About us

History

About us

History

A unique role in the world of international organizations

The roots of the International Social Security Association lie in mutual insurance, the collective response of 19th-century European industrial workers to illness, unemployment, disability and old age. In the space of nine decades, the ISSA has expanded into a truly worldwide Association, bringing together more than 320 social security organizations in over 150 countries. With the immense challenges the world is facing, its commitment to promoting social security will be needed more than ever to secure social justice for all.

Timeline

Expand 

 

Full page view (opens new window)

1927–1947

Expand 
The creation of ISSA in 1927.
The creation of ISSA in 1927.

Following the First World War, social insurance schemes developed rapidly in several regions, and social protection was included on the agendas of the newly-established international organizations. In May 1927, for the first time, representatives of mutual benefit societies and sickness insurance funds were included among the national delegations at the tenth International Labour Conference, meeting in Geneva. The agenda included the introduction of international regulations for the economic and health protection of workers by means of social insurance schemes. A group of delegates decided to form an international association for the purpose of developing and strengthening sickness insurance throughout the world.

Laying the foundations: 1927 – 1947

The International Conference of National Unions of Mutual Benefit Societies and Sickness Insurance Funds was launched in Brussels in October 1927. Encouraged by Albert Thomas, the first director of the ILO, delegates from 17 organizations came together representing some 20 million insured persons in Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. A Secretariat was established in Geneva, with assistance from the ILO.

The objectives were soon widened to include old-age, invalidity and survivors' insurance and in 1936 the name was changed to the International Social Insurance Conference, known from its French initials as CIMAS. The National Social Insurance Fund of Peru became the first non-European institution to join the CIMAS.

In 1935 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act, incorporating a new term that combines "economic security" with "social insurance". Negotiations for the affiliation of the US Social Security Board to the CIMAS were soon under way but were interrupted by World War II. In 1941, in the Atlantic Charter, President Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill committed to improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security for all. At the height of the conflict, in 1942, the UK government published the Beveridge Plan, named after its main author, Lord Beveridge, which led to the setting up of the first unified social security system. In France, Pierre Laroque led government efforts to extend social protection to the entire population, and a national social security system was set up in 1946.

In 1944, with the tide of war turning, the ILO's historic Declaration of Philadelphia called for the extension of social security measures, and for the promotion, on an international or regional basis, of systematic and direct cooperation among social security institutions, the regular interchange of information and the study of common problems relating to the administration of social security. The Declaration of Philadelphia affirmed that universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice, including the extension of social security to all.

The 1947 Constitution

Commemorating 20 years of existence, the 8th General Assembly of the CIMAS ratified a new Constitution. From that time, the organization opened its membership to state-administered schemes such as those in the United  Kingdom, the USSR and the United States. Its combination of government departments with autonomous administrations made the structure of the ISSA unique in the world of international organizations. A new name was adopted: the CIMAS became the International Social Security Association (ISSA).

One year later, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose Article 22 recognized that "Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security". In 1952, the ILO adopted the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention (No. 102).

1947–1990

Expand 
First Regional meeting for Asia and Oceania, 1962
First Regional meeting for Asia and Oceania, 1962

Spanning the globe: 1947 – 1975

The Cold War entrenched the ideological schism between industrial nations. But this was also the era of decolonization and a third world force was on the rise that was to transform the ISSA into a truly global organization represented in all the regions.

Under the leadership of Presidents Renato Morelli of Italy, Reinhold Melas of Austria and Jérôme Dejardin of Belgium, and Secretaries General Rudolf Aladar Métall and Leo Wildmann, both Austrian, the three decades following World War II saw an increase in membership from 39 affiliate members and 21 countries represented in 1947 to 246 affiliate members and 104 countries represented in 1977, with associate members being admitted from 1955.

In 1949, the Social Insurance Institution of Turkey became the first of the ISSA's Asian members; their number grew significantly during the 1950s. By 1957, the number of Latin American countries represented reached 18.

Once the countries of Africa start to win their independence, ISSA membership there quickly grew too: French-speaking organizations lead the way in the 1957-67 period, with the number of English-speaking African members increasing markedly after 1967. Following a quarter-century of steady ISSA expansion, the 17th General Assembly in Abidjan in 1973 was the first to be held on the African continent.

Technical activities

The 1947 Constitution made provision for the creation of technical committees. This was to be the most significant constitutional provision for the ISSA's development and its method of work over the next 20 years. The first to be established were the Permanent Medico-Social Committee, renamed Permanent Committee on Medical Care and Sickness Insurance in 1971, and the Permanent Committee on Mutual Benefit Societies. Further permanent technical committees, subsequently called technical commissions, were set up in the next years, with the focus on family allowances, unemployment insurance and employment maintenance, prevention of occupational risks, insurance against employment accidents and occupational diseases, old-age, invalidity and survivors' insurance, actuarial and statistical issues, organization and methods, and legal aspects of social security.

Research

The 1955 amendment of the Constitution provided for the organization of research, but it was not until the mid-1960s that the ISSA systematically began activities in this area. In 1966, a round-table meeting on the sociology of social security was held jointly by the ISSA and the International Sociological Association in Evian, France. The first research conference took place in Vienna in 1969. The Bureau created the Advisory Committee on Social Security Research in 1972. This was transformed into a full Technical Commission by the constitutional amendments adopted at the 26th General Assembly in 1998, placing research on the same footing as the other technical activities of the Association.

Consolidation: 1975 – 1990

Under the leadership of Secretary General Vladimir Rys (UK), these years saw great strides in the development of regional and research activities and in the number and range of publications stemming from these activities.

The first regional programme, comprising regional meetings, conferences and training activities for the ISSA's four regions, was proposed and approved at the 19th General Assembly (Madrid, 1977). The role of the regional activities was recognized as an essential complement to the technical activities of the permanent committees. Accordingly, the first regional conferences of this era took place in Cairo (1978), Ottawa (1979) and Tashkent (1979). The research programme was incorporated into the Constitution at the 21st General Assembly (Geneva, 1983), though it had been in existence since the beginning of the 1970s under the monitoring of the Advisory Committee on Social Security Research. The first meeting of heads of ISSA member organizations in the Pacific took place in Fiji in 1989.

The ISSA developed its publishing programme, and launched its electronic data processing activities in the 1970s. The Associations' quarterly journal, the International Social Security Review , confirmed its position as the authoritative scholarly publication on social security.

1991–today

Expand 

 

Shaping the debate: 1990 – 2004

Towards the turn of the century, amid negative portrayals of the role and economic cost of social security, it became increasingly clear that the ISSA must intervene more actively in the growing worldwide debate by promoting a more balanced and informed dialogue among policymakers and by participating energetically in the international events where social security matters were deliberated.

At a meeting of the ISSA Bureau in Stockholm in 1996, under the presidency of Karl Gustaf Scherman, it was decided to create a forum for international dialogue on social security's essential role in social and economic development. Building on the successful outcome of the Stockholm Initiative, in 1999 ISSA President Johan Verstraeten launched a second ISSA Initiative, "Strengthening the security in social security", in Rome, with a view to enhancing the prospects for achieving universal and adequate social security coverage.

During this period, membership grew from 237 affiliate and 69 associate members in 121 countries, to 275 affiliate and 107 associate members in 148 countries. The affiliation of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security of the People's Republic of China in 1993 constituted an important milestone in the development of the ISSA's membership.

Knowledge and information transfer

Under the guidance of ISSA Secretary General Dalmer D. Hoskins (United States), a significant development during this period was the adoption of new communication techniques to reach the ISSA members and the world at large. A notable example was the launching of the first ISSA Website , providing continuously updated information in the four working languages of the Association. Another significant development was the modernization of the Association's international databases that provide information on all aspects of social security, including regularly updated regional reports and country profiles. First produced on CD-ROM in 1997, the Internet version followed in 1998.

Promoting good governance and excellence in social security

Following its 75th anniversary, the ISSA embarked on a new era. After the election in Beijing in 2004 of the first woman President, Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo from the Philippines, Hans-Horst Konkolewsky of Denmark was elected ISSA Secretary General with a mandate to build a New ISSA, a dynamic institution that adapts to changing realities and constantly matches its activities to the evolving needs of member organizations. In response to the global financial crisis, the ISSA and International Labour Organization (ILO) organized a Seminar on Social Security in Times of Crisis: Impact, Challenges and Responses in 2009, to help social security institutions tackle the situation.

During this period, the ISSA modernized its activities and services with the objective to become a knowledge-based service organization. The World Social Security Forum, the Regional Security Forum and ISSA international conferences became leading events on social security. In 2010, the first ISSA Guidelines on good governance in social security administration were launched, and another 12 different sets of Guidelines were subsequently developed. Building on the Guidelines, the historic ISSA Centre for Excellence was launched in 2013 to bring the ISSA closer to its members and support them through practical knowledge, solutions and value-added support services.

Innovative solutions and shaping the future

Supported by a strong global commitment to universal social protection 2030 as part of the SDGs and addressing labour market, demographic and digital transformations, the ISSA focussed on promoting innovative solutions to shape the future of social security. Working on strategies to address ten key global challenges for social security identified by the ISSA membership, the World Social Security Forum 2019 in Brussels was a milestone for the Association.

Elected in 2016 as ISSA President, Mr Joachim Breuer (Germany) contributed to strengthening the access of the ISSA to key international fora, including the G20 and the BRICS, and to raising ISSA’s voice and expertise in global debates.

ISSA members elected Mr Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano of Brazil as new Secretary General, upon Mr Konkolewsky’s retirement at the end of 2018. Mr Caetano set out to enhance the value of ISSA membership by making the ISSA more responsive to evolving member needs, and to effectively support members in achieving both administrative excellence and the dynamic development of social security systems. By means of relevant knowledge, practical services, access to key international fora and solidified financing and governance of the ISSA, the Association is in a good position to fulfil its mandate to promote social security at the international level, a mandate that has not changed since 1927 and is maybe more important today than ever.

Presidents

Expand 
Leo Winter Leo Winter
(Czechoslovakia)
1927 – 1928
Mathias Eldersch Mathias Eldersch
(Austria)
1928 – 1929
Georges Petit Georges Petit
(France)
1929 – 1930
Helmut Lehmann Helmut Lehmann
(Germany)
1930 – 1931
Arthur Jauniaux Arthur Jauniaux
(Belgium)
1931 – 1933
Léon Heller Léon Heller
(France)
1933 – 1936
Václav Nĕmeček Václav Nĕmeček
(Czechoslovakia)
1936 – 1947
Arthur Jauniaux Arthur Jauniaux
(Belgium)
1947 – 1949
Renato Morelli Renato Morelli
(Italy)
1949 – 1967
Reinhold Melas Reinhold Melas
(Austria)
1967 – 1972
Jerôme Dejardin Jérôme Dejardin
(Belgium)
1973 – 1992 (1972 – 1973 ISSA President ad interim )
Karl Gustaf Scherman Karl Gustaf Scherman
(Sweden)
1992 – 1998
Johan Verstraeten Johan Verstraeten
(Belgium)
1998 – 2004
Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo
(Philippines)
2004 – 2010
Errol Frank Stoové

Errol Frank Stoové
(Netherlands)
2010 – 2016

Joachim Breuer

Current President:

Joachim Breuer
(Germany)
2016 –

Adrien Tixier Adrien Tixier
(France)
1927 – 1932
Oswald Stein Oswald Stein
(Czechoslovakia)
1927 – 1940 (Two secretaries until 1932)
Rudolf Aladár Stein Rudolf Aladár Métall
(Austria)
1947 – 1949
Leo Wildmann Leo Wildmann
(Austria)
1949 – 1974
Vladimir Rys Vladimir Rys
(United Kingdom)
1975 – 1990
Dalmer D. Hoskins Dalmer D. Hoskins
(United States)
1990 – 2004
Hans-Horst Konkolewsky

Hans-Horst Konkolewsky
(Denmark)
2005 – 2019

Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano

Current Secretary General:

Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano
(Brazil)
2019 –

Constituent Assembly Brussels, Belgium, 1927
II General Assembly Vienna, Austria, 1928
III General Assembly Zurich, Switzerland, 1929
IV General Assembly Dresden, Germany, 1930
V General Assembly Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1931
Restricted Assembly Geneva, Switzerland, 1932
VI General Assembly Paris, France, 1933
VII General Assembly Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1936
VIII General Assembly Geneva, Switzerland, 1947
IX General Assembly Rome, Italy, 1949
X General Assembly Vienna, Austria, 1951
XI General Assembly Paris, France, 1953
XII General Assembly Mexico City, Mexico, 1955
XIII General Assembly London, United Kingdom, 1958
XIV General Assembly Istanbul, Turkey, 1961
XV General Assembly Washington, United States, 1964
XVI General Assembly Leningrad, USSR, 1967
XVII General Assembly Cologne, Federal Republic of Germany, 1970
XVIII General Assembly Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, 1973
XIX General Assembly Madrid, Spain, 1977
XX General Assembly Manila, Philippines, 1980
XXI General Assembly Geneva, Switzerland, 1983
XXII General Assembly Montreal, Canada, 1986
XXIII General Assembly Vienna, Austria, 1989
XXIV General Assembly Acapulco, Mexico, 1992
XXV General Assembly Nusa Dua, Indonesia, 1995
XXVI General Assembly Marrakesh, Morocco, 1998
XXVII General Assembly Stockholm, Sweden, 2001
XXVIII General Assembly Beijing, China, 2004
XXIX General Assembly and
1st World Social Security Forum
Moscow, Russian Federation, 2007
XXX General Assembly and
2nd World Social Security Forum
Cape Town, South Africa, 2010
XXXI General Assembly and
3rd World Social Security Forum
Doha, Qatar, 2013
XXXII General Assembly and
4th World Social Security Forum
Panama City, Panama, 2016
XXXIII General Assembly and
5th World Social Security Forum
Brussels, Belgium, 2019