Social justice: The right to social security is in ever greater demand

The message of the ISSA Secretary General states that social justice is inseparable from the full respect of fundamental freedoms and human rights – including access to social security
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On 20 February, the United Nations will observe the World Day of Social Justice. Social justice is defined as the full respect of fundamental freedoms and human rights. It is accepted however that in 2015 the human right to social security remains at best partial for a significant part of the world's population. As the International Social Security Association (ISSA) has long recognized and its member organizations strive to work towards, there can be no social justice without social security.

Message of the ISSA Secretary General on the UN World Day of Social Justice

It is worth remembering that the legal basis for access to the right to social security is clearly defined in international human rights instruments. These are clearly set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, and other human rights instruments adopted under the auspices of the United Nations.

In practical terms for social security administrations, the Conventions and Recommendations of the International Labour Organization define the normative basis for the realization of this right. In this regard, the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102) and the Recommendation concerning National Floors of Social Protection, 2012 (No. 202), are highly influential, being commonly cited as core references for the elaboration of national social protection strategies and legislation and regional-level social security agreements.

Nonetheless, for an important majority of the world's population, these legal and normative bases have yet to guarantee universal, effective access to an essential basket of cash benefits or universal, effective access to adequate health care.

Globalization leading to growing interconnectivity and wider access to information is contributing to the heightened expectation for the realization of improved livelihoods and well-being among populations. Access to comprehensive systems of social security coverage for all across the life course is an important aspect of this.

Grass-roots demand for such access is growing therefore. And this is influencing political will, facilitating social security administrations to more effectively meet their mandates.

How can national social security systems better contribute to achieving global social justice?

Realizing social justice in the twenty-first century first implies continuing adaptation in the institutional design, objectives and financing of social policy, including social security systems. And for the latter, the professional tools and services provided through the ISSA's Centre for Excellence have a guiding role to play in helping drive administrative improvements.

The original role of many social security systems was predominantly to replace the lost income of, essentially, insured workers and their families in response to the onset of predetermined risks.

While this role of social insurance remains central, increasingly a broader expectation is for social security systems to contribute also to proactive and preventive social investment – what the ISSA calls Dynamic Social Security.

To continue positively on this path, the income security offered by social security benefits should be more strategically combined with in-kind support, the promotion of a culture of prevention, and access to adequate health care and education. This opens the way to realize the human right to comprehensive social security – and thus social justice.

Hans-Horst Konkolewsky
ISSA Secretary General

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