ISSA history

90 years of excellence in social security: 1927–2017

The International Social Security Association marks an important anniversary in 2017, nine decades after its creation

In 1927, the leaders of 17 sickness insurance and mutual benefit societies representing some 20 million insured persons came together at the initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and its first Director-General Albert Thomas, during the 10th International Labour Conference.

Albert Thomas and other delegates shared a vision of social security for all, based on international conventions, sound policies and effective administration. The Constituent Assembly of the CIMAS – the International Conference of National Unions of Mutual Benefit Societies and Sickness Insurance Funds – took place later that year, in October 1927.

In 1944, the historic Philadelphia Conference of the ILO adopted a resolution  calling upon the ILO to promote international administrative and technical co-operation among experts and institutions to promote social security. The objective was to facilitate the study of common problems in the application of social security – and this has remained the main objective of the ISSA until today.   

The CIMAS was renamed the International Social Security Association in 1947. With membership covering all branches of social security and representing all regions, over the space of nine decades the ISSA has grown to become a truly global organization, now counting more than 320 members providing protection to more than 3 billion persons around the world.

With the new and complex challenges the world is facing, the ISSA’s commitment to promoting co-operation and excellence in social security administration will remain an essential condition to ensure social justice for all.



Under Chancellor Bismarck, Germany becomes the first country to adopt a comprehensive system of income security covering old-age, workers’ compensation and sickness insurance.


The first international labour Convention on social security is adopted at the First Session of the ILO’s International Labour Conference.

4 October 1927

The International Conference of National Unions of Mutual Benefit Societies and Sickness Insurance Funds (Conférence Internationale de la Mutualité et des Assurances sociales, CIMAS) is founded in Brussels. The Secretariat is established at the new headquarters of the International Labour Office in Geneva.

"The object of the International Conference is to co-ordinate internationally and to intensify efforts for the development and improvement of social insurance in general and of sickness insurance in particular."

Constitution of the CIMAS
adopted at the first General Assembly
Brussels, 1927


US President Roosevelt signs into law the Social Security Act, incorporating a new term that combines “economic security” with “social insurance”.


The Association expands its admission criteria to include social insurance institutions responsible for administering disability, old age and survivors’ insurance.


The National Social Insurance Fund of Peru becomes the first non‑European institution to join the CIMAS.


In the Atlantic Charter, President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill committed to improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security for all.


The British government publishes the Beveridge Plan, named after its main author, Lord Beveridge, the basis of the first unified social security system.


The Declaration of Philadelphia reaffirms the ILO’s “solemn obligation” to achieve the extension of social security measures to provide a basic income to all in need of such protection and comprehensive medical care.


The CIMAS officially changes its name to the International Social Security Association (ISSA).


The right to social security is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The ISSA focuses on the development of technical and research activities with the establishment of the first permanent committees and the organization of international conferences.


The International Labour Conference adopts the ILO flagship Convention on social security (Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, No.102), which sets minimum standards for the seven branches of social security.


The decision to develop regional activities is followed by the rapid growth of the ISSA membership and the opening of regional offices.


The first African regional conference is held in Tunis, followed by the first Asian regional conference in Tokyo.


The European Code of Social Security and its Protocol, the basic standard-setting instruments of the Council of Europe in the field of social security, are adopted.


The Association’s Bulletin is renamed the International Social Security Review, confirming its position as the authoritative quarterly scholarly publication on social security.


The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights takes effect, recognizing the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance.


The ISSA celebrates its 50th anniversary with membership exceeding 100 countries for the first time.


The ISSA establishes a Public Information Unit to monitor and disseminate knowledge about social security administration.


ISSA successfully organizes the Stockholm Initiative. This consultation process of national and international experts produces a broad consensus on the need to balance social goals and macroeconomic requirements.


Launch of the first ISSA website and online databases, Social Security Worldwide.


The ISSA Initiative is launched to inform and promote international dialogue on the fundamental role of social security in economic and social development.


The Charter of Fundamental Rights recognizes the entitlement to social security benefits and social services for all residing and moving legally within the European Union.


The ILO launches a global campaign on social security and coverage for all.


ISSA organizes the first World Social Security Forum, held in Moscow and attended by more than 1,150 ministers, decision makers and administrators from 129 countries.


The ILO and ISSA sign a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at strengthening cooperation and to extend and promote social security worldwide.


ILO Recommendation No. 202 is adopted by the International Labour Conference, calling for the establishment of social protection floors as part of strategies to ensure higher levels of social security for all people.


The ISSA launches its innovative Centre for Excellence in Social Security Administration and a series of international professional Guidelines.


The UN Sustainable Development Goals emphasize the importance of social protection as a condition of sustainable development and affirms the role of nationally-appropriate social protection systems for all.

"The objective of the Association is to co-operate, at the international level, in the promotion and development of social security throughout the world, primarily through its technical and administrative improvement, in order to advance the social and economic conditions of the population on the basis of social justice."

Constitution of the ISSA
amended at the 32nd General Assembly,
Panama City, 2016


The ISSA announces a new project to analyse the impacts of the digital economy on social security.

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