The social and solidarity economy (SSE) was a key issue on the agenda at the International Labour Conference, held in Geneva on 31 May-9 June.
The conference adopted a set of conclusions on decent work and the social and solidarity economy, which specifically mention co-operatives and propose a definition for the SSE.
The sector is defined as encompassing “enterprises, organisations and other entities that are engaged in economic, social, and environmental activities to serve the collective and/or general interest, which are based on the principles of voluntary co-operation and mutual aid, democratic and/or participatory governance, autonomy and independence, and the primacy of people and social purpose over capital in the distribution and use of surpluses and/or profits as well as assets.”
Furthermore, the text specifies that SSE entities “aspire to long-term viability and sustainability” and “the transition from the informal to the formal economy” and function based on a set of values, such as “care for people and planet, equality and fairness, interdependence, self-governance, transparency and accountability, and the attainment of decent work and livelihoods”.
The conclusions mention that the SSE includes co-operatives, associations, mutual societies, foundations, social enterprises, self-help groups and other entities operating in accordance with the values and principles of the SSE.
Co-operatives were represented at the ILC by representatives from the International Co-operative Alliance, the International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF), and the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (EURICSE), among others.
The ILO governing body will discuss these conclusions at its next meeting in Geneva in November to examine how they can be put into practice.
ICA director general Bruno Roelants expects the conclusions to have a substantial impact beyond the ILO.
He said: “Important work now lies ahead for the ICA and the other representative organisations grouped in the ICSSE coalition, as a work plan on SSE based on these conclusions should be presented to the ILO governing body in November.
“The ILO will then be under the leadership of the present DG elect, Gilbert Houngbo, whom I had a working meeting with within the framework of the ongoing transition.”