The ISSA Focal Point for the English-speaking Caribbean Countries was launched on 23 March 2021 in an online event followed by a webinar on digitalization to increase resilience in social security. This new regional structure of the International Social Security Association (ISSA) is hosted by the National Insurance Service (NIS) in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Nineteen countries are covered by the new Focal Point in the Caribbean. As social security systems in the region are expanding and institutions are adapting to changing public expectations, the closer cooperation and exchanges enabled by the Focal Point will stimulate innovation to the benefit of societies and citizens. In his introductory remarks, ISSA Secretary General Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano stressed that the purpose of establishing the focal point is to better tailor ISSA’s activities, knowledge and services to the needs and context of the region.
The new Focal Point will reinforce ISSA’s presence in the region, and Stewart Haynes, Director of NIS and head of the new office, conveyed that, “This formalization and solidarity are the vaccine to our social security systems.” Two relevant organizations for the region, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the CARICOM sent congratulatory messages stressing the importance of the launch for the Caribbean and their desire to collaborate with the ISSA. The ISSA President, Prof. Dr Joachim Breuer, also addressed the event in a video message.
Digitalization of social security in the region
The launch event was directly followed by a webinar on digitalization to increase resilience. COVID-19 has boosted the digitalization of social security throughout the world, and the Caribbean is no exception. Lockdowns and social distancing measures have made it necessary to identify and implement digital solutions both for the back and the front office.
Two panellists took part in this webinar, Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen of the Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance at the United Nations University (UNU-EGOV) and Juan Miguel Villa, President of the Colombian Pension Administrator (Administradora Colombiana de Pensiones – Colpensiones). Mr Meyerhoff Nielsen gave a presentation on the “digital revolution” in social security, highlighting international best practices and drawing parallels to developments in the Caribbean. Mr Villa shared his experiences from the digital transformation that took place within Colpensiones in Colombia.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, cooperation and exchanges are more important than ever in order to ensure an adequate and efficient contribution from social security to protect the populations and lay the ground for the recovery. The new Focal Point will play an important role in widening and deepening the knowledge and engagement among colleagues in the region.