners sharing good practices from the region on the social and solidarity economy’s role in advancing decent work and sustainable development. Issues discussed included legislation, regulations and policies relating to the SSE including the ILO and UN Resolutions. Policy and legal framework, training, and awareness as well as the need for more data were highlighted. Sessions also covered the contributions of the SSE towards making supply chains more inclusive and sustainable, facilitating the transition of informal workers and entities to the formal economy as well as promoting a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies.

During the workshop, delegates from four project countries – Cambodia, Mongolia, Thailand and Viet Nam developed national action plans to operationalise policy recommendations to strengthen the social and solidarity economy in the four countries.

Over 100 participants from across the Asia-Pacific region including government, employer, and worker representatives as well as representatives from SSE representative bodies, researchers, and practitioners participated at the event. They were joined by some 150 participants online as well as representatives from the ILO and UN ESCAP.  

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