Last week’s World Social Security Forum (WSSF) in Brussels, Belgium was the largest ever in terms of participation, networking, sharing, learning, and visibility for the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and its members.
The fifth World Social Security Forum saw 1300 social security leaders and experts from close to 400 organizations and over 150 countries gather in the Belgian capital, between 14 and 18 October. Close to 200 speakers, panellists and moderators contributed to making this a highly successful event, with a combination of plenary presentations and debates on major trends, parallel sessions to dig deeper into concrete challenges and solutions, and smaller groups for interactive discussions and demonstrations of key innovations.
“We are proud to have organized the best World Social Security Forum ever, and we are grateful to the public social security institutions of Belgium for hosting this important global event. We will build on this powerful experience and all the knowledge shared in Brussels to further strengthen the ISSA’s support to its member institutions”, said Secretary General Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano.
Major global trends and solutions
On Monday 14 October, the ISSA launched its Flagship report on 10 Global Challenges for Social Security – Innovations and Developments 2019, which set the direction and pace for many of the discussions throughout the week. Extending coverage to difficult to reach groups, addressing demographic changes, strengthening health and long-term care, the technological and digital revolutions were key themes running through the week. A new ISSA report on Social security for the digital age was also released, looking at the challenges but even more the opportunities that digitalization offers in terms of improving, modernising and strengthening social security. This was supported by the launch of a special issue of the International Social Security Review focusing on the digital economy.
On Friday 18 October, the discussions culminated in the World Social Security Summit with a strong panel of ministers and government representatives from Algeria, Belgium, China, Jamaica, Malaysia, Lithuania and the Russian Federation, and high-level representatives from the European Commission, International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations and the World Bank. The WSSF also included a special session on the long-lasting partnership between the ISSA and the International Labour Organization (ILO), and marking the Centenary of the ILO. The ISSA and the ILO are working together to promote universal social protection by 2030, in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.
New ISSA Guidelines and the Innovation Zone
At the WSSF, the ISSA launched a complete new set of Guidelines on Error, Evasion and Fraud in Social Security Systems. This is a crucial issue for all social security institutions, as even small cases of error, evasion or fraud can seriously undermine public trust. These new guidelines offer an integrated and holistic approach, to tackle the all-too-often fragmented way in which error, evasion and fraud is handled. In addition, the ISSA presented revised and updated guidelines in eight other areas. The ISSA Guidelines are the foundation of the ISSA Centre for Excellence, which also offers Good Practices, the Academy and the Recognition programme.
The WSSF was also an occasion to demonstrate new and concrete ways of tackling challenges and improving the quality of services in social security. In the ISSA Innovation Zone, social security institutions and partner companies presented over 30 different demonstrations of practical innovations. One of the most popular sessions was the demonstration of an exoskeleton by the Social Security Organisation of Malaysia. An exoskeleton is a wearable device that helps to augment, reinforce or restore physical human performance.
Outstanding Achievements Award
As part of the WSSF closing ceremony on Friday 18 October, the ISSA presented its Award for Outstanding Achievements in Social Security to Rwanda. Following the civil war and the genocide that took place in the early 1990s, the Rwandan authorities have made great efforts to reconcile the country, and to insure social inclusion and social protection to everyone. Through an innovative community-based approach, Rwanda has impressively moved close to universal health coverage in just two decades.