Interview with the ISSA President

Interview with the ISSA President

In October 2022, Dr Mohammed Azman was elected President of the International Social Security Association (ISSA) for a three-year term. In this interview, he shares his ambitions for the Presidency and his thoughts on how to further strengthen social security in the years to come.

What motivated you to stand for election as ISSA President?

I am a firm believer that exerting collective effort with the international community will strengthen potential outcome of any social policy or initiative. I experienced this first-hand during my first international humanitarian missions as a medical doctor, in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Indonesia in my younger days. There, I had learned how a multilateral engagement had proven successful especially in helping those in need.

Thus, since 2015 when I became the CEO of the Social Security Organisation (Pertubuhan Keselamatan Sosial – PERKESO) of Malaysia, I have always prioritized and emphasized our involvement in the ISSA. From then on, we have observed how engagements with the ISSA community has a meaningful impact on the Malaysian social security system, especially in rehabilitation and return to work.

With the same guiding principle, I view the position as ISSA President as an opportunity to empower other social security practitioners globally in initiating practical steps for developing sustainable social security systems. Overall, this role enables me to deliver a holistic and transformative impact to many lives around the world.

What will be your priorities as ISSA President?

As President, my vision is to steer ISSA in the post pandemic environment to promote resilient and holistic social security coverage – from cradle to the grave. To emulate the successful extensions of coverage in Malaysia, I would like to also support all members and to help you convince your stakeholders that social protection works, and social protection is for all layers of society.

While social security continues to evolve in a dynamic fashion, it is critical that ISSA does not lose sight of the strong foundations set by my predecessors, especially those under Professor Joachim Breuer’s leadership. For example, I aim to strengthen ISSA’s participation in prestigious global forums such as the BRICS as well as the G20. To push the social security agenda forward, I aim to strengthen existing international partnerships with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Bank.

It is important for me that we also spread the light of social security and broaden ISSA’s network to more non-member institutions around the world. Through ISSA’s platform for knowledge sharing, we can empower more public institutions and reduce regional inequalities across the globe.

How do you see social security’s challenges and evolution during the coming three years?

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the uncovered population around the world and aggravated the global social security challenges. Learning from the pandemic, our role is more crucial now than ever to navigate our communities through any inbound crisis while protecting their rights for social justice and decent work.

To navigate across these challenges, I foresee social security administrators swiftly adapting technology but also maintaining a humanized approach to its services. Focused under the ISSA Technical Commission on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as well as the ISSA Technical Commission on Organization, Management and Innovation (OMI), I am confident that ISSA will keep members up to date on digital solutions and meet the rising public expectations in social security.

Moreover, experiences during the pandemic are expected to accelerate development and reforms in social security. Recognizing the role social security played during the pandemic, social security institutions have acquired new-found and strong mandates from the public to ensure minimal coverage gaps, adequate benefits and sustainable funds to battle the next crisis.

What is the role that the Association can play to support social security institutions in this regard?

ISSA stands to support social security administrators and practitioners with our three pillar initiatives – strengthening knowledge capacities, serving networking platforms for members, and promoting the social security agenda.

The ISSA membership spans across 322 member institutions from 164 countries, which offers an extensive network for members to exchange hands-on and valuable solutions in social security. Member institutions are equipped with supportive network and knowledge resources to implement expert guidelines into actions and construct quality decision making process. With the wealth of knowledge from our members, I believe ISSA can serve and reach out to more institutions across the globe as a beacon of hope for social security.

In leveling up ISSA's services, we plan to initiate social security pilot projects and innovation labs on recommended practices to manifest its execution’s viability, scalability, and feasibility. I believe the implementation of this new resource will allow us to contextualize knowledge to the different regions and promote the portability of such policies more effectively than ISSA had done before.