On 4 February 2014, a side event to the eighth meeting of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was organized by the Mont-Blanc Meetings (MBM) - International Forum of Social and Solidarity Economy Entrepreneurs in collaboration with UN-NGLS and United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), on behalf of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy. The event was convened with the support of the governments of France, Ecuador, and Morocco.
Representatives of MBM Board of Directors and Scientific Committee provided an overall picture of social and solidarity economy (SSE) and how it relates to sustainable development and equality. Claude Dorion of MBM defined SSE as collective enterprises organized on principles of collective ownership, autonomy, and democratic governance, working towards social and environmental benefit rather than profit. Along with his colleagues Natalia Bento Rodriguez and Anaïs Amazit, Mr. Dorion shared key points from the declaration of the 2013 MBM annual meeting, held in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France, which outlined the values of SSE and a global action plan for SSE in relation to sustainable development and gender equality.
Anita Nayar, Chief of UN-NGLS New York Office, and Vinicius Pinheiro, ILO Deputy Director in New York, representing two of the four (along with UNRISD and the United Nations Development Programme) co-founders of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on SSE (TFSSE), provided an overview of the role of the TFSSE. Established to raise the visibility of SSE in the UN settings and to support like-minded governments, together with civil society, to exchange strategies and lessons learned and to move SSE forward in UN debates, the TFSSE includes eighteen members from among UN agencies and Regional Commissions, as well as three observers: MBM, the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy (RIPESS), and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). The TFSSE has had three meetings since September 2013, and has put together a work programme with four major components: enhancing recognition of SSE enterprises and organizations; investment in knowledge-sharing and consolidating networks; supporting the establishment of an enabling institutional environment for SSE; and working to coordinate efforts among international organizations and social partners, NGOs, and other actors to promote this effort.
In recognition of the power of SSE as an enabler to achieve different dimensions of sustainable development that would feature in the SDGs, Mr. Pinheiro shared that the TFSSE intends to undertake work on research and statistics, to measure the size of SSE and its global impact. Ms. Nayar emphasized that UN-NGLS aims to raise the visibility of SSE through the ongoing intergovernmental processes leading to post-2015, through both the OWG and the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF).
The event continued with reflections from three Member State representatives: Natalie Cely Suarez, Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States; Fanny Benedetti, European and International Affairs Office (France) representing Deputy Minister of France, responsible for SSE; and Soulaiman El Hajam, Deputy National Coordinator of the Human Development National Initiative of Morocco, Ministry of Interior. These representatives illustrated the progress of SSE in their respective countries, pointing to the importance of enabling legislation, an integrated approach, and the power of the State in supporting SSE through dedicated investment and public procurement. A lively discussion followed, featuring remarks from TFSSE observers RIPESS and ICA as well as other interested civil society and UN representatives. Particular mention was made of a process underway for the establishment of a Leading Group on Social and Solidarity Economy (modelled on the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development) that will bring together like-minded governments, international organizations, and civil society networks, to work in close collaboration with the TFSSE. France, Ecuador and Morocco are already part of this Leading Group, with plans for an official launch later this year.