Over 460 social security leaders, experts and professionals gathered for the Regional Social Security Forum for the America (RSSF Americas) in San José, Costa Rica. The knowledge shared and discussions held there will help bring improvements in social security on the continent in the years to come.
The large number of participants from 79 organizations in 36 countries who registered for RSSF Americas 2023 demonstrates what a relevant opportunity this was for social security institutions from across the region to meet. It was the first time since 2017 that the International Social Security Association (ISSA) was able to gather all its members on the American continent for an onsite Regional Forum. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a regional summit and forum were organized virtually in 2020 and 2021. The attendance of RSSF Americas 2023 was the highest ever for a Regional Forum in the region.
The event took place from 4 to 6 September and was opened by Vice President of the Republic of Costa Rica, Dr Mary Munive Angermüller, who is also Minister of Health. Vice President Munive emphasised the importance of the event as an opportunity for sharing and learning with the objective of strengthening social security across the region.
Addressing the key social security issues
Facing a global context of increased risks and uncertainties, ISSA President Dr Mohammed Azman, looked to the Americas and stressed that “the region is bound by a common objective, to ensure that every individual, regardless of their background or circumstances, can have access to the support and protection they need. To reach this fundamentally important objective, in today’s world, social security must evolve and innovate. Dr Azman emphasised four vital priorities for social security: 1) Extending coverage; 2) Strengthening resilience; 3) Effective and efficient institutions; 4) International exchange and learning.
Through a combination of plenary and parallel sessions, and with 90 speakers, panellists and moderators from across the region, members engaged in active discussions around these issues during the Forum. As a backdrop for these discussions, the new ISSA report Social security developments and trends – Americas 2023 was presented on the first day. It gives an insight into the complexities of societal and social security developments in the region, and presents recent reforms, initiatives and innovations to strengthen social security systems, schemes and services. It also looks at how a life course approach is developing in the region, taking into consideration how needs vary at different stages of life.
Good Practice and Innovation Awards
Included in the report, and presented during the Regional Forum, were a number of good practices from social security institutions from the region. A record 162 entries from 33 organizations in 17 countries participated in the ISSA Good Practice Award for the Americas competition, illustrating the dynamic developments in recent years. Despite the negative effects of COVID-19, the responses to the pandemic spurred a substantial number of initiatives and innovations, that will bring benefits for populations for years to come.
Both the main awards in the competition went to good practices that came from the pandemic experience. DATAPREV – Social Security Information and Technology Enterprise received the Good Practice Award for the Americas for its “Emergency Aid” scheme, which guaranteed a minimum income to vulnerable citizens and reached 118 million people. In addition, the Salvadoran Social Security Institute (Instituto Salvadoreño del Seguro Social – ISSS), won the first ever Special Distinction for Innovation in the region, for setting up a new telemedicine care model. Both good practices are examples of initiatives that have extended social coverage, improved service delivery and strengthened resilience.
High-level Symposium and 2030 objectives
After exploring these issues with a rich variety of good practice examples, the Regional Forum was rounded off by a High-Level Policy Symposium for the Americas with Government representatives from Brazil and Costa Rica, and senior officials from the International Labour Organization, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Policy strategies to meet the evolving social security needs of populations and the global objective to achieve Universal Social Protection in line with the 2030 Sustainable Goals were a key focus. Discussions covered how to build inclusive societies, promote social justice and ensure socio-economic resilience, among other topics.
In his closing remarks, Secretary General Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano emphasized how the ISSA will continue to support its members across the Americas and beyond to achieve these objectives. The Regional Forum demonstrated the fast pace of developments in society and in social security, and the importance of building strong institutions that can ensure the implementation that is needed to reach ambitious policy objectives.